Nuclear -   32
Nuclear -   32
www.DukeEmployees.com - Duke Energy Employee Advocate
Nuclear - Page 31
the nature of the work involved." - Vince Guertin, business manager, IBEW Local 949
The London Attacks and Nuclear WasteEmployee Advocate – www.DukeEmployees.com – September 13, 2005
Two scientists warned of the vulnerability of nuclear waste, in light of the July London terrorists bombings, according to The Herald. One scientist resigned from the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management in protest over endangering public safety around nuclear storage facilities.
The protesting professor said "If a plane was crashed into some nuclear storage site, vast eras of land could become uninhabitable. Yet we were not supposed to think about that when we were considering the options of above or below ground storage/disposal."
Nevada Sues Over Yucca MountainEmployee Advocate – www.DukeEmployees.com – September 8, 2005
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is being sued by the state of Nevada over the proposed Yucca Mountain radioactive waste repository, according to the Associated Press.
Attorney General Brian Sandoval said in a statement: ``The only way NRC can meet its requirement that a repository will be available by 2025 is to presume it will give Yucca a license. For an ostensibly impartial regulator to make that prejudgment is simply unlawful.''
Nevada has also sued the Energy Department for planning to build a dedicated 319-mile railroad line across Nevada to transport radioactive waste to Yucca Mountain.
Energy Bill Protects the Status QuoEmployee Advocate – www.DukeEmployees.com – August 3, 2005
Nuclear Power once seemed like a reasonable answer to the worlds energy needs. The promise of electricity “too cheap to meter” was dangled before the public.
That was before the Three Mile Island partial meltdown. That was before the Chernobyl Nuclear Plant meltdown. That was before it was known that the government's plan to store the radioactive waste was literally full of holes. Even in the early days of nuclear power, some farsighted individuals warned of the disasters that lie ahead.
The Yucca Mountain radioactive waste repository has been a series of disasters. Project engineers have said that it will leak radioactive waste. A court rejected the government’s proposed safety standards. Scientists have admitted to providing fake test data to rubberstamp Yucca Mountain. Now the Energy Department is not even going to submit an application to build Yucca Mountain until March of 2006.
Think of the problems that could be eliminated if the world transitioned to a truly clean energy source, such as solar power. Don’t say that solar power is too expensive. If the money thrown at nuclear power has been spent on developing solar technology, it would be the energy of choice today.
What will the energy bill do to solve today’s energy problems? It will throw more billions of dollars at nuclear power. Taxpayers will still be on the hook for any major accidents. Consider that the executives promoting new nuclear plants are unwilling to accept the risk of operating them. The taxpayers will also be on hand to bail out the corporations for any delays. The corporations have the game set up like they want it. They make the profits; the taxpayers take the risks.
The energy bill is not about considering what is best for the public in the long run. It is all about perpetuating the lock some corporations have on producing nuclear power.
Exelon Faces Nuclear RealityEmployee Advocate – www.DukeEmployees.com – July 27, 2005
Exelon operates the largest fleet of nuclear reactors in the US. As one might expect, Chairman John W. Rowe is pro nuclear power. But according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, even he is facing the reality that no more nuclear reactors should be built until the waste storage issue is settled.
The only reason corporations are chattering about building new nuclear reactors is because G. W. Bush is promoting the idea. He is also willing to let taxpayers continue to subsidize the industry and absorb the bulk of the risk. The Price-Anderson Act passes the major risk right on the taxpayers. What does it tell you when those clambering for more nuclear reactors are not willing to take the risk of operating them? The corporations do not want the risk. Insurance companies will not take all the risk. No problem, just let the good ole taxpayer hold the bag once again.
The political climate will again shift against nuclear power. Would you like to be holding billions of dollars worth of new reactors when that happens? The tide will turn even without any major accidents. Can you imagine the “fallout” should a major nuclear accident happen in the United States?
The other factor is “green technology.” One day it will be competitive with nuclear in price, without any of the disadvantages. If a mere portion of the subsidies given to nuclear power have spent on green technology, it would already be king. It would truly be emissions-free power. There would be no radioactive waste to baby sit for 300,000 years.
The best thing nuclear power companies can do is to operate the reactors that they already have as safely as possible. If the reactors continue to operate safely, they may be allowed to produce power to the end of their life spans.
The question has been asked “When will solar power be fully developed?” The answer has been given “When corporations learn how to place an electric meter on the sun.”
The Yucca Mountain Radioactive Waste Repository has been a sham for years. The corporations did not care. The federal government did not care. Now that scientists have admitted to falsifying Yucca Mountain test data, the project is a little harder to whitewash. It is a little harder to pretend that nothing is wrong, while chasing the nuclear dollars.
At least the chairman of Exelon is willing to admit that there is a problem.
Secrecy Shrouds Duke’s Plutonium FuelEmployee Advocate – www.DukeEmployees.com – April 20, 2005
A South Carolina emergency management chief is being kept in the dark about the Duke Power mixed-oxide (MOX) nuclear fuel, according to The Charlotte Observer. Cotton Howell, York County emergency management director, criticized the Department of Energy (DOE) for repeatedly refusing to share information with the local officials.
Mr. Howell said "We have lots of concerns with the shipments. We have asked DOE on many occasions ... they will not work with us at all… We have no idea what to prepare for ."
The York officials asked for an emergency-response plan to respond to a MOX accident; a test to make sure the plan would work; communications capability between the county and DOE; and notification of when the fuel will be shipped. The DOE gave them nothing.
Monday, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission released a heavily censored order that noted the security conditions that Duke Power must meet to receive the fuel. It had been previously reported that Duke failed to meet the requirements. A Duke spokesperson said "We are taking the required actions to meet the conditions."
The DOE plays its cards close to its vest and Duke operates best in the shadows. When they join forces, expect plenty of misinformation. Last week, the reports of the arrival of the fuel, containing weapons-grade plutonium, offered a comedy of conflicting information. Some reports said the fuel arrived in Charleston on Monday. Others said that the fuel arrived on Tuesday. Statements by federal agencies and Duke Power conflicted. Even statements by different Duke spokespersons conflicted.
A federal agency reported that it had possession of the fuel, while a Duke spokesperson said the fuel had been transported from Charleston to the Catawba Nuclear Station. Some groups think the fuel is at the Savannah River Site near Aiken, S.C.
This cat and mouse game cannot go on forever. Everyone knows where the fuel will end up, if it is not already there. If the emergency management director cannot get a straight answer, do not expect any factual information to be released to the public. In other words, it’s business as usual!
Weapons-Grade Plutonium Hits South CarolinaEmployee Advocate – www.DukeEmployees.com – April 13, 2005
A controversial mixture of plutonium oxide and uranium oxide, called MOX, hit Charleston about midnight Tuesday. The MOX nuclear fuel, partially composed of weapons-grade plutonium, was shipped from France to be tested at the Catawba Nuclear Station, about 20 miles from Charlotte, N. C. It will be tested by actually loading the fuel and burning it in the reactors.
The original scheme was to also test the fuel in the McGuire Nuclear Station reactors in North Carolina. Duke backed off of that idea, but still plans to burn the fuel at both stations, provided the test is successful.
Protestors expressed concern about the attraction for terrorists and environmental risks. There is also concern that the Catawba station has failed to meet Nuclear Regulatory Commission security requirements. Last month, it was reported that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission decided that Catawba isn’t ready to accept the load. But a Duke Power spokesperson said the fuel was transported from Charleston to the Catawba Nuclear Station. There were other conflicting reports about the fuel location.
Tom Clements of Greenpeace International said " They never should have sent this stuff over from France without having their ducks in a row, and it’s quite clear that they’re scrambling to meet the conditions of storage. To me it represents the poor planning for the overall plutonium disposition program and they're just trying to make up things as they go along...We were able to get right up near the trucks. If we can do it, anybody can do it."
Sources: Associated Press, The State, Washington Post, and WSOCTV.
Yucca Nuclear Dump is a ShamEmployee Advocate – www.DukeEmployees.com – April 3, 2005
Anyone who has kept up with all the Yucca Mountain reports over the years knew the project was a sham. The only thing keeping the flawed proposal alive is money. Electric utilities wanted the dump to get the nuclear waste out of their backyards and were willing to spend money to get it.
Many politicians are most willing to do tricks when big money is changing hands. The people promoting Yucca mountain did so because it meant money in their pockets. The people opposing Yucca mountain did so because they did not want the ground water contaminated by nuclear waste.
Experts have repeatedly blown the whistle on the Yucca Mountain project. But when enough money is involved, corporate executives and politicians are just not able to see certain things.
What are some of the Yucca Mountain nuclear dump’s problems?
For openers, experts have declared that the canisters will leak and contaminate the groundwater. Also, the volcanic ridge is in an earthquake zone. At least 25 world-class experts are on record as saying that Yucca Mountain is not a suitable site for a radioactive dump. The only scientists who say the site is suitable are on the payroll of the Department of Energy (DOE).
On top of all this, emails have emerged indicating that the Yucca Mountain test data was fabricated! Politicians squealed with glee and ran to the Yucca trough to feed. When a lightening bolt hits the swill trough, they will squeal with fear and all run.
The FBI, Congress, along with, Energy and Interior departments inspector generals are investigating the matter of fraudulent test data.
G. W. Bush and the DOE have repeatedly stated that their recommendation of the Yucca Mountain site was based on "sound science." G. W. Bush once said “As president, I would not sign legislation that would send nuclear waste to any proposed site unless it's been deemed scientifically safe.”
Things are so hot now that even some of the Republican backers are backpedaling. Nevada Republican Rep. Jon Porter has opposed the project for some time. He said "If the project has been based upon science, and the science is not correct, it puts the whole project in jeopardy. I believe these e-mails show science is not driving the project; it's expedience to get the job done."
Rep. Porter added "We're going to expose any and all improprieties having to do with the documents that members of Congress have based their decision on. The scientific data that Congress has used is based on faith and trust in these federal agencies. If in fact those documents are falsified and have impacted the science and the delivery of information to the federal court and to members of Congress, we will take action regarding the falsification of documents… These e-mails describe deliberate failures to follow quality assurance procedures and irreproducible results related to the infiltration of water into the repository. These documents acknowledging the problems are real and that they cannot duplicate those tests is the gut of what the story is."
Rep. Porter summed up the situation with the comment "My instincts tell me this is the tip of the iceberg."
Nevada Rep. Shelley Berkely understands how the game is played. She said "When the science didn't match the reality, they used politics to change the science in order to match the reality…That someone or a group of people colluded to falsify the scientific data on which the entire Yucca Mountain project is based is nothing less than criminal and should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. There is no excuse for it… If this doesn't put an end to Yucca Mountain, I don't know what could."
Bob Loux, executive director of the Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects, said "I thought at first it might be one or more minor isolated incidents of some fabrication, but it's clear in reading these that it was many more than that. It's clear this mountain just isn't going to work…The thing that is clear is that there was so much pressure from management to come up with the right answers that these guys weren't sleeping at night. The pressure must have been so great because they made stuff up."
Sen. Harry Reid said "It should be obvious to everyone now that Yucca Mountain isn't going anywhere."
Sen. John Ensign said the documents "have finally blown the lid off this fraudulent and ill-conceived project. The e-mails are proof that the only thing necessary at this point is that we get to the truth."
State Rep. Steve Urquhart said "Now people are starting to focus on the fact that, well wait, Yucca Mountain is also a sorry idea. Why haven't we been thinking of something else?"
The fact the G. W. Bush gave the project a green light was proof, in itself, that the project was a sham. Everything else that Bush has touched has been a sham:
The reason for tax cuts for the wealthy was a sham.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) broke the law to help push along the Yucca project. It reduced the recommended isolation time from 300,000 years to 10,000 years. Under Bush, the EPA has become the “Environmental Wrecking Agency.”
Bush does not care if the country is polluted with radioactive waste forever. He can never see much farther than his nose. The utility executives cannot see much farther than the next dollar that is coming in. As long as they get the nuclear hot potato out of their backyards, they simply do not care. They all cannot be so ignorant as to be oblivious to the many Yucca Mountain problems.
In November 1999, a United States Geological Survey scientist sent email: "Don't look at the last 4 lines. Those are a mystery. I've deleted the lines from the 'official' QA version of the files. In the end I keep track of 2 sets of files, the ones that will keep QA happy and the ones that were actually used."
In March 2000, a government worker wrote: "So I've made up the dates and names. If they need more proof I will be happy to make up more stuff, as long as its not a video recording of the software being installed."
A 1998 message stated: "Wait till they figure out that nothing I've provided them is QA (quality assurance). If they really want the stuff, they'll have to pay to do it right."
Another message: "Our infiltration model has virtually no infiltration in washes; what infiltration there is in washes is basically put there as a fudge factor. ... I could probably tear apart any of our models. Did somebody say seepage?"
A March, 1999 message: "Yes the work is behind schedule but so is everything else because I'm the only one doing this work and I'll be damned if I drop everything else. I'd be very happy to just hand the work over to somebody else at this point."
More message quotes:
"I don't have a clue when these programs were installed. So I've made up the dates and names. ... This is as good as it's going to get. If they need more proof, I will be happy to make up more stuff, as long as it's not a video recording of the software being installed." — Writer identified as USGS Employee 1.
"Here's my question: When we go to start (quality assurance)'ing the site-scale modeling work, will I get taken to the cleaners because I am not referencing either a tech procedure or a scientific notebook? In other words, would it be cost-effective to create a (scientific notebook) for the site-scale work and back-date the whole thing??" — Unidentified worker.
"This is now CYA and we had better be good at it. I seem to have let this one slip a little too much in an attempt to cover all our work (and get us the hell out of the long-term problem of Yucca Mountain) but now it's clear that we have a little to no choice. In all honesty I've never felt well-managed or helped by the USGS (Yucca Mountain Project) folks. In fact, as you know, I've often felt abandoned. This time it's no different, or worse, and we have to work together to get out of this one." — USGS Employee 2.
"Some nights I have a hard time going to sleep because I realize the importance of trying to get the right answer, and I know how many serious unknowns are still out there, and how many quick fixes are still holding things together." — Unidentified worker.
The Yucca Mountain project "has now reached a point where they need to have certain items work no matter what, and the infiltration maps are on that list. If USGS can't find a way to make it work, Sandia will (but for now they are definitely counting on us to do the job)." — USGS Employee 1.
Sources: New York Times, Las Vegas Sun, Associated Press, Las Vegas Review-Journal, and Salt Lake Tribune.
Duke MOX NRC ViolationEmployee Advocate – www.DukeEmployees.com – March 25, 2005
In January of this year, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) sent Duke Energy notice of a Severity Level III Violation regarding mixed oxide (MOX) fuel. The violation, Docket No. 50-413, 50-414, affected Units 1 and 2 of Catawba Nuclear Station, in South Carolina. The Catawba nuclear reactors will be used to test the MOX fuel assemblies. The original plan was to also test MOX fuel at McGuire Nuclear Station, in North Carolina.
MOX fuel is composed of uranium and weapons grade plutonium. Such nuclear fuel has never been used in a reactor in the US. The violation is based on a NRC inspection completed on October 29, 2004.
The NRC charged that:
Nuclear Whistleblower DiscriminationEmployee Advocate – www.DukeEmployees.com – March 22, 2005
Last month, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) proposed fining FirstEnergy $55,000 for whistleblower retaliation at the Perry Nuclear Power Plant. In 2000, three employees of contractor, Williams Power Corporation, reported concerns about being ordered to violate a plant procedure.
The workers reported the incident to a Perry maintenance supervisor and ombudsman. The Williams Power site superintendent immediately threatened to terminate the employees if they did not volunteer for a layoff. Two were laid off and one was forced to resign.
The NRC protects nuclear power plant workers’ right to report safety concerns without fear of reprisal.
NRC Regional Administrator James Caldwell said the action should “emphasize the need for prompt identification of violations” and “the importance of a workforce that is free of employment discrimination.”
Last year, the U.S. Department of Justice took action and the Williams Power supervisor pleaded guilty to the felony of providing false information to the NRC.
Williams Power has been issued a Notice of Violation for discrimination against the workers and for deliberately providing false information to the NRC.
More Yucca Mountain ProblemsEmployee Advocate – www.DukeEmployees.com – March 17, 2005
Below is the March 16, 2005 Statement by Joan Claybrook, President of Public Citizen:
Public Citizen to Energy Department: Push Yucca Mountain Off the Gang Plank
Today’s announcement that falsified information may have been used to evaluate the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump sheds further light on the mismanagement of this entire bungled process.
It is of grave concern that the U.S. Geologic Survey may have falsified computer modeling data about Yucca Mountain. Given the fact that this data is related to water infiltration and climate – which affects the ability of the site to safely contain the waste – the entire scientific basis of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) license application to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission could be undermined.
This is further proof that the government has relied on manipulated data, not evidence-based science, in reviewing the only site being considered for a national dumping ground for the country’s 77,000 tons of nuclear waste, which remains highly radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years.
In 1998, more than 200 public interest organizations petitioned the DOE to “immediately disqualify the Yucca Mountain, Nevada site and declare it unsuitable for further consideration as a high-level nuclear waste repository” due to the finding of chlorine-36 at elevated levels deep within the mountain. The finding indicated that water flows through Yucca Mountain quickly, contrary to the prediction of the government’s water infiltration models of the site.
Coupled with a string of bad news recently for the DOE, this most recent development should be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Inaccurate information about highly dangerous radioactive material continues to plague the Yucca Mountain project, confounding the public, the Congress and the government managers. It is past time for Congress to stop wasting billions of dollars on this project once and for all.
Nuclear Power and Natural DisasterEmployee Advocate – www.DukeEmployees.com – December 30, 2004
Human error is always a possibility in any undertaking. It can never be completely eliminated, even at nuclear power plants. In recent years, the growing threat of terrorism has added another avenue for disaster. The destruction from the Asian tidal waves serves as a reminder of another threat that will always be present.
Russell D. Hoffman pointed out the dangers of weather related disasters to nuclear plants on TruthOut.org. The 35-year-old sea wall at San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station ("SONGS") in Southern California is 35 feet tall. Some Asian waves were reported to be 40 feet or more high.
The utilities will lead you to believe that nothing can penetrate a reactor dome. Their opinions on reactor safety is not exactly unbiased. With billions of dollars invested in nuclear plants, expect only happy talk from corporations.
Mr. Hoffman noted: “The spent fuel pools, control room, emergency diesel generators, and dry storage casks are all outside the domes.”
The link to Mr. Hoffman’s article opens in a new window:
Yucca Mountain Victory for ConsumersEmployee Advocate – www.DukeEmployees.com – September 1, 2004
Consumers won another victory in the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump fight, according to a Public Citizen press release. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) overruled claims made by the Department of Energy (DOE).
The Atomic Safety and Licensing Board, NRC judicial arm, unanimously ruled that the DOE did not make all Yucca Mountain Project documents available to the public. The time line has been reset because the government cannot seem to follow its own rules.
The project will be delayed indefinitely until the DOE complies with the law.
This DOE blunder is on top of the recent court ruling that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) illegally set the compliance period for radiation release standards of groundwater.
Many experts have stated that the Yucca Mountain Project is a technological failure. It is always less costly to recognize a failure sooner, rather than later.
G. W. Bush tried to steam-roll Yucca Mountain through, just like the Iraq war. And, it's working out about as well.
No Yucca Mountain on My WatchEmployee Advocate – www.DukeEmployees.com – August 12, 2004
The New York Times reported that John Kerry opposes sending nuclear waste to Yucca Mountain. He understands the problems presented by the proposed radioactive waste dump. The Yucca Mountain program is a failure, but those who stand to profit from it refuse to admit it.
Tuesday, Senator John Kerry vowed not to send nuclear waste to Yucca Mountain. G. W. Bush made the same promise in 2000, but Bush lied.
Mr. Kerry said "Yucca Mountain to me is a symbol of the recklessness and arrogance with which they are willing to proceed with respect to the safety issues and concerns of the American people. This is not just a Nevada issue; this is not just about Yucca Mountain. This is about America. This is about a relationship between the people who lead and the people, you, the governed. It's about promises kept and promises broken. When I'm President of the United States, I'll tell you about Yucca Mountain: Not on my watch! No!"
Al Gore opposed Yucca Mountain in 2000 and was leading Bush in the polls. Bush played “me too” and declared that he also opposed Yucca Mountain. That tactic put Bush ahead of Gore and Bush took Nevada by a slim majority.
G. W. Bush tried to steam-roll the dump into being, over the objection of numerous experts. A federal court upset Bush’s plan by ruling that the project could not proceed. It lacked standards to prevent leaks. What are a few radioactive leaks to a “bring them on” cowboy?
4 Killed at Nuclear PlantEmployee Advocate – www.DukeEmployees.com – August 10, 2004
The Associated Press reported that four workers were killed and seven injured Monday at a Japanese Nuclear power plant. Radioactivity was not involved in the accident; it was a steam line rupture.
The AP report estimated the steam to be 518 degrees Fahrenheit.
Two Japanese workers were killed in 1999 at a fuel-reprocessing plant by trying to rush the job. The workers decided to save time by not using the special tanks to mix uranium. They were mixing it in buckets.
In 1996, the NRC and OSHA investigated an 18-inch steam line rupture at Duke Energy’s Oconee Nuclear Station. Seven employees suffered burns from the steam.
Hanford Radiation ExposureEmployee Advocate – www.DukeEmployees.com – August 10, 2004
The Seattle Times reported that a Hanford employee was exposed to high levels of radiation on July 22. Only days earlier, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health criticized the Hanford cleanup and the lack of safety equipment.
The workers were pulling a 36-foot thermocouple from a tank (now that’s a real thermocouple). The radiation detectors suddenly pegged over-ranged. The worker guiding the instrument received 22 rem exposure to his hands.
This is not the first time that the contractor, CH2M Hill, has been in the news over poor safety practices.
Tom Carpenter, of the Government Accountability Project, said "It seems like the people in charge of safety are just being ignored and there's apparently no consequence for supervisors who do so."
The Bush administration has been rushing the cleanup of the former bomb plant.
Incredibly, even after it was known that workers were receiving an unknown amount of radioactive exposure, the supervisor had the employees finish the job! High enough radiation exposure will cause a person to fall dead in their tracks. Yet this supervisor kept people working in an unknown radioactive field to finish the job.
Tom Carpenter said "You don't lightly pull something out of these tanks without really good precautions, and you stop when you run into danger."
This administration is always rushing into the wrong areas. Rushing the cleanup of plutonium is as foolhardy as, say, rushing into a war for no reason.
High Nuclear Accident RiskEmployee Advocate – www.DukeEmployees.com – July 28, 2004
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) downplays the risk of commercial nuclear reactor accidents by projecting overwhelming odds against major accidents occurring. But the odds of an accident occurring at the waste treatment plant being built at the Hanford nuclear reservation are far greater. The New York Times quoted an independent government audit that projected the odds of a major accident occurring as 50 percent, over 28-years!
The audit results were issued by the NRC three years ago, but many are just now grasping the implications. This month, the Government Accountability Office criticized the Department of Energy (DOE) for carrying out major construction before the design is complete.
The government will not let you build a house like that! You cannot just make it up as you go and see how it turns out. Should a nuclear facility have less stringent construction guidelines?
The deadly product of the processing plant is to be buried at the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear repository. Does this plan seem a little quirky? A nuclear processing plant is being designed on the fly, as it is being built. The processed radioactive waste is to be buried at a site that has its own design problems. Some of the technology has not even been developed!
Some of the Hanford radioactive waste has already seeped into the Columbia River.
A similar processing plant was built in South Carolina in the 1990’s. It is still trying to resolve its operating problems, including the build up of hydrogen gas in the system. This sounds like a recipe for the mother of all dirty bombs!
Senator Maria Cantwell wrote to Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham. He stated that the risk estimate was "quite startling." He added that "it is not at all clear how and if D.O.E. has responded to the N.R.C.'s findings regarding safety issues at the waste treatment plant."
Victory in Yucca Mountain LawsuitEmployee Advocate – www.DukeEmployees.com – July 10, 2004
The Public Citizen press release below offers one example of how the Bush administration has misused, corrupted, or ignored scientific data, to further its own dubious agenda:
Court Overrules Government's Lax Radiation Standards for Nuclear Waste
Statement of Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook
Today's ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) illegally set its radiation release standards for groundwater for the proposed high-level radioactive waste dump at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, marks a major victory for citizens of Nevada, for the environment and for science over politics.
The EPA set 10,000 years as the period during which radiation in the groundwater cannot exceed drinking water standards at the site's boundary, but this time frame would not protect the health of future generations. As the court ruled, the Energy Policy Act requires that the EPA determine public health and safety standards for Yucca Mountain "based upon and consistent with" the National Academy of Sciences' recommendations. The Academy's recommendation is that the compliance period should extend through the time of the peak risk for radiation doses from the repository, which studies show are likely to occur in 300,000 years or more. To compensate for Yucca's geologic unsuitability, the EPA ignored the findings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"It would have been one thing had EPA taken the Academy's recommendations into account and then tailored a standard that accommodated the agency's policy concerns. But that is not what EPA did," the Court wrote in its ruling. "Instead, it unabashedly rejected NAS's findings, and then went on to promulgate a dramatically different standard, one that the Academy had expressly rejected."
Given this ruling, the Yucca Mountain Project should be finished. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) must show that it can prevent groundwater contamination above drinking water standards at the compliance boundary for 300,000 years - a standard that the DOE's own analysis shows the Yucca Mountain site cannot meet. The EPA faces the choice of either appealing the decision or revising its standard. The rules have been bent too often to promote Yucca Mountain. We will be watching closely to see if the EPA makes a wise choice and protects future generations, as the court mandated.
Indians Vow to Stop Yucca MountainEmployee Advocate – www.DukeEmployees.com – July 10, 2004
Congress has passed a bill to force Indians into a cheap land settlement, according to a press release by the Western Shoshone Defense Project (www.wsdp.org). The disputed land is not exactly worthless. It is the third largest gold producing area in the world. A 1999 Interior report rated the land as the number one investment opportunity for extraction companies.
Just how much is the United States government willing to pay the Indians for such valuable property?
The bill provides a settlement of 15 cents per acre!
For added intrigue, the disputed land includes the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository! Also on the land is the Nevada Test Site and Federal Counterterrorism Facility. The Bush administration is also talking of reopening nuclear bomb testing in the area. G. W. Bush and advisor Karl Rove have made recent personal visits to Nevada.
Tens of millions of acres are disputed in Nevada, Idaho, Utah and California. The bill was opposed by a majority of tribal councils, the Western Shoshone National Council, National Congress of American Indians and Amnesty International. The formal opposition was apparently ignored. The members of Congress hid behind a voice vote on the bill.
Raymond Yowell, of the Western Shoshone National Council, said "I am utterly disappointed. It's unbelievable that the U.S. body that makes the laws has acted in this manner. The fight is not over. A fraud is a fraud - Individuals cannot sell out a nation and the bill, although a threat politically, does nothing to change our inherent rights or our Treaty rights. Congress was informed of all the facts that touch upon this issue. We will use the Treaty of Ruby Valley to stop Yucca Mountain and to protect our lands. Our title is still intact."
Chairman of the Te-Moak Tribe of the Western Shoshone Nation Hugh Stevens said "The self-described, private group who pushed for this money are not members of any federally-recognized council and have no authority to speak on behalf of our Tribe or the Western Shoshone Nation. The Nevada legislators and the Bush Administration have been well-advised of this fact. The way this legislation was handled makes an absolute sham of the stated government to government relationship and responsibility of the U.S. government."
Mary Gibson, Western Shoshone, stated: "It's not over, we still exist and we still have our rights to our land. It makes me sad and angry that myths continue to cloud the Truth in this country. This struggle isn't a Shoshone v. Shoshone battle, the underlying issue here is the U.S. responsibility and accountability for a Treaty with the Western Shoshone Nation. As long as the people in the U.S. allow this to happen it will continue to happen."
No Reactor Waste Storage FundsEmployee Advocate – www.DukeEmployees.com – June 27, 2004
On Friday, the White House failed in a last-minute attempt to get commercial reactor waste storage funding added to a key spending bill, according to the Washington Post. The bill faced strong opposition from Nevada legislators and fiscal conservatives.
Reporter Dan Morgan said the Yucca Mountain nuclear reactor waste storage program was “thrown into question.”
Rep. David L. Hobson said "We've spent too much money already on it." But Sen. Pete V. Domenici wants to tap the ratepayers for an additional $440 million to be sunk in the hole in the mountain.
Funding was allocated for designing facilities at Yucca Mountain for Defense Department nuclear waste.
The Energy Department had requested $749 million for permanent storage of waste from commercial reactors, but zero funds were allocated.
More MOX MeetingsEmployee Advocate – www.DukeEmployees.com – June 21, 2004
Last Tuesday, a federal licensing board held a MOX reactor fuel meeting in Charlotte, NC, according to The Charlotte Observer. Duke Power wants to burn the plutonium/uranium mixture in its Catawba (SC) and McGuire (NC) nuclear reactors.
The Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League opposes the use of MOX fuel. It says the fuel is dangerous and will attract terrorists.
Another meeting will be held this summer to hear detailed arguments against the Duke plan.
Jumping a Sinking ShipEmployee Advocate – www.DukeEmployees.com – June 17, 2004
When a ship is sinking, the rats start jumping off. The Associated Press reported that another senior official of the Bush administration has resigned.
Assistant Energy Secretary Jessie Roberson resigned on Tuesday. She was head of the environmental cleanup program at the department's nuclear weapons sites. She is the third senior Energy Department official to jump ship in slightly over two months!
Undersecretary Robert Card (nuclear waste issues) and Assistant Secretary Beverly Cook (nuclear environmental and health management) resigned in April. They jumped ship after an episode with Congress over a worker health issue.
Ms. Roberson has been criticized for her “accelerated cleanup agenda.” Environmentalists and state officials said the net results of the acceleration is scaled back cleanup standards and more radioactive waste for the states.
The Yucca Mountain SteamrollerEmployee Advocate – www.DukeEmployees.com – June 13, 2004
Matthew L. Wald reported in the New York Times that independent scientists have acknowledged some uncertainty about the design of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository. But the existence of design problems does not mean that the Department of Energy (DOE) is going to back off on steamrolling the project through.
The DOE is more interested in deadlines than data or doing the job right. The DOE is a little behind on accepting nuclear waste from utilities. The original deadline was 1998! The DOE made this deal with the nuclear utilities 20 years ago. What may have seemed like a foolproof idea two decades ago, is looking more shaky each day. But the DOE is facing penalties for its delay and is ready to push through a nuclear dump. It might leak, but the new deadline will be met!
The utilities got a raw deal from the DOE. They paid for the nuclear waste disposal, but the DOE did not deliver it. The public will get a raw deal from the DOE if an unsafe nuclear waste repository is opened, just to met a deadline. The DOE is promising to apply to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a license by the end of this year.
The DOE plan is to open the site as soon as possible and patch it up later, as needed. That is not exactly a confidence building plan of action! How well did “making it up as you go” work in Iraq?
The Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board warned last year that humidity could dissolve salt from rocks and corrode the “drip shields” or metal tents. It concluded that the idea of drip shields protecting the containers "is based mostly on assumptions that could be unrealistic and overly optimistic."
Norman L. Christensen Jr., professor at Duke and board member, indicated that nuclear waste agencies in other countries are doing a better job because they are not being pushed by Congress and the nuclear industry to meet deadlines.
Scientist and board member Paul P. Craig wrote, in an article to be published, "the Department of Energy is rushing ahead with a defective Yucca Mountain design."
He predicts drinking water contamination from leaking radioactive materials.
Leaking Radioactive WasteEmployee Advocate – www.DukeEmployees.com – June 2, 2004
The New York Times reported that the Energy Department has a “great” idea for cutting the cost of disposing of nuclear waste. Costs are cut by cutting corners. The radioactive waste will be disposed of, well, by not disposing of it!
The Energy Department wants to leave millions of gallons of nuclear waste right where it is (some are tanks already leaking), and cover it with grout. That is a lot like not taking a bath for a week, and putting on a lot of cologne to try to hide the fact. You will save time, but the results will be less than satisfactory.
Environmentalists sued and won. A federal court ruled that a 1982 law requires deep burial for the waste.
The Energy Department appealed to Congress to let the department decide how much waste not to bury. Why not let the foxes meet to decide how many chickens should be eaten?
Senator Maria Cantwell said "For most Americans, grout is something they see in their bathroom, not something they do with nuclear waste… Who wants to save money by leaving nuclear waste in the ground, where it is leaking into the Columbia River or the Savannah River, or other areas of the country?"
She labeled the Energy Department’s plan to rename the waste to avoid burial a "sneak attack."
The Energy Department rushed ahead and grouted two tanks at the Savannah River Site, near Aiken, S.C.
Arjun Makhijani is president of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research. He has studied problems at Savannah River since the 1980's. He stated: "There is no experience with grout that can allow containment projections of this magnitude. On the contrary, experience with grout so far has been unsatisfactory."
He cited the risk of groundwater pollution from tanks leaking radioactive waste.
G. W. Bush and the Energy Department are still trying to ram through the Yucca Mountain disposal site. Many experts have stated that the Yucca Mountain proposal is hopelessly flawed.
The people who want to exercise caution in the disposal of nuclear waste do not stand to reap any financial gain. Their only interest is the prevention of radioactive pollution. One the other hand, those who are trying to push through the quick-fix proposals often stand to gain millions of dollars for their efforts. Where interest lies, honor dies.
Nuclear Whistleblower FreedEmployee Advocate – www.DukeEmployees.com – April 21, 2004
The man who exposed Israel’s nuclear weapons program will be released from an Israeli prison today, according to the Associated Press. Mordechai Vanunu, former reactor technician, has spent 18 years in prison. He spent 12 of those years in solitary confinement.
He gave details of Israel’s weapons of mass destruction stockpile and pictures to The Sunday Times of London in 1986. Israel’s secret service, the Mossad, abducted him in London. He was convicted of espionage and treason at a closed trial in Israel.
Mordechai has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
More Nuclear Targets?Employee Advocate – www.DukeEmployees.com – April 20, 2004
Duke Energy may join a consortium to promote a more streamlined approval process for new nuclear plants, according to the Charlotte Business Journal. David Mildenberg reported that it took 23 years to get the last nuclear plant operating. No new nuclear plant has been started since the Three Mile Island partial meltdown in 1979.
Duke was once a world leader, if not the world leader in nuclear plant building and operating. But much of Duke’s expertise has been lost due to layoffs and chasing deregulation. When Duke began replacing steam generators, it found that the welding expertise, once abundant, was no longer available. A remedial welding training program had to be implemented.
Duke executives have boasted that the nuclear division has downsized by 50% over a decade. As people are lost, skills are lost.
There are also problems now that did not exist in the 1970’s. The problem of what to do with the radioactive waste has always been a problem. But it was always assumed that a safe solution would be developed. This has not happened. Only a political solution has been developed. Yucca Mountain is a solution in name only. Too many experts have no confidence in the planned nuclear dump.
The terrorism threat is a brand new problem that cannot be ignored. The last thing needed is more targets.