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Nuclear -     1 - Duke Energy Employee Advocate

Nuclear - Page 32

“You can have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, or democracy. But you cannot have both.” - Louis Brandeis

New Doubts About MOX Fuel

Employee Advocate - - April 12, 2011

This article was published by The New York Times, April 10, 2011

New Doubts About Turning Plutonium Into a Fuel

By Jo Becker and William J. Broad

On a tract of government land along the Savannah River in South Carolina, an army of workers is building one of the nation's most ambitious nuclear enterprises in decades: a plant that aims to safeguard at least 43 tons of weapons-grade plutonium by mixing it into fuel for commercial power reactors.

The project grew out of talks with the Russians to shrink nuclear arsenals after the cold war. The plant at the Savannah River Site, once devoted to making plutonium for weapons, would now turn America's lethal surplus to peaceful ends. Blended with uranium, the usual reactor fuel, the plutonium would be transformed into a new fuel called mixed oxide, or mox.

"We are literally turning swords into plowshares," one of the project's biggest boosters, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, said at a hearing on Capitol Hill last week.

But 11 years after the government awarded a construction contract, the cost of the project has soared to nearly $5 billion. The vast concrete and steel structure is a half-finished hulk, and the government has yet to find a single customer, despite offers of lucrative subsidies.

Now, the nuclear crisis in Japan has intensified a long-running conflict over the project's rationale.

One of the stricken Japanese reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant uses the mox fuel. And while there has been no evidence of dangerous radiation from plutonium in Japan, the situation there is volatile, and nuclear experts worry that a widespread release of radioactive material could increase cancer deaths.

Against that backdrop, the South Carolina project has been thrown on the defensive, with would-be buyers distancing themselves and critics questioning its health risks and its ability to keep the plutonium out of terrorists' hands.

The most likely customer, the Tennessee Valley Authority, has been in discussions with the federal Department of Energy about using mox to replace a third of the regular uranium fuel in several reactors - a far greater concentration than at the stricken Japanese reactor, Fukushima Daiichi's Unit No. 3, where 6 percent of the core is made out of mox. But the T.V.A. now says it will delay any decision until officials can see how the mox performed at Fukushima Daiichi, including how hot the fuel became and how badly it was damaged.

"We are studying the ongoing events in Japan very closely," said Ray Golden, a spokesman for the utility.

At the same time, opponents of the South Carolina project scored a regulatory victory this month when a federal atomic licensing panel, citing "significant public safety and national security issues," ordered new hearings on the plans for tracking and safeguarding the plutonium used at the plant.

Obama administration officials say that mox is safe, and they remain confident that the project will attract customers once it is further along and can guarantee a steady fuel supply. Anne Harrington, who oversees nuclear nonproliferation programs for the Energy Department, noted that six countries besides Japan had licensed the routine use of mox fuel. She accused critics of "an opportunistic attempt" to score political points by seizing on Japan's crisis.

"Mox is nothing new," she said.

Even so, the critics say there is an increasing likelihood that the South Carolina project will fail to go forward and will become what a leading opponent, Edwin Lyman of the Union of Concerned Scientists, calls a "plant to nowhere." That would leave the United States without a clear path for the disposal of its surplus plutonium. A cheaper alternative, encasing it in glass, was canceled in 2002 by President George W. Bush's administration. The energy secretary at the time, Spencer Abraham, is now the non-executive chairman of the American arm of Areva, a French company that is the world's largest mox producer and is primarily responsible for building the South Carolina plant.

After the cold war, the United States and Russia were left with stockpiles of plutonium, and the fear was that one or the other would reverse course and use the plutonium to make new weapons, or that, in what the National Academies of Science called a "clear and present danger," thieves could make off with it.

Plutonium is easy to handle because the radiation it gives off is persistent but relatively weak. The type used in weapons, plutonium 239, has a half-life of 24,000 years and emits alpha rays. They make the plutonium feel warm to the touch but are so feeble that skin easily stops the radiation. If trapped inside the body, though, alpha rays can cause cancer.

At the same time, plutonium is preferred over uranium as nuclear bomb fuel because much less is needed to make a blast of equal size. And while it is difficult to work with, it does not need to undergo the complex process of purification required for uranium.

The 43 tons of surplus plutonium in the American stockpile could fuel up to 10,000 nuclear weapons and even more "dirty bombs" - ordinary explosives that spew radioactive debris. Alternatively, they could fuel 43 large reactors for about a year.

After studying a range of options, the Clinton administration decided to build a mox fuel plant to dispose of a portion of the plutonium, awarding a contract to a consortium now called Shaw Areva Mox Services.

The rest of the plutonium was to be mixed with highly radioactive nuclear waste and immobilized in glass or ceramic blocks, making it difficult and dangerous for any thief to extract. The government judged the mox route to be more expensive, but the dual-track approach was seen as insurance should either fail.

That strategy also helped persuade Jim Hodges, the Democratic governor of South Carolina from 1999 to 2003, to sign off on plutonium shipments to the Savannah River Site. When the Bush administration canceled the glass-block disposal program, Mr. Hodges was furious.

His concern, he said in a recent interview, was that South Carolina would become a dumping ground if the mox program did not work out because of political or technical difficulties. "That site was never designed for long-term plutonium storage," he said. "We were concerned about health and safety." Now, he said, that dumping ground is in danger of coming to pass.

Mr. Abraham said that budget cuts had made it necessary to end one of the programs, and that with the Russians favoring mox, the administration had feared that going the other route would discourage Moscow from keeping its end of the bargain. (Only later, Mr. Abraham added, did he decide to join Areva in a largely advisory role.)

"The politics of it - both from a budget standpoint and in terms of the Russian comfort level - both argued for going to the mox-only approach," he said.

If mox fuel was to be licensed for widespread use, though, Washington first needed to have it tested in reactors. Duke Energy agreed to use French-made mox. The government paid $26 million to prepare a reactor, according to the Energy Department. But a test in 2005 was aborted after the fuel began behaving strangely. Though the problem was ultimately traced to a different material in the fuel assemblies, Duke subsequently said it had no further plans to test or use the mox.

Along the way, the cost of the South Carolina project, originally about $1 billion, nearly quintupled. Energy Department officials said cost increases were to be expected because the original estimates were rough approximations. The sprawling plant, which is just south of Aiken, S.C., is to be bigger in size than eight football fields, and its construction currently employs nearly 2,000 workers.

For other countries, plutonium is seen as an opportunity rather than a problem. Nearly all reactors produce some plutonium as a byproduct of splitting atoms in two, and it can be gathered from spent fuel and mixed with uranium to make mox.

The United States, worried that plutonium recycling would contribute to the global spread of nuclear weapons, gave it up during the Carter administration. President Obama's panel on America's nuclear future is considering whether to recommend a return to recycling.

The Japanese government has followed the recycling path, despite citizens' protests about possible safety risks. In the wake of the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, officials at Areva, which supplied the mox fuel for Reactor No. 3 there, are cautioning against drawing hasty conclusions.

"Mox was not the cause of that accident, and the consequences of it have not been impacted by mox," said David Jones, a vice president at Areva, which has been providing on-the-ground assistance in Japan.

There is no clear evidence that plutonium has been released by the mox-loaded Japanese reactor; small traces found at the site could have come from other sources or from the site's other reactors. But Reactor No. 3 is one of three at Fukushima Daiichi that are judged to have undergone at least partial meltdowns, and experts are debating whether high radiation readings beneath the reactor vessels indicate that they have begun to leak. It would take full meltdowns, high heat and the rupture of a reactor's containment vessel to loft substantial plutonium into the air. The dangers vary depending on the chain of events that led to the accident and the concentration of mox in the reactor core. Even so, studies show that a nuclear meltdown and containment failure in a reactor that holds mox would result in more cancer deaths than one in a reactor fueled only with uranium.

In 2001, Dr. Lyman, a Cornell-trained physicist who has led the battle against mox, published a detailed study in the journal Science & Global Security that concluded the fuel could produce up to 30 percent more cancer deaths. Energy Department officials do not dispute that there would be additional health consequences, but they see them as less severe than the critics have predicted. In any event, they argue, a major release of plutonium would require an accident so severe that the additional health effects would amount to a "sliver on top of a mountaintop."

"It's not that significant - 10 percent or less," said Kenneth Bromberg, the department's assistant deputy administrator for fissile materials disposition. ,p> "Proliferation causes a far greater danger to a far greater number of people than highly controlled use of this fuel in a reactor," said Ms. Harrington, his boss.

But critics say that in its efforts to move the mox program along, the government has undercut the nonproliferation benefits by allowing or entertaining exceptions to a number of its rules for safeguarding plutonium.

Disposing of plutonium by burning it in reactors involves moving and then storing mox fuel at a commercial site. Such a plan, they argue, could make the fuel vulnerable to theft before it is irradiated into something that would be too deadly to steal.

But at the request of Duke Energy, which had agreed to test the fuel, the government decided to exempt nuclear plants that burn mox from special security requirements imposed on other facilities that handled "strategic special nuclear material" like plutonium.

In doing so, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission overruled its own Atomic Safety Licensing Board, which had recommended a middle ground requiring some additional security. But the commissioners reasoned that mox encased in heavy assemblies would not be as attractive to terrorists as pure plutonium, and so did not require the same level of security.

Jeffrey Merrifield, one of the commission members who voted on the matter, now works for the Shaw Group, which is designing the mox plant with Areva. He said in a statement that he had not discussed jobs with the company until after the vote and that he works in a section unrelated to the mox project.

The Shaw Areva Group requested an exception to the government's material control and accounting standards for plutonium. Though the company subsequently withdrew the request, it led the Atomic Safety Licensing Board to rule that more hearings were needed to determine whether the Savannah River plant was capable of keeping track of the plutonium that is expected to move through it and on to commercial utilities.

In a statement, Shaw Areva said, "We continue to believe that the mox project meets all the regulatory requirements for licensing, and we welcome the opportunity to present our case" in hearings this year.

Ms. Harrington said security at the Savannah River Site was so tight that "I'd defy anyone to walk in and walk out with any of our plutonium."

Still, Mr. Abraham, the former energy secretary, says that given the crisis in Japan, he understands the hesitation of utilities to embrace mox. "I can't imagine any utility would say, 'Yeah, we are going to ignore Japan,' " he said. "I think the dust has to settle here."

NRC Order Issued to MOX Facility

Workers' Compensation for Nuclear Workers with Cancer in Japan

Employee Advocate - - April 11, 2011

This article was published by The New York Times, April 9, 2011

Japanese Workers Braved Radiation for a Temp Job


KAZO, Japan - The ground started to buck at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, and Masayuki Ishizawa could scarcely stay on his feet. Helmet in hand, he ran from a workers' standby room outside the plant's No. 3 reactor, near where he and a group of workers had been doing repair work. He saw a chimney and crane swaying like weeds. Everybody was shouting in a panic, he recalled.

Mr. Ishizawa, 55, raced to the plant's central gate. But a security guard would not let him out of the complex. A long line of cars had formed at the gate, and some drivers were blaring their horns. "Show me your IDs," Mr. Ishizawa remembered the guard saying, insisting that he follow the correct sign-out procedure. And where, the guard demanded, were his supervisors?

"What are you saying?" Mr. Ishizawa said he shouted at the guard. He looked over his shoulder and saw a dark shadow on the horizon, out at sea, he said. He shouted again: "Don't you know a tsunami is coming?" Mr. Ishizawa, who was finally allowed to leave, is not a nuclear specialist; he is not even an employee of the Tokyo Electric Power Company, the operator of the crippled plant. He is one of thousands of untrained, itinerant, temporary laborers who handle the bulk of the dangerous work at nuclear power plants here and in other countries, lured by the higher wages offered for working with radiation. Collectively, these contractors were exposed to levels of radiation about 16 times as high as the levels faced by Tokyo Electric employees last year, according to Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, which regulates the industry. These workers remain vital to efforts to contain the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima nuclear plants. They are emblematic of Japan's two-tiered work force, with an elite class of highly paid employees at top companies and a subclass of laborers who work for less pay, have less job security and receive fewer benefits. Such labor practices have both endangered the health of these workers and undermined safety at Japan's 55 nuclear reactors, critics charge.

"This is the hidden world of nuclear power," said Yuko Fujita, a former physics professor at Keio University in Tokyo and a longtime campaigner for improved labor conditions in the nuclear industry. "Wherever there are hazardous conditions, these laborers are told to go. It is dangerous for them, and it is dangerous for nuclear safety."

Of roughly 83,000 workers at Japan's 18 commercial nuclear power plants, 88 percent were contract workers in the year that ended in March 2010, the nuclear agency said. At the Fukushima Daiichi plant, 89 percent of the 10,303 workers during that period were contractors. In Japan's nuclear industry, the elite are operators like Tokyo Electric and the manufacturers that build and help maintain the plants like Toshiba and Hitachi. But under those companies are contractors, subcontractors and sub-subcontractors - with wages, benefits and protection against radiation dwindling with each step down the ladder.

Interviews with about a half-dozen past and current workers at Fukushima Daiichi and other plants paint a bleak picture of workers on the nuclear circuit: battling intense heat as they clean off radiation from the reactors' drywells and spent-fuel pools using mops and rags, clearing the way for inspectors, technicians and Tokyo Electric employees, and working in the cold to fill drums with contaminated waste.

Some workers are hired from construction sites, and some are local farmers looking for extra income. Yet others are hired by local gangsters, according to a number of workers who did not want to give their names. They spoke of the constant fear of getting fired, trying to hide injuries to avoid trouble for their employers, carrying skin-colored adhesive bandages to cover up cuts and bruises.

In the most dangerous places, current and former workers said, radiation levels would be so high that workers would take turns approaching a valve just to open it, turning it for a few seconds before a supervisor with a stopwatch ordered the job to be handed off to the next person. Similar work would be required at the Fukushima Daiichi plant now, where the three reactors in operation at the time of the earthquake shut down automatically, workers say.

"Your first priority is to avoid pan-ku," said one current worker at the Fukushima Daini plant, using a Japanese expression based on the English word puncture. Workers use the term to describe their dosimeter, which measures radiation exposure, from reaching the daily cumulative limit of 50 millisieverts. "Once you reach the limit, there is no more work," said the worker, who did not want to give his name for fear of being fired by his employer.

Takeshi Kawakami, 64, remembers climbing into the spent-fuel pool of the No. 1 reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi plant during an annual maintenance shutdown in the 1980s to scrub the walls clean of radiation with brushes and rags. All workers carried dosimeters set to sound an alarm if exposure levels hit a cumulative dose limit; Mr. Kawakami said he usually did not last 20 minutes.

"It was unbearable, and you had your mask on, and it was so tight," Mr. Kawakami said. "I started feeling dizzy. I could not even see what I was doing. I thought I would drown in my own sweat."

Since the mid-1970s, about 50 former workers have received workers' compensation after developing leukemia and other forms of cancer. Health experts say that though many former workers are experiencing health problems that may be a result of their nuclear work, it is often difficult to prove a direct link. Mr. Kawakami has received a diagnosis of stomach and intestinal cancer.

News of workers' mishaps turns up periodically in safety reports: one submitted by Tokyo Electric to the government of Fukushima Prefecture in October 2010 outlines an accident during which a contract worker who had been wiping down a turbine building was exposed to harmful levels of radiation after accidentally using one of the towels on his face. In response, the company said in the report that it would provide special towels for workers to wipe their sweat.

Most day workers were evacuated from Fukushima Daiichi after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, which knocked out the plant's power and pushed some of the reactors to the brink of a partial meltdown. Since then, those who have returned have been strictly shielded from the news media; many of them are housed at a staging ground for workers that is off limits to reporters. But there have been signs that such laborers continue to play a big role at the crippled power plant.

The two workers who were injured two weeks ago when they stepped in radioactive water were subcontractor employees. As of Thursday, 21 workers at the plant had each been exposed to cumulative radiation levels of more than 100 millisieverts, or the usual limit set for nuclear plant workers during an emergency, according to Tokyo Electric. (That limit was raised to 250 millisieverts last month.) The company refused to say how many contract workers had been exposed to radiation. Of roughly 300 workers left at the plant on Thursday, 45 were employed by contractors, the company said.

Day laborers are being lured back to the plant by wages that have increased along with the risks of working there. Mr. Ishizawa, whose home is about a mile from the plant and who evacuated with the town's other residents the day after the quake, said he had been called last week by a former employer who offered daily wages of about $350 for just two hours of work at the Fukushima Daiichi plant - more than twice his previous pay. Some of the former members of his team have been offered nearly $1,000 a day. Offers have fluctuated depending on the progress at the plant and the perceived radiation risks that day. So far, Mr. Ishizawa has refused to return.

Working conditions have improved over the years, experts say. While exposure per worker dropped in the 1990s as safety standards improved, government statistics show, the rates have been rising since 2000, partly because there have been more accidents as reactors age. Moreover, the number of workers in the industry has risen, as the same tasks are carried out by more employees to reduce individual exposure levels.

Tetsuen Nakajima, chief priest of the 1,200-year-old Myotsuji Temple in the city of Obama near the Sea of Japan, has campaigned for workers' rights since the 1970s, when the local utility started building reactors along the coast; today there are 15 of them. In the early 1980s, he helped found the country's first union for day workers at nuclear plants.

The union, he said, made 19 demands of plant operators, including urging operators not to forge radiation exposure records and not to force workers to lie to government inspectors about safety procedures. Although more than 180 workers belonged to the union at its peak, its leaders were soon visited by thugs who kicked down their doors and threatened to harm their families, he said.

"They were not allowed to speak up," Mr. Nakajima said. "Once you enter a nuclear power plant, everything's a secret."

Last week, conversations among Fukushima Daiichi workers at a smoking area at the evacuees' center focused on whether to stay or go back to the plant. Some said construction jobs still seemed safer, if they could be found. "You can see a hole in the ground, but you can't see radiation," one worker said. Mr. Ishizawa, the only one who allowed his name to be used, said, "I might go back to a nuclear plant one day, but I'd have to be starving." In addition to his jobs at Daiichi, he has worked at thermal power plants and on highway construction sites in the region. For now, he said, he will stay away from the nuclear industry.

"I need a job," he said, "but I need a safe job."

NRC Bans Former Duke Energy Contract Worker

Employee Advocate - - June 4, 2010

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued this news release on 6/4/10:


The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has banned a former contract employee at Duke Energy's McGuire Nuclear Station and issued a Confirmatory Order to the company, which has agreed to a series of corrective actions.

The settlement was reached under the NRC's Alternative Dispute Resolution process, which was initiated at Duke Energy's request to address an incident which occurred at the McGuire plant north of Charlotte in October 2008. An NRC investigation determined that a contract employee brought an illegal substance into the plant's protected area and allegedly used it while on the site. The NRC's Jan. 27 letter informed Duke Energy the case warranted two apparent violations of federal regulations.

The apparent violations involved a welder who brought marijuana into the protected area. A second contract employee became aware of the drug's presence and its use but failed to report it to plant officials.

The employee found to have used the marijuana has been banned from NRC-licensed activities for five years. The contract employee who failed to report the drug use is no longer employed at the site.

A mediation session was held with Duke Energy on March 29 and an agreement was reached. A Confirmatory Order outlines a number of corrective actions and enhancements Duke agreed to take to preclude recurrence of such an issue. The utility also agreed to enhanced training and communications for all employees, including contract workers.

The NRC requires nuclear power plant licensees to have fitness-for-duty programs to provide reasonable assurance that personnel are trustworthy, will perform their tasks in a reasonable manner, and are not under the influence of any substance, legal or illegal, that may impair their ability to perform their duties.

Copies of the enforcement action will be posted on the NRC web site at

Ignoring Industry’s Dirty Little Secrets
"mining companies are looking again to exploit Navajo lands - and their workers"

NRC Order Issued to MOX Facility

Employee Advocate - - November 26, 2009

Yesterday, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announced that it has issued a Confirmatory Order to the mixed oxide facility under construction at the Department of Energy's Savannah River site.

The action was part of a settlement agreement concerning a contract senior engineer allowing a junior engineer to sign his signature to documents.

Shaw AREVA MOX Services must adhere to changes in its NRC construction authorization based on an agreement reached in October.

MOX Fuel Test Fails at Catawba Reactor

Nuclear Sites Fear They're the Alternative to Yucca Mountain
"Nevada was represented by a senator who suggested using a rocket ship to shoot the waste into the sun"

The Case of the Missing H-Bomb
"Plutonium gets more dangerous as it ages"

Inspectors Find Safety Problems at Nuclear Weapons Complex

This article was published by McClatchy Newspapers on May 2, 2009

By James Rosen

Washington - Contractors at one of the nation's major nuclear weapons complexes repeatedly used substandard construction materials and components that, could've caused a major radioactive spill, a recently completed internal government probe has found.

One of the materials used at the Savannah River Site on the South Carolina-Georgia border failed to meet federal safety standards and "could have resulted in a spill of up to 15,000 gallons of high-level radioactive waste," the Energy Department's inspector general found.

The inspector general's five-month investigation also found that contractors bought 9,500 tons of substandard steel reinforcing bars for the Savannah River Site near Aiken, S.C.

The faulty steel was discovered after a piece of it broke during the construction of a facility to convert spent nuclear weapons-grade plutonium and uranium into mixed-oxide, or MOX, fuel for civilian reactors.

Replacing 14 tons of substandard rebar - the steel bars commonly used to reinforce concrete - that already had been installed cost $680,000 and delayed the completion of the $4.8 billion MOX facility, the investigation found.

Among the other questionable components the probe found were piping, steel plates, an unusable $12 million "glovebox" used to handle radioactive materials, furnace module doors and robots that are used to avoid human exposure to radiological and chemical materials.

In an April 23 memo to Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Inspector General Gregory Friedman said that contractors and subcontractors that build, supply and install equipment at the Savannah River facilities ignored safety regulations developed by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

"We identified multiple instances in which critical components did not meet required quality and safety standards," Friedman wrote to Chu.

The DOE inspector general's probe found instances of hiring Savannah River Site subcontractors who sold standard commercial materials instead of the required military-grade components, which are subjected to tougher testing during production under higher standards. One commercial subcontractor sold goods through retail catalogues.

While the investigation focused on contractors and subcontractors, it also said that the Energy Department failed to supervise them adequately and demand that they meet established safety standards.

Friedman's investigators, who were at Savannah River from Sept. 30, 2008, to April 8, examined a representative sample of 10 government purchases and found safety problems with all of them.

"The department did not provide adequate oversight of the prime contractors' quality-assurance programs at Savannah River," the report found. "Particularly, the department did not adequately establish and implement processes to detect and/or prevent quality problems."

The Savannah River Site produced tritium, Plutonium-239 and other materials used to make nuclear weapons from 1954 to 1991, when the U.S. stopped making nuclear weapons at the end of the Cold War. Scientists and technicians at the Savannah River Site, one of several massive nuclear complexes around the country, still replenish tritium that's needed to maintain the United States' existing nuclear weapons.

The Savannah River Site is a large regional employer with about 10,000 workers, down from a peak of 25,000 in 1992.

Many employees are engaged in a huge environmental cleanup effort to alleviate the effects of decades of toxic nuclear waste production.

President Barack Obama's $787 billion economic-stimulus plan has $1.6 billion to accelerate the Savannah River Site cleanup, and hundreds of new workers already have been hired.

Officials with the National Nuclear Security Administration, the Energy Department agency responsible for maintaining and securing the nation's nuclear weapons, disputed the findings.

"NNSA agrees with the recommendations presented in the report but does not agree with the stated conclusions concerning the safety of the facilities, related cost impacts or with the tone of the report," wrote William Ostendorff, its principal deputy administrator.

Ostendorff said that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission had done a more extensive probe of safety issues at the MOX facility, one of three examined by the inspector general, and had concluded that the problems were "violations of low significance."

The heads of the Energy Department's Office of Environmental Management, which is in charge of waste cleanup at the Savannah River Site and other nuclear complexes, didn't dispute the inspector general's findings, however.

"The issues identified in this report represent a failure of contractors and subcontractors to properly implement existing requirements and policies," wrote Ines Triay, the acting assistant secretary for environmental management.

"Environmental Management agrees that current practices can and should be enhanced to provide greater federal and contractor oversight," Triay wrote.

View the report here (.pdf)

MOX Fuel Test Fails at Catawba Reactor

United Press International – August 4, 2008

Two watchdog groups are calling on the U.S. government to suspend the use of weapons-grade plutonium for nuclear reactor fuel.

Friends of the Earth and the Union of Concerned Scientists said it discovered testing to demonstrate the safety of mixed-oxide, or MOX, fuel in Duke Energy's Catawba nuclear reactor in South Carolina was aborted early because of safety concerns.

Duke Energy informed the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that the test was halted in a June 10 report, the watchdog groups said Monday.

The failure of the plutonium fuel is another major setback for the MOX program, and will further increase the already considerable cost overruns, delays and risks, FOE coordinator Tom Clements said in a statement. Congress needs to pull the plug before even more taxpayer money is wasted.

Source: UPI-1-20080804-17475900-bc-us-plutonium.xml

MOX Project Loses Taxpayer Funding

Yucca Mountain Over My Dead Body

Employee Advocate - - May 23, 2008

Attorney Joseph Egan fought the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump until his last breath, according to the Las Vegas Business Press. In fact, in death he is still protesting the burying of 77,000 tons of nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain.

Mr. Egan fought the Yucca Mountain project from 2001 until he died on May 7, 2008, at 53.

Joseph Egan made provisions for his ashes to be spread across Yucca Mountain with the eulogy: “Radwaste buried here only over my dead body.”

Earthquake Danger at Yucca Mountain

Dhiaa Jamil Addresses the Chernobyl Meltdown

Employee Advocate - – May 1, 2008

Chief Nuclear Officer Dhiaa Jamil has only been in his new position for a short while, but he is already growing to fill the shoes of his predecessors. He wrote an excellent article in the April 23 issue of Team Nuclear on the 1986 Chernobyl meltdown.

The only reason that the Employee Advocate has covered the Chernobyl meltdown and the Three Mile Island partial meltdown so much is because of Duke Energy’s reluctance to acknowledge the fact that they even occurred.

Duke is forever publishing pictures of little baby ducks, small children, and daisies with its nuclear plants in the background. Not too ingeniously designed to send the subliminal message that everything Duke is good and nothing bad can ever happen.

Denial of potential disaster may seem like great PR to the shortsighted. But fully acknowledging the dangers is a more realistic approach to avoiding them than denying their existence.

Mr. Jamil openly addressed the worst black eye the nuclear industry has ever faced, and used it as an example of what not to do. It was similar to Jim Rogers addressing the failure of Duke Energy to even rate in Working Mother magazine’s 100 Best Companies list. By addressing the issue, he made further comment on it pointless.

Jim Rogers Volunteers the Facts

Accentuating the positive can, and has, been taken to the point of total spin. Someone has to say “This is not the way it really is.”

The Chernobyl article was ended with this sentence: “Encouraging individuals to raise concerns and standing firm when nuclear safety is threatened is not only a legal requirement for each and every one of us, it is a moral requirement.”

Rather than ignoring the Chernobyl accident, Mr. Jamil highlighted the many opportunities for it to have been avoided. He understands that there is some morality left in the world (even though little will be found in the boardrooms of America).

And, whatever happened to Brew Barron after he retired?

He immediately moved into the position of president, CEO, and chief nuclear officer of Constellation Energy Nuclear Group (CENG).

Apparently there is life after Duke Energy after all.

Brew Barron Retires

Brew Barron Retires

Employee Advocate - – January 19, 2008

Duke Energy has announced that Chief Nuclear Officer Brew Barron will be retiring at the end of March, after 35 years of service. Jim Rogers selected Dhiaa Jamil, Senior Vice President of Nuclear Support, to fill the position, effective Feb. 17.

Brew Barron came into his position in 2004 with big shoes to fill. Mike Tuckman had just retired at the top of his game. Brew Barron has filled those shoes. Now he is retiring at the top of his game, with all Duke nuclear stations rated as highly as possible.

In case anyone is wondering, Mr. Barron is not leaving at the point of a sword. CEO Jim Rogers said that he asked him to reconsider his retirement decision, but Mr. Barron was ready to retire.

Dhiaa Jamil has 26 years with Duke Energy and broad nuclear experience. No one is better qualified to fill Brew Barron’s shoes.

Mike Tuckman Retires (2004)

Earthquake Danger at Yucca Mountain

Employee Advocate - – September 25, 2007

The liabilities against the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear dump just keep piling up, according to the Associated Press. It has been known for years that Yucca Mountain is susceptible to earthquakes. New U.S. Geological Survey rock samples offer evidence that the situation may be worse than previously estimated.

250 feet deep core samples show that one fault line passes right under the storage pad site.

Bob Loux, head of the Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects, said "It certainly looks like DOE has encountered a surprise out there, and it certainly speaks to the fact they haven't done the technical work they should have done years ago."

Michael Frank, with Bechtel SAIC Co., said that Yucca Mountain has over 10 faults within a 20-mile radius. He said the Solitario Canyon fault is capable of producing an earthquake with a magnitude of about 6.5.

Yucca Nuclear Dump is a Sham

Attorney General Doubts Barnwell is Safe

Employee Advocate - - August 31, 2007

Chem-Nuclear, owned by Energy Solutions, kept the radioactive leaks at Barnwell Nuclear Dump hidden from the public for decades. It also kept South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster in dark, according to The State. He is not buying Chem-Nuclear’s assurances that the nuclear dump is safe.

Mr. McMaster met with SC environmental officials on Monday. After the meeting, he said “We are quite concerned that (the site) may be doing permanent and serious damage to the state and its people.”

Tritium levels exceed the Environmental Protection Agency’s limits for safe drinking water in 30 monitoring wells.

The groundwater contamination was kept a secret from the attorney general, local residents, state legislators, and environmentalists until the newspaper broke the story.

Attorney General McMaster toured the 235-acre nuclear dump last spring and was told nothing about the groundwater tritium levels.

Even when state legislators were debating on whether to allow the dump to accept radioactive waste nationwide after 2008, they were told nothing about the tritium leaks. The bill was defeated anyway. After 2008, the dump can only take radioactive waste generated in SC.

Radioactive groundwater is seeping from the landfill into a creek that feeds the Savannah River. The river is a water source for the Hilton Head Island area.

There is a valid reason for citizens saying “Not in my backyard!”

Radioactive Groundwater at Barnwell Nuclear Dump

Radioactive Groundwater at Barnwell Nuclear Dump

Employee Advocate - - August 23, 2007

For years, Duke Energy happily shipped its nuclear waste to the Barnwell Nuclear Dump in South Carolina. The waste was then no longer a problem for Duke. But wherever radioactive waste goes, it turns out to be a problem for someone.

Radioactivity has been detected in the groundwater outside the Barnwell site, according to The State. In some places, it exceeds the Environmental Protection Agency’s safe drinking water limits by hundreds of times.

Chem-Nuclear acknowledged a tritium leak occurred in the late 1970’s.

If the leak occurred in the 1970’s, why is word of it just getting out?

It seems that Chem-Nuclear convinced the state to suppress part of the contamination details for years.

The State uncovered the information by filing a Freedom of Information Act request this year. In 2001, tritium was found in a branch a half-mile from the landfill. Some of the Barnwell tritium levels even exceed those found in the groundwater of the Savannah River Site. The Savannah Site was used to manufacture atomic bombs, and has a long history of polluted groundwater.

Environmental lawyer Jimmy Chandler said “Those numbers are higher than any I’ve seen.”

Barnwell could serve as a mild preview of the disaster that Yucca Mountain Nuclear Dump could become. Barnwell has been accepting low-level nuclear waste for 36-years. Yucca Mountain will take spent fuel from the cores of nuclear reactors. Yucca Mountain has the potential to make Barnwell look like a picnic ground.

Yucca Nuclear Dump is a Sham

S.C. health regulators tried to play down any concerns. They said that no one should be surprised at the tritium levels since low-level nuclear waste contains tritium. But Barnwell is also known to contain uranium 238, carbon 14, polonium 210, and plutonium, which could follow the trail of tritium.

In the future, will the SC health regulators say that no one should be surprised that their drinking water has tritium, uranium 238, carbon 14, polonium 210, and plutonium in it?

The people who live around Barnwell are not too happy with the situation and say that their wells have not been checked for contamination.

Nuclear Fuel Problems Kept Secret

Nuclear Plant Target for Stolen Rocket Launchers

Employee Advocate – – January 7, 2007

Police allege a terrorist group has obtained stolen Australian Army rocket launchers, according to The Sydney Morning Herald. Police further allege the group plans to use the rockets in an attack on Sydney's Lucas Heights nuclear reactor.

Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty said that a man charged with possessing stolen weapons has links to a terrorist group that intends to attack the reactor. Up to nine rocket launchers have been stolen.

NSW Assistant Commissioner Nick Kaldas said "The line between criminality and politically motivated acts of terrorism is blurring worldwide. We are open minded on whether other rockets have fallen into the hands of terror groups."

Some energy executives have tried to laugh off the possibility of a terrorist attack on a nuclear reactor. After 9/11, the threat can no longer be denied.

Kamikaze Attacks on Nuclear Reactors

Kamikaze Attacks on Nuclear Reactors

Employee Advocate – – December 26, 2006

The issue of nuclear reactors being vulnerable to Kamikaze jet plane attacks is alive and well, according to the New York Times. Duke Energy has tried to dance around, sidestep, and ignore the threat for years. When a concern is only superficially addressed, it will always return again and again.

There are limits to how existing power plants can be modified to withstand plane attacks. But the nuclear power industry is now clamoring to build new nuclear reactors. Should these new reactors not be fortified against the latest weapon the in the terrorists’ arsenal – jet planes? Apparently not, according the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). The NRC decided not to require new nuclear plants to be safer from plane attacks than the old plants.

The NRC is content to leave the responsibility of protecting against air attacks to other federal agencies, such as the Department of Homeland Security. Everyone can go back to sleep now; the Department of Homeland Security is on the job. Do you feel safer already? This crackerjack organization will probably recommend using duct tape and plastic sheets to fend off attacking aircraft!

Nipping Terrorism in the Bud

Maybe the prospect of relying on the Department of Homeland Security to protect nuclear reactors from air attacks woke up the nuclear power industry. It finally asked the government to specify how to protect new nuclear plants from airplane attacks. Good move; duct tape has it limits.

At least one commissioner is fully aware of danger of terrorists using planes to attack nuclear power plants. Gregory B. Jaczko wants the inclusion of airplanes in the design basis for new reactors. He said “I am encouraged the nuclear industry acknowledges the commission should do more to strengthen security requirements…this proposal does not ensure that any new nuclear reactors will be designed to withstand commercial aircraft crashes.”

Duke Energy executives have cited the results of a test simulating a jet crashing into a nuclear reactor building. It sounds impressive to say that a jet can only make a four inch indention into a simulated reactor wall. But a lot of crucial details were left out.

The test used a fighter jet, not a large passenger aircraft, fully loaded with fuel. That fact alone make the test meaningless.

But another fact was insidiously omitted. The section of concrete that the jet hit was not even stationary. It was just a section of concrete sitting on the ground. It was free to slide along the ground and absorb much the potential damage from the impact. The test was a side show for the gullible.

Jet Attacks on Nuclear Reactors

Spent Fuel Storage Blocked at Nuclear Plant

Employee Advocate – – June 4, 2006

The nuclear industry has successfully steamrollered all concerns about terrorist attacks at power plants. Nuclear plants have been storing highly radioactive spent fuel in every nook and cranny with the blessing of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). This blasé disregard for possibly creating tempting terrorist targets has finally hit a stump, according to the Associated Press.

Friday, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled to block further radioactive storage at Diablo Canyon Nuclear Station. The court ruled that the possibility of terrorist attacks must be taken more seriously.

The San Luis Obispo Mothers For Peace filed the lawsuit challenging the NRC’s position.

The nonprofit group's attorney, Diane Curran, said "The whole purpose of this lawsuit, before they build a facility, they would have to protect it, they would have to look at ways they could protect it from a potential attack."

Nuclear plants have been storing radioactive waste on-site because plans for the Yucca Mountain repository have been a total disaster.

See No Evil, Hear No Evil

Exelon Faces Nuclear Reality

MOX Project Loses Taxpayer Funding

Employee Advocate – – May 20, 2006

The push to burn plutonium in nuclear power plants had suffered a setback, according to The State and The Island Packet. The controversial Savannah River Site (SRS) was to be constructed to produce reactor fuel from plutonium. The mixed-oxide (MOX) reactor fuel is a mixture of uranium and weapons grade plutonium. But the House Appropriations Committee killed the $368 million taxpayer funding for the project. Some lawmakers are concerned because the project cost of the project has more than tripled, from $1 billion to $3.5 billion.

John Scofield, spokesman for chairman Jerry Lewis, said "There's a potential boondoggle in the making, and we're not going to put taxpayers on the hook...Since the Russians have walked away from the deal, it makes funding this large construction project not necessary. We don't want construction to start on this deal."

Some state legislators are concerned about amassing even more plutonium in South Carolina. In 2002, former Gov. Jim Hodges declared a state of emergency because of the SRS plans. He banned plutonium shipments through South Carolina. He also ordered state police to turn back federal trucks before they arrive at the Savannah River Site. He filed a lawsuit to stop the federal government from shipping high-grade nuclear waste to SRS. In 2003, the suit was dropped by Gov. Mark Sanford .

S. C. State of Emergency Over Plutonium

But other South Carolina politicians see nothing but a chance for free government money, and are giddy about the SRS project. But there is more to the SRS project than pork for politicians. SRS once produced plutonium and tritium for use in atomic weapons. There have been radioactive spills and employees have cited health problems from working at the bomb plant.

Human Cost of Savannah River Site

Duke Energy never met a taxpayer dollar that it didn’t like, and is looking to rake in more of them from producing and burning MOX fuel. Its Catawba Nuclear Station is the only plant in the United States that is burning MOX fuel, as a test. Savannah River would be the only MOX producing site in the United States. Duke Energy is part of the consortium that planned to build the SRS. The MOX fuel would also be burned at Duke Energy’s McGuire Nuclear Station, in North Carolina. MOX fuel is subsidized by taxpayers every step of the way.

There is another slight problem with MOX fuel. If it is released into the atmosphere, a tiny amount of plutonium is deadly to humans. And, the Catawba and McGuire plants just happen to have compactly designed reactors. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has acknowledged that these smaller, ice-condenser plants would be much more likely to fail during some quickly developing accidents.

Charlotte, N.C., Nuclear Plants Cause Concern

The Atomic Age and the American Indians

Employee Advocate – – May 11, 2006

This article was written by Brenda Norrell and published by Indian Country Today on May 10, 2006.

Censored film wins Trustee Award at festival

TUCSON, Ariz. - ''Trespassing,'' censored in more film festivals worldwide than it has been shown, reveals how the Colorado River Indian Tribes, Fort Mojave, Western Shoshone, Pueblo and Navajo were targeted by the nuclear industry.

Stewart Udall, former Interior Department secretary under presidents John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, appears in the film and calls for honesty from the United States regarding the mistakes of the Cold War and Atomic Age. Udall points out that Americans were told to trust those in power concerning radiation and uranium.

''Well, it turns out - and we're learning more and more about it - that they made mistakes. And they lied. And now we have to confront this with the legacy of the Atomic Age. And that includes radiation, the waste, the dumps, the people that were harmed; and I think we have to demand the truth.''

Truth and censorship have become the key words in the making and distribution of ''Trespassing.''

''Trespassing'' documents the Colorado River Indian Tribes and Fort Mojave's successful fight against the proposed Ward Valley nuclear dump and the ongoing Western Shoshone protest of nuclear testing at the Nevada Test Site and proposed nuclear dump at Yucca Mountain.

The film exposes the Cold War machinations of the nuclear industry, resulting in widespread cancer and respiratory diseases for Pueblos and Navajos working without protective clothing in Cold War uranium mines.

''Trespassing,'' by Red Umbrella Productions, captured the Trustee Award at the 15th Arizona International Film Festival April 28, an award based on merit, which is not given out annually.

In the United States and worldwide, however, the film has been rejected by more film festivals than it has been accepted.

DeMenezes, in an interview with Indian Country Today, discussed the rejections.

''There are two kinds of film festivals: true independent film festivals and those who sell their souls to the studios and corporations,'' DeMenezes said after the well-received screening at the Arizona International Film Festival.

''Trespassing'' was rejected at every film festival in Canada, France, Germany, Denmark, Portugal, Australia, Brazil and Argentina.

''Sundance Film Festival rejected it twice,'' DeMenezes said. The film was rejected at some of the leading festivals: Los Angeles International Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival, Hot Docs International Film Festival, Margaret Mead Film and Video Festival and the York Film Festival. Comments from these festivals' organizers were not received by press time.

The Barcelona Human Rights Film Festival in Spain was the only festival in Europe to accept the film. It received a standing ovation.

Although he is Brazilian, DeMenezes prefers to be known as a world citizen. He grew up in Brazil and lived with an aunt after his mother died, where his world opened up with experimental theater.

With both indigenous Tapuia and Jewish ancestry, he said he can identify with victims of massacres and holocausts.

''If it happened to them yesterday, it could happen to me tomorrow, we all have that responsibility toward one another. Injustice doesn't discriminate and nuclear poisons don't discriminate.''

Besides the obvious political reasons for the festivals' rejections, DeMenezes said there are reasons other than politics.

''Restitution is an issue,'' he said of the possibility for financial compensation for victims, including American Indians.

Guilt is an issue as well; and, he added, the censorship of critical thinking. ''They don't want people to think. They do not want critical thinking.''

''Trespassing'' was nearly nine years in the making. DeMenezes waited 1-1/2 years to film the craters left by atomic bomb testing at the Nevada Test Site.

Finally, flanked by special forces, he filmed aerial footage of pockmarked earth, with its mammoth recessions resulting from atom bombs.

The media has also been critical of the film, DeMenezes said. ''Variety trashed the film.'' But, he said, the response from American Indians has been very good.

Michelle Thomas, Navajo from Indian Wells and Miss University of Arizona, lauded the film for its honesty and strength.

''It is a powerful film,'' Thomas said, as she thanked the filmmaker for revealing the often-censored truth about American Indians and the nuclear industry.

At a private screening in Los Angeles, Mojave tribal members praised the film. Western Shoshone spiritual leader Corbin Harney also praised the film at the Pan-African Film Festival in Los Angeles.

The film is dedicated to Dorothy Purley, of Laguna Pueblo, N.M., and activist Stormy William. Both died while the film was being made. The film reveals the passionate struggle for the land, air and water.

While the struggle is for all living things, the film points out that it is especially for the children and those yet to come.

DeMenezes said ''Trespassing'' won acclaim from one important reviewer.

The grandson of activist Steve Lopez, Mojave, said, ''Thank you for making a movie about my papa.''

Nuclear Employee Charges Retaliation

Employee Advocate – – March 14, 2006

A Millstone Nuclear Power Station employee charges layoff retaliation, according to The Boston Globe. Sham Mehta, 58, alleges that his job was eliminated because he reported safety concerns to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in 2004.

The employee’s job was to field complaints from co-workers. Apparently, the company expected him to keep a lid on any safety information reported. His managers objected to a safety report he filed with the NRC. The report revealed that company officials deactivated the security system to prevent false alarms.

The Department of Public Utility Control did not buy the company’s claim of no retaliation. It said the corporate evidence of no retaliation was not "clear and convincing."

Dominion Nuclear Connecticut, the parent company, put Mr. Mehta on paid administrative leave.

Public Invited to NRC, Duke Energy Risk Meeting

Employee Advocate – – February 4, 2006

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) staff will meet with Duke Energy officials to discuss the risk significance of a NRC inspection finding, according to a NRC press release. The meeting concerns a discrepancy at Oconee Nuclear Station between the plant’s licensing documents and the actual construction of a control room wall. The discrepancy could affect the plant’s ability to withstand a tornado.

The problem is considered by the NRC to be greater than a very low safety significance.

The NRC invites the public to attend and observe.

Monday, Feb. 6, 2006
10:00 a.m.
NRC Region II office
Atlanta Federal Center, 24th floor
61 Forsyth Street SW
Atlanta, Georgia

NRC Slaps Oconee Nuclear Over Safety

Hiding Nuclear Damage Admitted

Employee Advocate – – January 23, 2006

FirstEnergy, owner of Davis-Besse nuclear plant, admitted that serious damage was hidden from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), according to the U.S. Justice Department and the Associated Press. It agreed to pay $28 million in fines, restitution and community service projects.

Davis-Besse Reactor Hole In 2002, an acid leak ate a hole through 6 inches of steel in the reactor head. A thin metal liner was bulged out from the reactor pressure. It is estimated that the damage had been increasing for at least four years.

Why would a company ignore such a potential catastrophe? The usual corporate reason – GREED.

Profits are only made when the reactor is splitting atoms, not when it is down for repairs. FirstEnergy acknowledged that it "knowingly made false representations to the NRC."

Two former Davis-Besse employees and a contractor have been indicted by a federal grand jury. They are charged with hiding damage from federal regulators, through the use of fake documents.

A One Day Run at Davis-Besse

Yucca Mountain Workers’ Toxic Exposure Lawsuit

Employee Advocate – – January 21, 2006

In 2004, Nine workers filed a lawsuit against Bechtel and five other Yucca Mountain contractors. This week, Bechtel argued that the workers are not eligible for a class action lawsuit, according to the Las Vegas Sun.

Attorneys for the employees plan to continue pressing for class action status.

The lawsuit alleges that 1,200 to 1,500 workers were exposed to toxic substances, including silica dust. Silica dust attacks the lungs and can be fatal.

Radioactive Produce for Sale

Employee Advocate – – January 20, 2006

Radioactive produce is being sold in Russia, according to The Drudge Report and AFP. Almost 20 years after the meltdown of the Chernobyl nuclear plant, large amounts of radioactive produce still end up in Moscow market stalls.

Berries and mushrooms easily absorb radioactive particles, but contaminated meat has been found also.

MOX Plant $2.5 Billion Cost Overrun

Employee Advocate – – December 29, 2005

The proposed Savannah River Site plant will incur a $2.5 billion overrun, according to the U.S. Energy Department Inspector General's Office and The Greenville News. The plant is supposed to turn weapons-grade plutonium into MOX nuclear fuel for Duke Energy’s Catawba and McGuire nuclear plants. "Weakness in project management" was cited as the reason for the spiraling cost.

In 2002, the cost was projected to be about $1 billion. By July 2005, the cost had shot up 250 percent to $3.5 billion, according to the latest audit.

U.S. Rep. Bob Inglis said "I want an explanation for why it is the management seems to have been so poor on this project."

MOX fuel is experimental in the United States. MOX fuel from France is now being burned at the Catawba Nuclear Station as a test.

Secrecy Shrouds Duke’s Plutonium Fuel

Converting Nukes to Green Reply

Employee Advocate – – November 14, 2005

Ronald J. Gramm,

Thanks so much for your interesting letter “Converting Nukes to Green.” You are encouraged to keep pursuing your worthwhile goal of truly clean energy. You are doing the right thing in attempting to enlighten G. W. Bush on the issue – if you think he will really listen.

However, it is doubtful that you or anyone else will be able to penetrate his thick skull. It is apparent that he came to Washington with a preconceived agenda for each issue. From his first day in office, he wanted to occupy Iraq and give the corporations everything they ever wanted. G. W. Bush is incapable of learning anything from new developments. He only uses them to justify what he planned to do anyway. You revealed that you know this to be true when, in your letter to Bush, you wrote: “So what, I am writing this to myself anyway” and “Material for Your Staff to Reject.”

In your letter to the president, you used the term “Bush Genius.” Those two words form an oxymoron and should always be separated by at least a thousand yards.

The Employee Advocate does respect your opinion and your right to express it. Again, writing the letter to G. W. Bush was the right thing to do.

You are 100 percent correct in pointing out the applicability of Murphy’s Law to nuclear power. The utilities constantly try to paint the nuclear watchdog groups as being composed of crackpots. But the Three Mile Island partial meltdown and the Chernobyl meltdown forever vindicated these groups. They were right, even if other such disasters never occur. Their point has always been that no one can guarantee that nuclear catastrophes cannot happen.

The idea of converting nuclear plants to green power plants is noble. Two major issues would be resolved if it could be pulled off. Unfortunately, the practicality of such a conversion is probably near zero. Trying to convert a power plant would be much more difficult that building a new plant. Then there is the problem of radioactivity. The spent fuel stored on site adds a further complication. The monitoring and security could not stop just because the plant no longer produced nuclear power.

You were concerned that your daughter is living between the Catawba and McGuire nuclear stations. Catawba is now testing a plutonium fuel mixture (MOX) and it will eventually be used at McGuire. The fuel will not make the plants more likely to have an accident. But in the event of a major accident, it will make the plants more deadly. The equation is simple: more plutonium in the atmosphere = more body bags. The nuclear watchdog groups have been right before, but they really do not want to right on this one.

You mentioned Duke Energy Employees buying up stock and controlling the company. All nuclear plants in the world will be converted to green plants before this happens! Employees may take over a potato chip factory, but never a nuclear utility. The industry is much too capital intensive for this to be an option. Even if it were possible for rank and file employees to take control of the company, that is not a good idea for a nuclear operation.

Give Duke Energy credit for what it is good at – running a bureaucracy. It operates a bureaucracy that can only be rivaled by the federal government. Duke’s bureaucracy is perfectly suited for dealing with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and other federal, state, and municipal bodies. And, nuclear power is what Duke Energy does best. If the other areas of the company were operated as well as nuclear, Duke would not have faced the endless barrage of lawsuits and negative press seen over the past few years.

Employees did not come to work for Duke Energy because they were opposed to nuclear power, in fact, many were attracted to it. It was only after the cash balance pension conversion and loss of other benefits that nuclear questions arose. If Duke Energy would deliberately and covertly take retirement money from employees – what else would it do? MOX was kept under the covers as long as possible. The public hearings came almost as an afterthought and only after millions of taxpayer’s dollars had been spent on it.

The major concern was the effect of lost pension and heath benefits on nuclear safety. Anything that lowers morale has the potential to degrade nuclear safety. For years, senior management has been whistling in the dark and ignoring the festering problem.

Converting Nukes to Green

Nuclear - Page 31