Monthly Archives: July 2023

What the Red Queen Believes Before Breakfast – Updated

Credit: theregister.co.uk

The Red Queen on Nuclear Energy, Nuclear Weapons, San Onofre, Diablo Canyon, and Radioactive Waste

“Alice laughed. ‘There’s no use trying,’ she said. ‘One can’t believe impossible things.’ I daresay you haven’t had much practice,’ said the Queen. ‘When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.’“ – Louis Carroll – Through the Looking Glass

By James Heddle – EON
Crossposted on Substack

Six Impossible Things The Red Queen Believes Before Breakfast About Nuclear Energy

1.     It’s clean and green, never has any radioactive emissions in normal operation, and has no carbon emissions at any part of the nuclear cycle from mining, to milling, to refining, to transport, to operation, to radioactive waste management.

2.     It’s safe; history doesn’t show there’s been at least one a major nuclear disaster every 10 years since the birth of the Nuclear Age.  Nobody died at Chernobyl or Fukushima, and now nature and wildlife are flourishing around the plants.

3.     There are safe dose levels of radioactive exposure; in fact, a little can actually be good for you.  It’s called ‘hormesis.’

4.     There is no real connection between the nuclear energy and nuclear weapons industries, but we need both to maintain national security.

5.     Small Modular Nuclear Reactors (SMNRs) will be inherently safe and won’t produce much radioactive waste, which is, anyway, easy to manage and isolate from the environment for millions of years.

6.     A revival of the failing commercial nuclear energy at tax-payer and rate-payer expense is necessary to save us from climate change and will be well worth the price.

Six Impossible Things The Red Queen Believes Before Breakfast About Nuclear Weapons

1.     The United States does not maintain and constantly upgrade its nuclear weapons arsenal in order to threaten or dominate other countries, but only for deterrence of potential attacks by others.

2.     The nuclear weapons industry is completely separate and independent from the private, investor owned commercial nuclear energy production industry.

3.     The nuclear weapons industry and the nuclear powered Navy are not in any way dependent on the continued existence of the financially troubled commercial nuclear power industry; they do not benefit from the tax-payer and rate-payer subsidized manufacturing infrastructure, the university-educated labor pool and the research facilities of commercial power production.

4.     There are many enduring roles for U.S. nuclear weapons to maintain world peace.

5.     “The conditions do not now exist for the United States to safely take additional steps to further reduce the number and role of U.S. nuclear weapons.” Source.

6.     Other countries have refused to join the growing international consensus against nuclear weapons represented by the 2021 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons ( TPNW ), and continued U.S. national security requires possession of up to date nuclear weapons.

 

Six Impossible Things The Red Queen Believes Before Breakfast About San Onofre’s Radioactive Waste Dump by the Sea

1.     Southern California Edison and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission can be trusted to always make decisions in the best interests of public safety.

2.     The l,800 tons of stranded, highly radioactive spent fuel rods now stored at San Onofre in a flood, tsunami and earthquake zone are sure to remain safe well into the future.

3.     The air-cooled, thin metal, welded canisters in which the irradiated rods are now stored will not develop through-wall cracks and leaks as a result of stress-corrosion cracking in the damp, salt air.

4.     As soon as the location for a Consolidated Interim Storage Facility (CISF) can be found – hopefully in New Mexico or Texas – the San Onofre canisters will be the first to be moved there by rail or highway.

5.     Though the canisters are not approved for transport, they can be placed in protective over-packs for transport when the time comes. Despite reports that coastal cliffs are crumbling under the railroad tracks over which the heavy containers will have to be moved, there will be no problem getting them out of there, once a target location has been found.

6.     There will be no need to spend the money to build an expensive hot-cell facility in which the canisters can be robotically opened and the fuel rods inspected before they are repackaged in safely storable, transportable, thick casks for indefinite storage in a secure, climate-controlled building to await eventual transport.

Six Impossible Things The Red Queen Believes Before Breakfast About Diablo Canyon’s Extended Operation

1.     There are no credible risks involved in operating an aged nuclear reactor – reportedly one of the  most embrittled in the nation and located near several active earthquake faults – for 10 or twenty or more years past its designed lifespan.

2.     No inspection of the embrittled reactors is necessary to assess risks.

3.     The electricity produced by the plant is necessary to prevent blackouts of the state power grid.

4.     The plant’s operation will not interfere with inputting electricity from renewable sources.

5.     It is only fair that rate-payers around the state outside PG&E’s service area be charged for power they are not receiving.

6.     Diablo’s continued operation is necessary to help save the planet from climate change.

Six Impossible Things The Red Queen Believes Before Breakfast About Radioactive Waste

1.     Radioactive waste is an economic and energy resource and can now be safely reprocessed for a number of peaceful uses, and does not lend itself to intentional deployment as a weapon of mass destruction.

2.     The management, storage and reprocessing of radioactive waste can be an ecologically valid growth industry far into the future, thus supporting the continuation of nuclear power production, which, as we all know, is the only solution to climate change.

3.     We now have the know-how and existing state-of-the-art technologies and containment systems necessary to keep fast-growing tons of corrosive radioactive waste from nuclear energy and weapons production safely isolated from the environment for millions of  years.

4.     The approximately 88,000 metric tons of highly radioactive Spent Nuclear Fuel (SNF) in the form of used irradiated fuel rods sealed in thin, welded steel containers vulnerable to corrosion cracking now stranded at over 93 commercial nuclear reactors operating in the United States at 55 locations in 28 states around the country are not ticking time-bombs waiting to be detonated by accident, terrorist sabotage, or rocket attacks from foreign adversaries.

5.     The development of technology able to transmute radioactive waste into harmless and even useful substances is just around the corner.

6.     It’s only a matter of time before a site is found in the U.S. for a federally operated, deep geological repository where the tons of unwanted radioactive waste materials from around the country can be safely transported over rails, roads and barges and dumped for eternity, that will never infiltrate into the water or soil, and be perpetually overseen by highly trained, well-funded teams of expert technicians.


James Heddle Co-Directs EON, the Ecological Options Network with Mary Beth Brangan. The EON feature documentary S.O.S. – The San Onofre Syndrome – Nuclear Power’s Legacy will be released later this year.

Plutonium Profiteering – Ignominious Endgame of the Nuclear Age?

Photo: HoltecInternational.com

By James Heddle, Mary Beth Brangan – EON
Crossposted on Substack

Holtec: A Company On A Roll with Global Reach
Holtec International is a private, multi-national company founded in 1986 by its President and CEO Dr. Kris Singh. Today, according to its website, Holtec boasts “a business footprint in eighteen countries on five continents.”

Credit: HoltecInternational.com

With a seeming aim at both vertical and horizontal monopolies, its divisions have fingers in a number of related areas including manufacturing of nuclear plant components; nuclear fuel and waste management system components and locations; decommissioning of shuttered nuclear power plants; and development of small modular reactors (SMRs).

A Formidable Corporate Rap Sheet

During its decades-long rise to global reach under Dr. Singh’s autocratic rule the company has developed a reputation including bribery, poor quality control, financial fraud, abuse of labor rights and running roughshod over the informed democratic choices of citizens impacted by its actions.

We reported on some of Holtec transgressions in a 2019 Counterpunch article, Halting Holtec – A Challenge for Nuclear Safety Advocates, and updated in 2020 in Holtec Faces Opposition on NoNukesCA.net.

Since then Holtec has been up to more mischief. In its decommissioning activities in it takes ownership of shuttered nuclear power plants, thus gaining access to the massive decommissioning trust funds amassed over decades from ratepayers’ contributions.

Indian-Point-(Holtec)-world-nuclear-news.org

Its projects include Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station on Cape Cod Bay and Indian Point near New York City on the Hudson. At Pilgrim, the company has alarmed regional residents by announcing plans to dump over a million gallons of radioactive wastewater into Cape Cod Bay. As part of its decommissioning plan at Indian Point, Holtec has proposed dumping up to one million gallons of radioactive wastewater into the Hudson as early as this August.

Pilgrim – wbur.org

Readers will note that this repeats a pattern seen at the international level. NPR reports,

“The International Atomic Energy Agency has approved a plan by Japan to release more than a million tons of treated nuclear waste water from the destroyed Fukushima power plant into the ocean, despite vehement international opposition.

In a report released Tuesday, the IAEA said it has concluded after a two-year assessment that the plan is “consistent with relevant international safety standards” and that while societal, political and environmental concerns have been raised, the discharged water “will have negligible radiological impact on people and the environment.”

Elsewhere in the News

On July 7th, Amanda Oglesby published an article in the Asbury Park Press entitled “Ex-Holtec CFO accuses company of ‘make believe’ financial statements in whistleblower suit.’

Kevin O’Rourke – Credit: Holtec.com

According to a report from Beyond Nuclear, Kevin O’Rourke, a fired former Holtec CFO has come forward with whistleblower charges that

“Holtec CEO, Krishna Singh, the company, and a dozen yet to be named Holtec employees, violated New Jersey whistleblower protection law. O’Rourke accuses Singh of firing him for refusing to sign off, and put his name on financial misrepresentations intended to secure major financial investment from South Korean firm Hyundai Engineering and Construction, for Holtec’s small modular reactor development initiative.”

Kris Singh – Credit: philly.com

The Beyond Nuclear report continues,

“O’Rourke claims that he was ordered by Holtec’s CEO, Krishna Singh, to tell Hyundai Engineering and Construction that Holtec expected to “break even” during the first five years of operations of its proposed nuclear waste facility in New Mexico, when Holtec’s internal projection was actually a $150,000,000 annual loss for those five years.

Dracula in Charge of a Blood Bank

Arnie Gundersen, chief engineer at Fairewinds Energy, comments that giving Holtec access to decommissioning funds at shuttered nuclear plants is like “placing Dracula in charge of a blood bank.” Gundersen explains, “If the whistleblower is just right on only one-third of his Holtec fraud estimate of $750,000,000, the Palisades decommissioning fund will be sucked dry by Holtec, leaving Michigan with the carcass.”

Beyond Nuclear and Don’t Waste Michigan sent a letter to Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer stating: “We request that you impose an immediate administrative freeze on the expenditure of any of the $150,000,000 appropriated by the Legislature on June 28, 2023, for Holtec’s restart of Palisades until there are unconditional assurances that Holtec’s management is operating honestly and wholly within the law.”

Beyond Nuclear reports that, together with Don’t Waste Michigan, it had

“spearheaded a coalition letter to all 148 Michigan state legislators on June 28th, urging opposition to Holtec’s request for $150 million for the Palisades restart. Forty-three Michigan groups, including the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter, the Board of Directors of the statewide Anishinaabek Caucus of the Michigan Democratic Party, as well as the Native-led Citizens’ Resistance at Fermi Two (CRAFT), Michigan Climate Action Network, Washtenaw350, For Love of Water, Freshwater Future, and Clean Water Action Michigan, to name just several of the Michigan organizations which endorsed the letter. The coalition’s members and supporters represent hundreds of thousands of Michiganders.”

Friends in High Places?

As in other cases showing Holtec’s ability to end run the public will, despite this massive show of citizen opposition the Beyond Nuclear report goes on, “just several hours after the letter was sent to Michigan legislators, the Palisades restart bailout was nevertheless approved by both legislative chambers, as part of an $82 billion omnibus budget bill.”

The pattern continues with Holtec’s proposed – and much opposed – Consolidated Interim Storage Facility (CISF) site in New Mexico, which would bring hundreds of shipments of radioactive waste to the state on rickety rail lines and bridges through non-consenting , alarmed communities from across the country .

To be buried sub-grade – nuclear-news.net

According to Holtec’s License Request

  • The proposed CISF would be located on approximately 420.9 ha [1,040 ac] of land in southeastern New Mexico. The land for the Holtec CISF is owned by the Eddy-Lea Alliance, but would be purchased by Holtec prior to construction; however, access to the site and a proposed rail spur would require a BLM easement.
  • In its license application, Holtec requests authorization in the initial phase of the project to store 5,000 metric tons of uranium (MTUs) in approximately 500 canisters for a license period of 40 years. However, because the capacity of individual canisters can vary, the 500 canisters proposed in the Holtec license application have the potential to hold up to 8,680 MTUs. The NRC’s safety and environmental analyses will take into account the maximum potential capacity of the facility. The larger capacity was clarified through NRC’s Request for Additional Information (RAI) process.
  • In addition to the first phase, Holtec has stated its intent to request license amendments in the future to expand the facility to eventually store up to 10,000 canisters of SNF. Additional NRC reviews would take place for subsequent license amendments.

Last February , the Carlsbad Current Argus reported,

“a bill intended to block a nuclear waste storage project in southeast New Mexico took a big step toward becoming law this week, passing the State Senate Monday on a 21-13 vote.

“Senate Bill 53 was introduced by Las Cruces Sen. Jeff Steinborn (D-36) a frequent critic of a proposal by Holtec International to build a temporary storage site for spent nuclear fuel rods at a remote site near Carlsbad and Hobbs.

“The bill would prevent the State from issuing permits needed to operate such a site should it lack expressed consent from New Mexico officials and if the federal government has yet to site a permanent disposal site for the waste.”

A Bad Idea, Full Stop

On May 9, 2023, New Mexico Commissioner of Public Lands Stephanie Garcia Richard issued a statement regarding the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s decision to issue a license for the construction of Holtec International’s nuclear storage facility in Lea County.

Statement from Commissioner Garcia Richard:

“This is a bad idea, full stop. Placing a nuclear storage facility in the heart of oil and gas operations is a recipe for ecological disaster and unnecessarily puts New Mexicans at risk. Since being elected Land Commissioner, I have been opposed to making New Mexico the permanent home for nuclear waste because of the threats to New Mexicans’ health, safety, and economic development.  We shouldn’t let unelected bureaucrats in Washington jam through this shaky proposal that will bring massive profits to an out-of-state company with a troubled safety record, while putting our people and environment in harm’s way.  Bottom line, the world’s most active oil and gas producing field is not the right place for a long-term nuclear waste storage site. Holtec needs to understand that New Mexico is not the nation’s dumping ground and should stop misleading the public about the dangers their proposal presents.”

“The proposed waste dump site is located in the middle of the Permian Basin, one of the world’s most productive oil and gas regions.  Nearly 2,500 oil, gas, and mineral wells or sites are operated by 54 different businesses or entities within a 10-mile radius of the proposed site. Locating an interim nuclear storage site above active oil, gas, and mining operations raises serious safety concerns. Also threatened by the site would be the billions of dollars in annual revenue that State Land Office leases generate for education in New Mexico.

“Additionally, the surface and mineral estates have split ownership at the proposed site, with the Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance LLC owning the surface land and the State of New Mexico, through the State Land Office, owning the mineral estate beneath the land. Holtec has falsely claimed to have secured agreements from oil and gas operators at or around the site to restrict these activities, specifically assuring the NRC that oil and gas drilling will only occur at depths greater than 5,000 feet.  However, there are no such agreements containing these restrictions in place with oil and gas lessees at the site or the State Land Office.  One agreement has been made with Intrepid Mining, LLC, a potash mining company, but that agreement has not been approved, as required by lease terms, by the State Land Office.”

Growth Industry or Dead End?

As we have shown in our previous article Outing the Nuclear Energy Weapons Connection and elsewhere, the Nuclear Enterprise is a triad built of energy, weapons and waste.

For many denuclearization advocates around the world, Holtec has earned a well-earned reputation as the poster child for plutonium profiteering. But it is by no means without would be competitors. For many like Singh, the Nuclear Enterprise is seen as a potentially perpetual cash cow.

With the operation of old, embrittled nuclear power reactors being extended far beyond their design lives, and the dream of mass production of radioactive waste-producing Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) for use on land, at sea and in space being promulgated, it might look like Kris Singh’s vision of a vertical and horizontal nuclear monopoly may have a chance of fulfillment.

But informed citizen and official opposition to the entire Enterprise in all its aspects is increasing despite slick, high-end propaganda pieces like Oliver Stone’s misinformed and dis-informing plutopian peon Nuclear Now. There are active, citizen-driven nuclear opposition movements at work in key states around the country including: Michigan, California, Maine, New York, New Mexico, Texas and Illinois.

The increasing domination of the Enterprise by ethically challenged corporations like Holtec may well contain the seeds of its own demise.

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Mary Beth Brangan and James Heddle Co-Direct EON, the Ecological Options Network.. The EON feature documentary S.O.S. – The San Onofre Syndrome – Nuclear Power’s Legacy will be released later this year.

Outing the Nuclear Energy-Weapons Connection – Can a Fractured Movement Opposing Both Sides of the Nuclear Enterprise be Re-united?

Graphic: AntiNuclear.net

                           Graphic: AntiNuclear.net

By James Heddle, Mary Beth Brangan – EON
Crossposted on Substack

Yes, Alice. Atoms for Peace was a Psyop

Clean, limitless nuclear power was the military-industrial complex’s early public relations promise to a U.S. public sensibly wary of the horrific destructive potential of nuclear technology.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s (in)famous 1953 Atoms for Peace speech to the UN General Assembly initiated the use of commercial nuclear power as the cover story for continued nuclear weapons research and production and the enormous nation-wide manufacturing complex necessary to build it out.

The program it launched rebranded atomic technology from the horrors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs to a benign source of ‘peaceful energy too cheap to meter.’ It also led to the proliferation of U.S. nuclear know-how, materials and technologies to many other countries around the world, and with them went the capacity to produce nuclear bombs.

This deliberately created illusion of the disconnect between nuclear energy and weapons production persisted for decades as nuclear proponents used it to their advantage in many ways.  Although early concerned citizens did not differentiate their opposition between nuclear weapons and power, the illusion gradually led to the bi-furcation of the anti-nuclear weapons ‘peace’ movement and the anti-nuclear energy environmental movements.

The created illusion of the disconnect between nuclear energy and weapons production persisted for decades as nuclear proponents used it to their advantage in many ways. Although early nuclear opponents did not differentiate between them, the illusion gradually led to the bi-furcation into the anti-nuclear weapons ‘peace’ movement and the anti-nuclear energy environmental movements.

The Plutionium Twins Escape the Closet

But now, as the commercial nuclear energy industry is in deep economic difficulties worldwide, nuclear proponents have decided in desperation to blow their own cover.  They have reversed course and now proudly point to the once-denied inextricable commercial/military connection of nuclear power and weapons as a vital issue of ‘national security.’

As we have detailed in our previous articles The Real Nuclear Triad: Energy, Weapons and Waste, as well as The Hydra Heads of Armageddon Man and others (here, here & here), no less an authority than former U.S. Energy Secretary Albert Moniz has been stressing the energy-weapons connection as a selling point.

Moniz founded an organization called Energy Futures Initiative that has issued a report entitled The U.S. Nuclear Energy Enterprise: A Key National Security Enabler. This report launched a campaign that emphasized that the commercial nuclear energy industry is what Moniz terms a key ‘enabler’ of the production of nuclear weapons and of the nuclear powered U.S. Navy.  He plainly argues that, as a 2017 NewsMax article puts it, Nuclear Power’s Woes Imperil US National Security.

Former Energy Secretary Moniz addresses the U.S. Naval War College – Credit: Flickr.com/U.S. Naval War College

Just one big nuclear family – Former Energy Secretary Moniz gets an award plaque from his good buddies in the Nuclear Navy – Credit: Flickr.com/U.S. Naval War College

Moniz’ analysis is heartily seconded by French President Macron, who unapologetically states,

“One cannot exist without the other. Without civil nuclear power, there is no military nuclear power, and without military nuclear power, there is no civil nuclear power.”

Graphic Credit: NEIS.org

The new public relations/military psyop is that nuclear power is necessary to combat climate change. Many people, formerly against nuclear power, have now been bamboozled into believing this expensive, dangerous slow-to-deploy technology must be used to save us from the even greater threat of climate chaos.

Can a Fractured Anti-Nuclear Movement be Re-united?

But now there are hopeful signs within the national movement that a renewed awareness of the nuclear energy/weapons connection is beginning to take hold, at least on the energy side of the long-bifurcated, once-powerful nuclear opposition.

One strong step in that direction was a June 29, 2023 zoom webinar entitled Why Are We Still Going Nuclear? presented by the Chicago based Nuclear Energy Information Service (NEIS) and hosted by the organization’s Director, Dave Kraft.
[A recording of the Zoom event has not yet been made available as of this posting.  We will update once it is. ]

The presenter was veteran nuclear activist and educator Alfred Meyer whose articles It’s All About the Bomb and ‘F’ Stands for Failure provide important background information on this issue.

In his presentation to NEIS viewers Meyer succinctly and persuasively laid out what he called his hypothesis on the energy-weapons connection,

“…that what is really driving the entire nuclear enterprise are nuclear weapons and the nuclear navy. And the rest of any discussion is really false advertising promises. You could say, it’s diversionary tactics. It doesn’t have to be cheap, it doesn’t have to be clean, it doesn’t have to be safe. And we don’t really have to worry about the waste. And it doesn’t have to solve climate change because what it’s doing is making nuclear weapons…”  [A partial transcript of his presentation is here.]

The Plutonium Twins Escape the Closet

Now that the Plutonium Twins are revealed to have been conjoined from birth, it’s to be hoped that the nuclear energy and weapons opposition movements can re-unite and once again become the powerful counterforce against the doubly disastrous Nuclear Enterprise that they once were.

On January 22, 2021, Amnesty International announced a historic moment, “The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was adopted by two-thirds of UN member states in 2017 and enters into force today.” 

The article went on to report,

“The treaty prohibits a wide range of actions by states, including developing, testing, producing, manufacturing, transferring, possessing, stockpiling, using or threatening to use nuclear weapons, or allowing nuclear weapons to be stationed on their territory. These are commonplace activities – according to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, and Turkey collectively host around 150 U.S. nuclear weapons. None of these states have joined the treaty.” [Emphasis added.]

Can we stop this nuclear insanity if all anti-nuclear activists work together?

Unfortunately, the Treaty contains a self-contradictory loophole that fails to acknowledge the nuclear energy and weapons connection. The preamble emphasizes “that nothing in this Treaty shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right of its States Parties to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination.” Source

In fact, as we have discussed. there can be no ‘peaceful purposes’ for civil nuclear energy that do not have serious military nuclear weapons implications. The manufacturing processes required for the currently pushed ‘small modular nuclear reactors’ would be providing necessary components, such as ‘close to weapons grade material’ for use in nuclear weapons as well. And significantly, the accumulating deadly radioactive waste that must be kept sequestered from the environment for millions of years is totally ignored.

Furthermore, the reality is that every operating commercial nuclear reactor, because of of its legally allowed routine radioactive emissions into the surrounding air and water and every commercial stranded radioactive waste storage site streaming radiation into surrounding communities, constitute a nuclear weapon-in-place for both state and non-state actors. There are 92 operating reactors at 54 such sites in the US. The current situation in war-torn Ukraine and at Zaporizhzhia demonstrates this use of a civil reactor as a weapon in place – even to threaten using it is using it as a weapon.

Nevertheless, let’s just let ourselves imagine – because of the indissoluble co-dependence of the civil and military sides of the global Nuclear Enterprise, that the current anti-nuclear weapons movement fully recognizes commercial nuclear power’s sinister relationship. And that our united movement’s fresh understanding of this fact prevents it from ever being strong armed again to include such a preamble that calls it an “inalienable right” to “develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination.”

We must aim again together to simultaneously ban nuclear weapons and its co-dependent evil twin, nuclear energy. And to mitigate as much as possible the damage done so far.