A Problem Facing Over 100 Nuclear Power Plants
The grassroots campaign continues in California for responsible management of tons of radioactive waste now sitting on a crumbling bluff above the beach at the shut down San Onofre nuclear plant – in an earthquake and tsunami zone between two major population centers. As America’s fleet of aging nuclear reactors face inevitable shutdowns in the coming months and years, decommissioning and nuclear waste management are on pace to become big business for private corporations. But with no plan for where to put the accumulated tons of radwaste, can for-profit companies and captive regulatory agencies be trusted to deal with it responsibly? The battle over what to do with San Onofre’s waste could set a pattern for the nation. Here’s some coverage of recent developments and the serious issues they raise.
Citizens Question Crazy Plan
3.6 million pounds of highly lethal, radioactive waste, stored in corrosion-prone thin metal canisters, on an eroding bluff, by a crumpling sea wall, at a beach, only inches above the water table, 100 feet from the rising sea, in an earthquake and tsunami zone just like Fukushima – What could possibly go wrong?
Plenty, say informed local residents near the recently shutdown San Onofre nuclear power plant between Los Angeles and San Diego. They want it out of there. But to where, how soon and how? How long must it be cooled until it’s able to be moved? What kind of containers can it safely be held in until then? What kind of cask would truly be monitorable and retrievable? How to move it with the least risk? Where to move it as the least worst option, given the immense risk of transporting it? Who will agree to take it?
Karen Hadden, Director of S.E.E.D. Coalition of Texas, traveled to California to explain that the residents of Texas and New Mexico do not want the radioactive waste sent to them to store. Currently Texas and New Mexico are being targeted as Centralized Interim Storage sites for the entire nation’s reactor waste.
The plant operator, Southern California Edison, (SCE) has convened what it calls a Citizen Engagement Panel or CEP to publicly discuss the issues, but with no decision-making power, though they’ve recently called themselves an “advisory” panel.
Local citizens are only allowed 3 minutes at meetings to speak at the CEP, and have strong doubts about the Panel process and the competence and sincerity of many of.the Panel members. That’s why San Clemente Greens are advocating organizing an independent panel of experts to give counsel on what the best solutions for the deadly waste would be.
The group CitizensOversight.org organized this press conference just before the May 11, 2017 CEP meeting. CitizensOversight is one of the lead plaintiffs challenging the California Coastal Commission’s permit to SCE that allows the lethal long lived waste to be buried on the beach. The private law firm of Aguirre & Severson brought the case before the court. See Citizen Oversight Director, Ray Lutz, speaking about this on Democracy Now! below.
Aguirre & Severson are currently in negotiations with Southern California Edison regarding the waste storage plan. Aguirre and Severson are also in negotiations with Edison regarding the distribution of the massive costs for the closure of the badly mismanaged nuclear station. Edison, though its errors caused the plant’s premature shutdown, wants the ratepayers to shoulder the majority of the associated costs. Aguirre and Severson initiated that lawsuit representing ratepayer’s interests as well.
Public Opposes ‘Crazy’ San Onofre Radwaste Plan
Indian Country Today
Nuclear storage plan at San Onofre beach leaves out tribal voices
A controversial plan to temporarily store more than three million pounds of spent nuclear fuel 100 feet from one of Southern California’s most popular beaches, San Onofre, is meeting with fierce resistance from local communities, including tribal members. The problem for the Native population is that while the formal decision-making process systematically involved a wide variety of stakeholders including local and state governments, community groups, environmentalists, academics, military, and business, education, and labor leaders, tribal governments were excluded. Read more
CommonDreams.org / Science
Nuclear industry pressured regulatory commission into low-balling consequences of meltdown, especially in case of reactor fire, new article says
“The NRC has been pressured by the nuclear industry, directly and through Congress, to low-ball the potential consequences of a fire because of concerns that increased costs could result in shutting down more nuclear power plants,” von Hippel said. “Unfortunately, if there is no public outcry about this dangerous situation, the NRC will continue to bend to the industry’s wishes.” Read more
San Diego Tribune – May 23, 2017
Ray Lutz of CitizensOversight.org interviewed on
Democracy Now – May 17, 2017
Activists Sue to Block Plans to Bury 3.6 Million Pounds of Nuclear Waste Near California Beach
CEP Video Archive
Here’s the link to the Southern California Edison/CEP’s entire video of May 11 San Onofre Community Engagement Panel meeting on the radioactive waste issue entitled “NRC Decommissioning Oversight & Consolidated Interim Storage (CIS) Development Projects” http://www.songscommunity.com/cep-events/051117_event.asp
PublicWatchDogs.orghas just published a new blockbuster document:
KUSI TV News Coverage of the WatchDogs’ Report
Dependable Information Sources on This IssueFor updates on radioactive waste management issues, please visit Donna Gilmore’s excellent website:
In my opinion, the collapse of the nuclear industry brings more warning than celebration but I dance with every closure of a nuclear waste generator. Ultimately capping the curie count on this manufactured catastrophe is the first and most responsible action that can be taken. So the bankruptcy of a manufacturer like Westinghouse Electric has a particular sweet spot in my heart given I have participated in this campaign since 1975 beginning as an organizer, non-violence trainer and affinity group member of the Clamshell Alliance for the occupations and blockades at the construction site of Westinghouse reactors at Seabrook, NH. This morning’s Washington Post has the industry still trying to put the best face on the announcement with a rumor that a industry consortium is being put together to buy WEC off of Toshiba. We will see how much bluster or fact there is to that. I witnessed Westinghouse bankrupt four New England utilities who were initially sold two 1150 MWe pressurized water reactors for $450 million per unit that turned into a sunk cost of $900 million to cancel Unit 2 and the final cost to turn on Unit 1 at over $6 billion. New Hampshire still has some of the most expensive electricity in the country. My biggest concern is that as the profit motive plummets on this industry, operationally it is becoming that much more dangerous. The US nuclear industry is now cutting its operational costs by 30% for an aging fleet. The NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Capture) is similarly downsizing its oversight and papering over operational safety vulnerabilities. The four Westinghouse units now under construction in GA and SC are going through the same identical failure to meet cost and time to completion but the juggernaut is still stumbling forward. The so-called “renaissance” of these gigantic reactors is a demonstrated relapse to the same inherent financial failures. But the industry plans to remake itself with small modular reactors that can be incrementally added onto a common control room. The collapse of the industry is moving faster than responsible and fully funded decommissioning. No surprise that cleaning up is not as much fun or profitable as making a mess. This is where they plan to grossly short change the future. There is a staggering and still unaccounted for cost of nuclear waste management that these nuclear waste generators now seek to be unaccountable for. Westinghouse is responsible for the design, manufacture and supply of half of the world’s nuclear waste generators. There are now hundreds of thousands of tons of orphaned highly-radioactive “spent” fuel worldwide requiring biological shielding over the next geological span of time and sequestering the ingredients of atomic bombs into the distant future. We still have our work cut out for us. No Nukes, No Dumps, No Bombs, Paul
On hunter's Point
Thanks to Steve Zeltzer – NoNukesAction & Labor Video – www.laborvideo.org
Cover-up Blows Up At SF Hunters Point Naval Shipyard "Clean-up" Meeting
Ships were tested in nuclear bombings in the Marshal Islands and then were brought to Hunters Point naval shipyard where they were sandblasted at the shipyard with the radioactivity being spread into the bay and lands.
In San Francisco Hunters Point on February 8, 2017, the US Navy, EPA, California Department of Toxic Substances and San Francisco Health Department held an orchestrated dog and pony show to assure the people of San Francisco and the Hunters Point/Bayview community that they are properly protecting the people after health and safety whistleblowers have exposed the falsification of testing at the site. The African American community and particularly children have been severely affected by the large amount of toxins including radioactive material on the site and now thousands of homes are being built by Lennar Urban on the contaminated areas.
These agencies are supposed to be responsible for ensuring the health and safety of the highly dangerous Superfund radioactive toxic site yet according to them there has been no criminal investigation and prosecution of Tetra Tech and Test America which were involved in bullying, harassing and terminating employees that spoke out about the systemic falsification of the tests of toxics.
San Francisco city officials including the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and politicians including Mayor Ed Lee, Nancy Pelosi and Dianne Feinstein have also refused to call for any hearings or investigations of the violation of health and safety rights and illegal terminations of whistleblowers including Michael Madry a quality control manager of Test America and Federal OSHA Whistleblower Protection Program investigator and lawyer who was fired by OSHA chief David Michaels and former Department of Labor DOL secretary Tom Perez.
These workers are still fighting for their jobs back and have gone to many of these agencies including the EPA to address these issues.
On Santa susana
Thanks to Committee to Bridge the Gap
The battle to ensure a full cleanup of the Santa Susana Field Lab increased in intensity in 2016 and 2017. The state and federal agencies that had promised cleanup took ever more troubling steps to break their commitments. The cleanup agreements signed in 2010 promised completion by 2017; the agencies have dragged their feet so much that cleanup, if it ever occurs, won’t even begin by then. We keep fighting; concerned elected officials keep pushing; and the media keeps probing. Read more
On CA's excess power – From the LA Times
Californians are paying billions for power they don't need
We're using less electricity. Some power plants have even shut down. So why do state officials keep approving new ones?
Downfall of Toshiba, a nuclear industry titan President says woes stem from purchase of Westinghouse reactor business
One of the troubled projects at Westinghouse, Toshiba's subsidiary, is a new nuclear plant at Vogtle in the US
by: Kana Inagaki and Leo Lewis in Tokyo, and Ed Crooks in New York
After a day of chaotic communication, a stock sell-off and a $6.3bn writedown that may destroy one of Japan’s greatest industrial names, the Toshiba president’s bow of apology finally came.
Satoshi Tsunakawa’s head nodded for just one perfunctory second on Tuesday. Most assume there will be much deeper, longer bows to come as Toshiba leads investors, customers, employees and Japan as a whole through the country’s first downfall of a nuclear industry titan. In a humiliating setback for a conglomerate that had only recently touted its nuclear business as a core growth driver, Toshiba said it would pull out of constructing new plants overseas and focus on providing less lucrative but lower-risk reactor designs and nuclear equipment. One investor says the potential downsizing of Toshiba’s nuclear ambitions could make what remains of the company difficult “even for a contrarian investor to consider”. It is also a damaging blow to the outlook for the nuclear industry worldwide. Toshiba’s decision to give up on bidding to be a lead contractor on nuclear power plant projects will dramatically reduce its ability to compete with rivals from China, South Korea and Russia, and limit the options for countries seeking to build reactors.
As Toshiba was reporting its huge writedown, the French utility EDF, which has also been beset by problems with its new-build nuclear projects, warned of a “challenging” 2017 after being hit by weak power prices and problems with some existing reactors last year. Read more
by James Heddle and Mary Beth Brangan, EON
[ This article is also posted on Reader Supported News ]
Secretary of Whats-Its-Name?
As the Trump transition unfolds like a chainsaw massacre in slow motion and the Cabinet from the Black Lagoon fills up with slimy swamp creatures, white supremacists and fascists, one egregious appointment stands out for those of us who track nuclear issues. That’s the tapping of former Texas Governor Rick Perry to head the Department of…er, what was it again? Oh, yes Energy.
The DoE – the name of which he infamously forgot, but wanted to abolish – might more accurately be called the Department of Nuclear Weapons, since it spends about 60 percent of its budget on developing and producing nuclear weapons at places like California’s bomb factory Lawrence Livermore Lab, as well as dealing with their deadly, long-lived waste, and only an estimated 22 percent on energy research.
With the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists’ Doomsday Clock just having been reset at two-and-a-half minutes to midnight, and a new nuclear arms race heating up, together with renewed talk of weapons in space, the appointment of a know-nothing ideologue like Perry to head the Department of Nukes should be terrifying for all of us.
But for the people of Texas there is an even more immediate fear than the possibility of nuclear war. That’s the fear that as Secretary of Energy, Perry will do what he advocated for as Governor, i.e., make Texas America’s nuclear garbage dump.
In the likely event he is approved, Perry will take command of the agency in the midst of a push to resuscitate the failed and dangerous proposed radioactive waste repository at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain, and the plan for so-called ‘interim storage’ of nuclear waste in ‘consenting communities.'
This would involve moving the tons of radioactive waste which have accumulated at America’s hundred and some nuclear power plants and nuclear weapons sites since the beginning of the Atomic Age, and moving them by road, barge and rail around the US and through its major cities on rickety infrastructure – a scheme alarmed activists have dubbed a Mobile Chernobyl on the Fukushima Freeway.
As aging nuclear reactors are shut down around the country – as several have been recently, with more now scheduled for the near future – reactor communities are increasingly becoming aware that the risks posed by the plants do not go away with shutdown.
Still being stored on each site – vulnerable to accident, natural disaster or terrorist attack – are thousands of tons of long-lived lethally radioactive waste built up over all the decades of each plant’s operation.
The original plan was for the Federal government to take possession of the waste and move it to a central repository. But that hasn’t happened and utilities are suing the Feds for breach of contract. Meanwhile all that toxic radwaste sits there with no place to go.
Informed and understandably nervous locals are increasingly agitating to ‘get it outa here!’
The San Onofre Syndrome
A case in point are the Southern California communities surrounding the recently shut down San Onofre nuclear plant. Local activists’ elation over successfully getting the reactors shut down in 2013 quickly faded with the realization that millions of pounds of intensely irradiated fuel rods were to be stored indefinitely on-site, just 125 feet from the beach, 31 inches above the water table, in thin, easily corroded canisters in an earthquake and tsunami zone.
As regional pressure grows to move the waste, research by Donna Gilmore, founder of SanOnofreSafety.org has revealed that not only are the thin canisters chosen by the site operator Southern California Edison ill-suited for the corrosive marine environment, but they cannot be monitored for cracking or degradation, and are not designed for repackaging or transportation.
Gilmore is worried that once the Edison storage plan is carried out, it may be impossible to move it to a better location, if one is found. Furthermore it may set a very low standard for storage plans at other nuclear sites around the country.
Meanwhile, the DoE is pushing a scheme for ‘Interim Storage’ that would remove the liability from the utility that produced the waste by moving it to a temporary holding place.
Critics say moving it would be inviting multiple disasters from spills and accidents en route as well as fears that the 'interim' site would become permanent, however inadequate that site may be.
For decades there would be a constant parade of thousands of massive shipments over bridges, on highways and roads through dense populations and farming communities alike with radioactive waste lasting 25,000 years so toxic that coming within a few feet of it could be fatal.
Texas is a Terrible Thing to Waste
A prime target location to begin this process is a southeast corner of Texas near the New Mexico border at the southern end of the giant Ogallala aquifer which supplies critical agricultural and drinking water for the eight plains states under which it lies.
Andrews County, Texas fits the profile of locations routinely targeted for industrial dumping grounds: remote locations peopled by low income, minority and Native American populations with very little political connection or clout to resist.
Our 1998 documentary, PELIGRO – Nuclear Showdown on the Rio Grand – in which Karen Madden appeared – told the story of a similar Texas county Sierra Blanca where local people WERE successful in blocking a proposed nuclear waste dump.Canisters of radioactive waste awaiting burial at the Waste Control Specialist site. Courtesy of WCS
This time the push to bring nuclear waste to Andrews County is being led by a company called Waste Control Specialists (WCS), whose late millionaire founder was a staunch financial backer of Perry’s governorship. Which may explain Perry’s strange ambition to make his state the primary destination for the nation’s radioactive waste.
The Voices of Those Who Do Not Consent
Long-time Lone Star State environmental activist Karen Hadden is the Executive Director of the Austin-based Sustainable Energy and Economic Development Coalition or SEEDcoallition.org. Her organization has for decades been at the forefront of clean energy and anti-pollution campaigns in Texas and can claim many successes.
Currently her group is focused on educating the public and decision-makers alike about the dangers not only to Texas and surrounding states, but to the country at large posed by the current push to ship much of America’s nuclear waste to a remote Texas county over the nation’s dilapidated rail and highway systems.
Partking Lot Nuclear Waste Dumps
Much of it is slated to be stored on what she describes as open air ‘parking lot' facilities vulnerable not only to increasingly extreme weather, but to the wildfires that ravage the area with growing frequency with the onset of climate change. The site is adjacent to the Permian Basin, a huge oil and gas field targeted for intense fracking and drilling, and the accompanying fracking-caused earthquakes. As noted, the site also sits at the southern end of the nation's largest aquifer, the Ogallala, a critical water source for eight states.
Citing recent incidents of bridge collapses and oil train crashes – one of them in the Panhandle – Hadden is also alarmed at the danger posed to all the towns and cities through which the waste would have to travel to get to Texas.
“If the waste were to move, millions of people could be impacted as the waste moves across the country, putting millions of people at risk, as well as their water for drinking, livestock and agriculture.
“We know that people around the country have suffered from having reactors they didn’t want, and they’re suffering with having radioactive waste in their back yard,” Hadden says. “But the people for whose energy supply the waste was generated do have the responsibility to deal with it.
“I know that must be hard to hear for [people] somewhere else where they never wanted it to begin with. But certainly the people in Texas and New Mexico had nothing to do with it, and why their communities should be dumped on just does not make sense.
“Furthermore,” she goes on, “some people – for example Southern California – want to get the waste out, and I don’t blame them, I would want to do the same. But they have in their minds that the waste would go to a small area where fewer people would be impacted.
“The truth of it is that millions and millions of people could be impacted because of the presence of the Ogallala aquifer. The impacts of shipping it to that particular location could be absolutely devastating.
“So,” says Hadden, “we encourage people to listen to voices of the people who do not consent, and to think about the bigger and long-term impacts of any decisions about where waste goes. This should not happen.” She concludes. “It's just not right.”
But with former Texas Governor Rick Perry at the helm of that, ur, what’s-its-name agency, Texas and the states through which the waste is slated to travel may have a big fight on their hands.
In this exclusive EON interview, conducted at a recent national conference on radioactive waste held in Chicago, Karen Hadden, Director of the Austin-based Sustainable Energy and Economic Development Coalition (SEEDcoalition.org), describes the multiple catastrophic risks, not only to Texas, but to the entire country of the ill-conceived Fukushima Freeway plan. She explains why reactor communities around the country need to think twice about sending their unwanted radwaste to Texas. Her heartful interview suggests a wider context for SoCal residents' decision-making, who are understandably impatient to get nuclear waste out of one of the most disaster-vulnerable nuclear waste storage sites in the country.
James Heddle and Mary Beth Brangan co-direct EON, the Ecological Options Network. http://eon3.net/
They blog at http://planetarianperspectives.net/
Their popular YouTube channel has featured video reports on vote rigging and the election protection movement since 2004. https://www.youtube.com/user/eon3/videos
They are currently at work on a new documentary SHUTDOWN: The California-Fukushima Connection. http://www.shutdowndoc.tv/