The Nuclear Industry’s Karma Runs Over Its Dogma…Again
“You Can Be Sure…If It’s Westinghouse.” That was the slogan back in its heyday when Westinghouse was a household word. That motto has now turned ironic with the announcement yesterday that the once-giant transnational – now reduced to a mere division of Toshiba – is filing for bankruptcey. Pro-nuclear worriers and no-nukes celebrants alike are asking, “If Westinghouse, once the most prolific spawner of nuclear power reactors world wide, is going belly up, can we be sure that the nuclear industry itself will not be far behind?”
The news triggered a burst of commentary on both sides of the nuclear question. Greenpeace’s Shaun Burnie calls it “a defining moment in the history of nuclear power,” and goes on to examine its implications for current reactor construction projects around the world.
Westinghouse as Warning
Beyond Nuclear’s Paul Gunter made these trenchant observations in his response to a request for comments from activist Cynthia Papermaster:
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,
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/
Mothers For Peace Pushes To Shut Down Diablo
5 Years Sooner Than Current PG&E Proposal
By Jane Swanson and Linda Seeley – Spokespersons https://mothersforpeace.org/
On Friday January 27, San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace (SLOMFP), through Ojai-based attorney Sabrina Venskus submitted expert testimony to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) showing that Diablo Canyon should be closed in 2019, not 2024, because it is becoming unsafe and unreliable.
SLOMFP’s expert witness is nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen, chief engineer for Fairewinds Associates, Inc.
"Diablo Canyon was designed in the mid-1960s. Some of its parts are as dated as rabbit ears on a black and white TV. This atomic power reactor is old and tired, and it is not reliable or safe. The faster Diablo Canyon closes, the safer Californians will be,” stated Mr. Gundersen. Replacement costs for these outmoded parts at Diablo Canyon during the next 7 to 8 years are well in excess of a reasonable investment for a plant that is scheduled to shut down in 2024. Mr. Gundersen’s testimony also illuminates the degraded condition of tens of thousands of often neglected switches, plates, springs, shock absorbers, pipes, and other components of this aged atomic power reactor that are in danger of failing well before 2024.
The companies that own nuclear reactors have a tendency to defer needed maintenance and replacement of worn parts when permanent closure is imminent. Called “running to failure,” the operator tends to take a chance that the part won’t fail before the plant closes down. In an old car that is ready for the junkyard the owner won’t replace worn tires with ones that are guaranteed for 50,000 miles. Instead, he will take a chance that the tires won’t blow out before the old car is junked. If there’s a blowout in a tire, it can be hazardous. If there’s a failure of an essential component of a nuclear power plant, the costs of replacement or of repair of damage can be huge.
Mr. Gundersen’s testimony, attached below, cites numerous parts and components at Diablo Canyon that have been listed in the 2017 Rate Case by Pacific Gas and Electric as in need of replacement. In Mr. Gundersen’s opinion, shutting the doors of the two reactors makes sense in 2019, before parts and components are forced to run to failure.
SLOMFP is commenting as a party to the California Public Utilities Commission’s proceedings on the Joint Proposal reached in June of 2016 between PG&E and several environmental groups and unions. SLOMFP has also submitted expert testimony to the CPUC by David Jackson, Ph.D. regarding seismic damage to the plant in case of an earthquake. SLOMFP has joined with Women’s Energy Matters of Marin County regarding timing and costs of replacing the needed power at Diablo Canyon with renewable energy, using the testimony of energy analyst Robert Freehling. SLOMFP compiled documents regarding the environmental effects of Once-Through Cooling on aquatic life around the facility. By co-sponsoring a portion of the testimony by the Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility’s attorney Al Pak, SLOMFP is objecting to PG&E’s request to recover the costs of its relicensing application filed with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2009, but later withdrawn.
Renewables Could Replace Diablo Energy in 3,
not 9 Years – Study Shows
Women's Energy Matters (WEM) filed an intervention in the Diablo CPUC proceeding last Friday calling for early shutdown of the plant, arguing that replacement of Diablo's power with GHG-free energy sources can happen now, not years from now.
The filing by WEM’s Jean Meerrigan attached Robert Freehling's report, Clean Energy Replacement for California's Retiring Nuclear Plants. Pages 15-21 of Freehling’s Report contains a critique of pro-nuke fear-based arguments that have gotten way too much press in recent months.
PDF of Freehling’s Testimony is here: http://nonukesca.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/A1608006-WEM-Freehling-Testimony-pdf-a.pdf
PDF of Freehling’s Report is here: http://nonukesca.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/A1608006-WEM-Freehling-Report-Attachment-1.pdf
Diablo Canyon Joint Proposal Reaches Next Milestone in State’s Review Process
AVILA BEACH – As a joint proposal concerning the future of PG&E’s Diablo Canyon Power Plant (DCPP) continues to move through the state’s review process, the energy company stated that it is looking forward to carefully reviewing and replying to written responses on the agreement that various groups submitted today to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) for consideration.
Under the established review schedule for the joint proposal, groups participating in the state’s review process had until Jan. 27, 2017, to submit their responses to the CPUC. PG&E and the joint proposal parties will reply by March 17, 2017.
If approved by the CPUC, the joint proposal would increase investment in energy efficiency and renewables beyond current state mandates, while phasing out PG&E’s production of nuclear power in California by 2025. Read more
Expert Witness On Earthquakes Calls For The Soonest Possible Closure Of Diablo Canyon
By Jane Swanson and Linda Seeley – Spokespersons https://mothersforpeace.org/
On Friday January 27, San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace (SLOMFP) through Ojai-based attorney Sabrina Venskus submitted expert testimony to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) showing that Diablo Canyon should be closed in 2019, not 2024, because it is becoming unsafe and unreliable.
One of two expert witnesses for SLOMFP is David D. Jackson, Department of Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences at UCLA. In his testimony Dr. Jackson explains the many types of seismic damage to the plant in case of an earthquake. Among his assertions is that the substantial risk of earthquakes at Diablo Canyon nuclear plant has been underestimated, and that the seismic studies relied upon evaluate only a part of the risk which affects any decision of how long to continue operation of the two Diablo Canyon reactors.
Among Dr. Jackson’s criticisms of the seismic studies published by PG&E in 2015 is that, “Uncertainties of the fault location from the small earthquake data allow the possibility that the Shoreline Fault actually lies directly beneath DCNPP.”
Dr. Jackson’s nine pages of testimony are available at https://mothersforpeace.org/data/2017/2017-1-27-testimony-of-david-d-jackson-on-seismic-risks-related-to-closure-date-of-diablo-canyon
Curse not ‘Cure’ – Nuclear Plants Make Global Warming Worse, Gundersen Study Shows (video)
Fairewinds Chief Engineer Arnie Gundersen and Research Assistant Grayson Webb discuss how the atomic power industry tries to sell the world its false narrative that it helps reduce Global CO2. In this interview, Arnie and Grayson discuss Fairewinds 18-month research endeavor that found using atomic reactors would reduce CO2 emissions only 6% by the year 2050 and cost more than $8.2 Trillion! Renewable and sustainable energy sources are much cheaper and will also boost the US economy as it creates real jobs in America.
Trump Taps Jaczko Foe for NRC Chair
As is his prerogative without Congressional approval, Trump has appointed sitting Republican NRC Commissioner Kristine Svinicki to chair the agency. Svinicki, a nuclear engineer appointed by Bush and reappointed by Obama, has over 10 year’s experience as a Senate aide to Senators like John McCain and John Warner. In his first year in office, Trump will have the chance to appoint three new commissioners to the five-member body. http://www.platts.com/latest-news/electric-power/washington/us-nrcs-svinicki-appointed-chairman-effective-21720968
It was Svinicki and three other NRC commissioners who, in 2011, led the push to oust then NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko with trumped up accusations (pun intended).
[Picture and Mitsubishi story link thanks to Donna Gilmare SanOnofreSafety.org]
Who Will Pay for Super $680 million Screw-Ups at San Onofre?
That is the question still working its way through litigation and arbitration here and in Japan, and a re-assessment process at the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). [CPUC considering modifications to San Onofre nuclear deal http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/business/energy-green/sd-fi-sanonofre-cpuc-20161213-story.html[
The main culprit, Southern California Edison, is trying all its options for sticking it to either the ratepayers, or the manufacturer of the faulty steam generators that caused San Onofre’s shutdown in 2013, or both.
As San Diego attorneys Mia Severson and Mike Agurrie’s relentless work has shown, the shutdown deal to screw the ratepayers was drafted on cocktail napkins in secret, illegal ex parte meetings in a posh Warsaw hotel by Edison officials and then CPUC President Mike Peevey, who subsequently stepped down in disgrace.
Agurrie and Severson’s many hours of investigation and dogged litigation turned up e-mails showing that the secret deal was given the go-ahead by Governor Jerry Brown. A PDF of their documentation Anatomy of a Scheme is here: http://nonukesca.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/anatomy-of-a-scheme-update.pdf
EON’s exclusive interviews with the attorneys are here:
$5 Billion Cover-Up at San Onofre – Mia Severson
Who Pays for San Onofre? – Mike Aguirre
This all led to a $16.7 million fine for Edison and cast a lot of doubt on the $4.7 billion settlement deal. [5 dramas still playing out 5 years after San Onofre shutdown ]
At the moment, Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries is awaiting an arbitration decision from the International Chamber of Commerce about Edison’s $7.6 billion claim against them for the failed steam generators, one of which came with a 20-year warrenty.
NEXIT – Exiting Nuclear Power
Here are three articles that should boost our determination to keep working on nixing nukes.
Nuclear Power: Game Over
How Nuclear Power Causes Global Warming
by Harvey Wasserman
Supporters of nuclear power like to argue that nukes are the key to combatting climate change. Here’s why they are dead wrong. Read more