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Nuclear -     1 - Duke Energy Employee Advocate
Nuclear - Page Five

No Employee Will Ever Be Turned Away

Union plans protest at Savannah River Site

The State - May 27, 2001

AIKEN (AP) — A union plans to picket the Savannah River Site next week over a dispute with a contractor for the former nuclear weapons plant.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 772 says it will protest Tuesday and Wednesday as it tries to reach a deal with Primesouth Inc., said union organizer Lindsay Nelson.

Primesouth is a subsidiary of Scana Corp. The company works at the SRS D-Area powerhouse, said Susan Clements, Primesouth's manager of business development and operations.

SCE&G, also a subsidiary of Scana, runs the powerhouse for the federal Energy Department, said agency spokesman Rick Ford.

Nelson said some workers voted to unionize in March 1999, but the group has not been able to agree with Primesouth. The deal would affect 45 to 50 employees, Nelson said.

"The workers at Primesouth and the local have requested that we do an informational picket in order to bring the company's attitude to the public," he said.

Brian Duncan of SCE&G said the company has negotiated "in an open manner with a good package on the table."

One picket line will be at SRS's designated "free speech area" and the other in public rights-of-way near the site's New Ellenton barricade, Nelson said.

NRC MOX Fuel Hearing - Part Three

Duke Energy Employee Advocate - May 22, 2001

NRC MOX Fuel Hearing - Part One

NRC MOX Fuel Hearing - Part Two

The next speaker was from Russia. She voiced the concerns of several Russian nuclear physicists about the use of MOX as a fuel for reactors.

One speaker brought up the fact of the evacuation problem in good weather. He wondered what would happen if an accident occurred during inclement weather. He felt the MOX fabrication plant was just for starters. He believes it is part of an effort to expand the nuclear industry, with MOX being shipped nationwide.

A speaker, from Asheville, North Carolina, read a statement written by the mayor of Asheville. The mayor reminded the NRC that the MOX fuel issue was not strictly a business decision for Duke Power executives to make; it involves ratepayers and taxpayers. The mayor has strong reservation about the use of MOX fuel and the fact that plutonium would be transported in North and South Carolina. The mayor questioned the use of a fuel more deadly than uranium being used in reactors with ice condenser cooling systems.

The speaker added her own comments that the use of MOX fuel would be nothing more than a combination of greed and shortsightedness. She called upon the NRC to stop the MOX fuel plan.

The next speaker was opposed to MOX fuel being used in any reactor. But, was doubly concerned about the use of it in and ice condenser reactor. She referred to the reactor’s containment as “tissue paper.” She called for the Duke reactors to be taken off the table. She brought up increased radioactive dose to nuclear workers. The spent fuel will contain more plutonium than conventional spent fuel – and it has no place to go.

The next speaker mentioned that he had seen very little publicity about the NRC MOX fuel hearing. He expressed strong reservations about the use of MOX fuel.

Steve Nesbit, Duke Power MOX Fuel Project Manager, spoke next. We will relieve the suspense right now; he is in favor of the use of MOX fuel in Duke Power reactors. He admitted that he did not expect to change the mind of anyone in the room. He said that MOX was first used in a pressurized water reactor in 1963 in Belgium. He mentioned that 35 reactors are using MOX fuel worldwide. Studies were cited in which weapons grade MOX fuel acted more like conventional fuel that reactor grade MOX fuel. Duke started looking at the MOX program in 1995. Duke was chosen by the Department of Energy in 1999 for the MOX program. He shared the view of Mr. Tuckman that this hearing was not necessary. He felt that it was “double jeopardy.”

The next speaker mentioned that the MOX fuel program did not get off to a very good start, because of the falsification of documents and the substitution of inferior materials. He talked of visiting one nuclear station and finding almost no concern for nuclear safety. The company spokesperson said “Everybody’s got to die from something.” He made it clear that it was not a Duke Energy plant. He said that it seemed more like the nuclear plant on “The Simpson’s.” It was mentioned to point out that there are those out there with less than ideal concerns for nuclear safety. He said that he had a lot of respect for the people that he had met from Duke Energy and that he did not question their engineering. He was concerned about the use of MOX fuel, because human failing cannot be engineered out.

The next speaker was an environmentalist and retired psychologist. He said the nuclear environmental news stories were remarkable by their absence. It seems like there is a media blackout concerning the issue. He said that he read in a foreign newspaper about someone buying a Russian nuclear bomb for $350,000. When he returned to the USA, he asked people about the story, and no one had even heard of it. He call up The Charlotte Observer and they had not heard of it. He mentioned news storied that made headlines in Europe, that were blacked out in the USA.

He mentioned that in France, nuclear reactors were located miles from the nearest house. But here, Crescent Resources is cramming in houses, strip malls, cinemas, and anything else that can be crammed in, around the McGuire plant. He was also concerned about the more powerful fuel raising the temperature of Lake Norman even more. He was concerned about the resulting changes to organisms in the lake, down to the microscopic level.

Highway terrorism was a concern. He said that if he were a terrorist, he would drive along the road in his truck loaded with fertilizer and kerosene and have his buddy drop his load up ahead and stop traffic. He would then stop his truck beside the plutonium truck and get out. He would walk a distance away and call his buddy on his cell phone and have the plutonium truck vaporized.

The next speaker also noted the news blackout concerning MOX. He said that the people in Asheville were the only ones who seemed to be aware of the MOX issue. He had concerns about thyroid cancer and the lack of measures to prevent it.

Three more Russians spoke out against the use of MOX fuel and the possible negative issues that future generations would be forced to deal with.

The next speaker, an educator, said: “…I have been a Duke Power customer for almost 27 years, now. And, that did not prevent them from turning off my electricity yesterday, because I was a day late in paying my bill. They are not in it for the money, although tax dollars have built just about every one of their facilities… We have very irresponsible media in this town. One of which I worked for 9 years: The Charlotte Observer. All it does is write fluff pieces that Duke PR puts out about this issue… Please help us, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, because we have an irresponsible energy company in this town, serving this whole region…”

The next speaker thanked the NRC for not searching the attendees, as they have done in the past. She foresees the government turning the Savannah River Site into a nuclear waste repository. The waste then will not go to Yucca Mountain, but the Savanna River will become the “Yucky” River. She wondered about the total dollar amount the nuclear industry has been subsidized by the taxpayers. She charged that the government has spent millions of dollars and has created millions of gallons of liquid nuclear waste, some stored since the 1940’s. She wanted to know when the cleanup would come; they did not need any more mess down there.

The final speaker was concerned about the transportation of plutonium and accidents on the highway. Then she dropped what may have been the biggest bombshell of the night: “Does anybody know that the Savannah River Site is right on a fault line? You know, it has not gone off yet, but when it goes off, it could be big, and that would be a tremendous disaster.”

BNFL Mox Plan Dealt Blow by Japanese Utility

Change in Plutonium Disposal Plan Draws Complaints

New York Times - By MATTHEW L. WALD - May 20, 2001

The Bush administration has postponed a major part of the Energy Department's plan to dispose of plutonium left over from nuclear weapons production, because of budget constraints and technical problems.

But two states, South Carolina and Colorado, are complaining that the decision violates the federal government's agreements with them to clean up nuclear wastes.

Five years ago, the Energy Department, which manages the nuclear stockpile, set out to get rid of 52.5 tons of weapons plutonium as part of a deal with Russia, which agreed to remove the same amount from its stockpile. The plan was to convert some of the plutonium from warhead form into fuel for civilian power reactors.

But much of the plutonium is in forms not suited for fuel, including a large quantity at the Rocky Flats plant, in the suburbs of Denver. The plan was to bake that plutonium into a ceramic to stabilize it and then to embed it in highly radioactive glass, to protect it from being stolen for weapons use.

The first part of that plan is moving ahead, although the costs of making reactor fuel are uncertain. But instead of immobilizing the rest of the plutonium in glass, the Energy Department now plans to ship it to the Savannah River Site, near Aiken, S.C., and seal it in storage containers.

Gov. Jim Hodges of South Carolina said this violated an agreement with his state.

"They committed that they would not send it to us unless there was a clear exit strategy for the plutonium," Mr. Hodges said.

Recalling that Cecil D. Andrus, then governor of Idaho, threatened to call out the state police in the late 1980's to block a shipment of nuclear waste to the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory, Mr. Hodges said, "We have troopers in South Carolina, too."

In December 1996, when the Energy Department announced its "dual track" approach of conversion to fuel and immobilization, officials said that they were not sure which approach would prove the fastest, easiest or most economical, but that the prudent step was to do both.

That policy has changed. Two top officials of the agency, speaking on the condition that they not be named, said that getting anything done required concentrating all efforts on one approach.

Conversion to fuel requires two factories, they said: one to take apart the plutonium at the heart of the warheads and another to turn it from metal to oxide and process it into the proper shape. Immobilizing plutonium would require a third factory.

"We're not so sure Congress can support pursuing three significant facilities simultaneously," one of the officials said.

The department estimates that the immobilization work being put off would cost between $500 million and $1 billion.

At a hearing last month, John A. Gordon, the under secretary of energy for nuclear security, noted that the budget request for the Energy Department's weapons program next year was $100 million less than in the current year.

The Energy Department's plans also trouble some officials in Colorado, who are eager to have the department meet its target of shipping all the plutonium at the Rocky Flats factory out of the state by 2006.

Groups that focus on nuclear proliferation are even more concerned. Tom Clements, the executive director of the Nuclear Control Institute, a nonprofit group in Washington, said technical problems could arise with the plan to use plutonium in civilian power reactors; for example, the reactors might have problems being relicensed for the fuel. But, he said, "immobilization could perform the entire mission, and do it cheaper."

There is a technical problem, however, with the process for embedding the plutonium in highly radioactive glass. The Energy Department built a $2 billion factory at the Savannah River Site to mix radioactive sludge from its aging underground tanks with molten glass, solidifying the sludge and storing it, perhaps eventually in a proposed repository at Yucca Mountain, Nev.

But the glass is not as radioactive as it is supposed to be to prevent anyone from recovering the embedded plutonium. The recipe the agency wanted to use created benzene, a gas that can burn or explode. Until it can solve this problem, the department has changed the recipe, resulting in finished glass that is not radioactive enough.

NRC MOX Fuel Hearing - Part Two

Duke Energy Employee Advocate - May 14, 2001

NRC MOX Fuel Hearing - Part One

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will produce an “Environmental Impact Statement,” which will be used to help decide if a license is issued to produce and use MOX fuel to power nuclear plants. The hearing was concerning the proposal to construct a MOX fuel fabrication plant. But the NRC will accept concerns about the use of such fuel in the McGuire and Catawba nuclear plants. These concerns will be considered as “indirect impacts” of the proposed construction. These concerns may be about normal plant operations or operations under accident conditions, including transportation accidents. So, it is proper for you to submit any concerns that you may have about the possible use of MOX fuel by Duke Energy Corporation.

As of now, the NRC has not approved Duke Energy to use MOX fuel, and construction of the MOX fuel production plant has not been approved. Such approval will only be given if MOX meets the NRC guidelines.

The NRC presented MOX information, then there was a question and answer period, and last, members of the public made comments.

The standing-room-only crowd was not composed of “bar sweeps.” Many intelligent questions were asked and many thoughtful comments were made.

There was a delegation from Russia that told of the nuclear power problems that they had experienced.

Mr. Robin Mills, who offered a shareholder’s proposal in 2000 to ban Duke’s use of MOX fuel, was on hand. He was slated to speak, but had to leave the meeting before his turn came. Mr. Mills is a concerned shareholder, who spends his own money to fight the use of MOX fuel. He said that he receives no financial support from any group. He said that his last mobile phone bill was over $600. He now lives in Washington D. C.

The proposed MOX fuel fabrication facility is on the grounds of the existing Savannah River Project (nuclear bomb plant) located in South Carolina near the Georgia boarder. This is a restricted area and the public is not allowed access. The proposed plant would take weapons grade plutonium (metal), convert it into an oxide (powder), and mix it with uranium to form Mixed Oxide (MOX) fuel.

A question was asked about when the MOX proposal was introduced. One NRC official said that she knew the proposal had been in existence since at least 1995.

An article on states that in 1995 Duke Energy signed an agreement to join a group of power users that would help dispose of the nuclear arsenal. It has since turned into a group of one. Many Duke Energy employees learned of the proposal to use MOX fuel from sources outside of the company

The first speaker pointed out that the MOX fuel proposed in the USA is different from the fuel used in Europe. The fuel used in Europe is not taken from nuclear warheads. She charged that the program is experimental and has not been proven safe. She also brought up the matter of the difficulty of an evacuation from the Lake Norman area. She said that an emergency worker told her that it would take from 8 to 24 hours to evacuate one particular area near the plant.

The problem of evacuating people around the McGuire Nuclear Plant area was documented in the series Living in the Nuclear Shadow, published by The Charlotte Observer.

The second speaker had concerns with the higher concentrations of plutonium 239 that would be found in spent MOX fuel as opposed to conventional reactor fuel. He brought up the fact that both McGuire and Catawba nuclear plants use an ice condenser cooling system to mitigate accidents. He pointed out that these plants have small containment buildings, and that the design was chosen only because these plants were cheaper to build. The only other plant of such design is the D. C. Cook plant in Michigan. The plants have had to form their own mini users group to deal with the problems presented by ice condenser cooling systems.

The next speaker was a lady who was pro MOX fuel. She based her feeling on the perception of company integrity and a need for nuclear power.

Of course, if the MOX proposal is defeated, nuclear power plant will not go away.

The next speaker was Mike Tuckman, Executive Vice President of Nuclear Generation, at Duke Energy. You are probable on the edge of your seat wondering about Mr. Turkmen’s position on MOX fuel. Well, it seems that Mr. Tuckman is pro MOX fuel. He does not think that MOX fuel is experimental and does not think that it will shorten the life of reactors. He claimed that MOX fuel would not have much of an financial impact on the company. He said that he had no motivation to not operate the plants safely. He mentioned his relatives who live in the area and said that he had every reason to see the plants operate, and operate safely. He said that Duke Energy did not want MOX fuel because of corporate greed. He questioned the need for the NRC Hearing in Charlotte, North Carolina, because the MOX fabrication plant is proposed to be built 150 miles from here.

Because the fabrication site is 150 miles away from here is a poor reason not to have the NRC Hearings in Charlotte. Is it OK to have problems, as long as they are not around here? And guess where the MOX fuel will be heading – HERE! If the NRC discovers major problems with the use of MOX fuel, is it not better to find out these thing up front? Or, is it better to spend huge sums of taxpayer money to build a MOX facility that will never be used? Are there those that feel that if the MOX fabrication plant is built, the government will be forced to continue on with the project? Now is the time for answers. If the proposal is a bad idea, now is the time to kill it.

We believe that Mr. Tuckman has enough enlighten self interest not to want any nuclear catastrophes. The problem is that the human mind is limited. Human knowledge is limited. We are certain that the employees of Three Mile Island and Chernobyl did not go to work with the intention of creating nuclear catastrophes. The fact is that their minds and the minds of their management were just not capable of analyzing every possible outcome. Humans, even aided with computer models, just do not completely understand all aspects of an outcome until it happens.

The financial impact of MOX fuel is another matter. Duke Energy has declined a media request for how much they will profit by using MOX fuel. The article states that Duke will be able to purchase the more powerful plutonium fuel at the cheaper uranium prices. Duke will also receive “at least $130 million” as a fee from the taxpayers. The taxpayers will also pay for plant modifications to use MOX fuel. Did we mention that Mr. Tuckman cashed in over a million dollars worth of stock options last year? Mr. Tuckman has millions of reasons to support MOX fuel. And every reason is green, and has “E Pluribus Unum” printed on it.

We have had some experience with the corporate greed of Duke Energy. The company took major retirement benefits from employees, which had been promised to them for many years. This was money willingly set aside to fund employees retirement. Much of it was taken away by Duke Energy due to CORPORATE GREED! Or, perhaps Duke engages corporate greed only to take money, but never to make money! The governor of California will probably not buy that line.

The next speaker charged that the Department of Energy (DOE) did not do an adequate job of determining if this project was necessary. She said that even some of the DOE studies projected more deaths in certain plutonium nuclear accidents, as opposed to uranium accidents. She felt that more health problems than just cancer are caused by ionizing radiation and should be investigated. She mentioned that a bill was introduced in Congress last week (H. R. 1679) that would include plutonium under the Price Anderson Act. This bill limits the liability of a power producer for a nuclear accident to $20 million! If the cost should run higher, no problem, the taxpayers will cover it up to $10 billion. The speaker feels that plutonium should not be covered under the Price Anderson Act. She feels that if companies want to use a fuel that is more dangerous that uranium, that they should accept the full liability of any accidents. If management is so confident of the safety of MOX fuel, they should jump at this chance to “put their money where their mouth is.”

The next speaker was pro MOX fuel because his family and neighbors had acquired money because of nuclear power. He felt the program would reduce the plutonium stockpile. He said that he knew that nuclear safety was the number one concern of the employees of McGuire and Catawba nuclear stations.

The next speaker was concerned because the NRC had not done a detailed study of the routes that the plutonium fuel will be traveling. She said that the emergency crews in her area were all volunteers. They have had no training in dealing with a major plutonium accident. They do not have the equipment for it. The only equipment that the local fire department and rescue squad have is what they bought with money raised from holding barbecues and asking for donations. The local hospital would not be able to handle the victims. She said: “Duke Power is doing this for greed, so don’t let them fool anybody. This is all about money!”

The next speaker was pro MOX fuel; he felt it was the best option available. His opinion was that it could be used safely.

Don Moniak, from the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, was the next speaker. Mr. Moniak was a “ball of fire” all night long. During the question and answer period, he asked questions and video taped the responses. He corrected the NRC officials on answers that had been given to other people. He also demanded that the Russian visitors be allowed to speak, as they had been promised. Mr. Moniak said that the nuclear industry defines safety by what they did not do, not what they have done. If they have not had an accident; if they didn’t kill anybody, then they are doing good. He said: “If Duke Power does not want to damage their facilities and investment; that’s a given. But Union Carbide did not want to damage their facility at Bhopal. They did not want to kill 3, 4 thousand people by accident. If it wasn’t an accident, then it was murder; it’s that simple. Corporations are largely driven, not by safety concerns; but by equipment concerns, investment concerns.” He noted that it took the NRC officials more than one try to answer the question about how much plutonium was in MOX fuel. If they could not answer basic questions, that was right in their own documentation every day, he did not trust them to handle the MOX investigation.

The next speaker also had concerns about the feasibility of evacuating the Lake Norman area during the event of a nuclear accident. She said that she was a Cornelius resident, who lived two blocks from “Malfunction Junction,” otherwise known as exit 28. She said that a evacuation along Interstate 77 would be a nightmare. She indicated that extreme confidence in one’s ability to operate a nuclear power plant, does not necessarily preclude any chance of an accident.

NRC MOX Fuel Hearing - Part Three

NRC MOX Fuel Hearing - Part One

Duke Energy Employee Advocate - May 9, 2001

The MOX Fuel Hearing, conducted by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in Charlotte, North Carolina on May 8, was well attended. It was standing room only.

Mr. Chip Cameron, NRC, did an excellent job of facilitating the hearing. There were so many people who wanted to speak that they were only allotted four minutes each. The meeting was scheduled to last for three hours, but ran over an extra half hour.

The speakers against using MOX fuel far outnumbered the ones for it. Mike Tuckman and Steve Nesbit, from Duke Energy, were on hand to give the company’s pitch.

We will give Duke and the media a chance to print their fluff articles and then we will tell you what really took place at the hearing.

NRC MOX Fuel Hearing - Part Two

Nuclear - Page Four