Nuclear -   32
Nuclear -   32
www.DukeEmployees.com - Duke Energy Employee Advocate
Nuclear - Page Seven
- Sir John Harrington
Public May Ask For Hearing on Duke EnergyThe Charlotte Observer - By BRUCE HENDERSON - August 17, 2001
Members of the public may now ask for a hearing on Duke Energy's application to extend the licenses for four nuclear reactors near Charlotte by 20 years, the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission says.
Duke submitted applications June 13 to renew licenses for reactors at the McGuire nuclear station on Lake Norman and Catawba station on Lake Wylie. The commission staff has decided the application was complete enough for a detailed review.
If the renewals are granted, the reactors at McGuire and Catawba could operate until between 2041 and 2043. The current 40-year licenses expire between 2021 and 2026. Requests for a hearing on the application have to be filed by Sept. 14. Requests can come from anyone "whose interest might be affected by the license renewals" and who wishes to participate as a party to the proceeding.
Send requests to Secretary of the Commission, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington DC 20555-0001, Attention: Rulemakings and Adjudications Staff.
Copies of the request should be sent to the Office of the General Counsel, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington DC 20555-0001 and to Michael S. Tuckman, executive vice president, nuclear generation, Duke Energy Corp., 526 S. Church St., P.O. Box 1006, Charlotte 28201-1006.
Tough Battle Over PlutoniumThe Charlotte Observer - By HENRY EICHEL - August 17, 2001
COLUMBIA -- The federal government's plan to truck about 55 tons of radioactive plutonium into South Carolina has the governor threatening to lie down in the road and the state's attorney general announcing he will sue.
"The governor is prepared to take the strongest measures possible," Cortney Owings, acting press secretary to Gov. Jim Hodges, said Thursday. She said the governor was serious when he said last week: "If it is necessary for me to lie down in front of the trucks, I'll do that."
Hodges and Attorney General Charlie Condon, bitter political rivals, find themselves agreeing that the federal government has reneged on a deal to send part of the plutonium to Nevada. But as they jockey for the populist high ground, they're pursuing different strategies.
Hodges has ordered troopers and transportation police to practice blocking roads and gates into the federal Savannah River Site, the former nuclear weapons complex near Aiken, about 150 miles southwest of Charlotte. He ordered training exercises near the site Aug. 29 and said he plans to be there to observe.
Condon announced plans Thursday to sue the federal government to stop the plutonium shipments. "We will not allow South Carolina to be turned into a nuclear dumping ground," he said.
The federal Energy Department says it plans sometime after Oct. 1 to send a tractor-trailer truck loaded with drums of plutonium scrap and powder to Aiken from the defunct Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant in Colorado. Many more shipments are to follow over the next two years, primarily from Rocky Flats and weapons plants in Texas and Washington state.
It is unclear whether any of the shipments will pass through North Carolina. "These are classified shipments; nobody will be notified when they're on the road or where," said Energy Department spokesman Jim Giusti.
The government has been shipping plutonium to and from the Savannah River complex by truck and by rail, for the past 50 years. During the Cold War, the complex manufactured plutonium for the nation's nuclear warheads. Later, it became a repository for spent fuel rods from nuclear power plants.
What's different about the proposed shipments is that Hodges accuses the Energy Department of reneging on a deal the state had with the Clinton administration.
In the deal, the state would allow the Savannah River Site to become a facility to convert about 36 tons of surplus plutonium into fuel for power plants. Roughly 19 more tons, not pure enough for fuel, would be immobilized in glass containers and shipped to Nevada, where it would be buried inside a mountain. The plan emerged from a joint U.S.-Russian agreement to rid the world of excess bomb material.
But the Bush administration in the spring said it was postponing the expensive process of encasing the plutonium in glass. Under the new plan, the fuel conversion project would continue, but the portion not pure enough for fuel would be stored at Savannah River while the issue is studied.
Hodges immediately complained that South Carolina would be stuck forever with the radioactive waste because no other state would want it.
South Carolina is used to taking other people's waste. Thirty years ago, in order to bring jobs to a poor corner of the state, it sought and got a low-level nuclear waste landfill at Barnwell. Another landfill in Sumter County takes in non-nuclear hazardous waste from much of the eastern United States.
But more recently, South Carolinians have complained of their state becoming a dumping ground. Two of Democrat Hodges' chief rivals in next year's gubernatorial election, Republicans Condon and Lt. Gov. Bob Peeler, agreed with him this week that no more plutonium should come to Savannah River without a definite plan to dispose of it elsewhere.
Opposition to federal authority has deep roots in S.C. history, ever since John C. Calhoun argued in 1828 that states had the right to ignore federal laws they disagreed with. Legal scholars predict that, like Calhoun's, both Hodges' and Condon's efforts will fail because the U.S. Constitution clearly makes federal laws superior to state laws. Both of Hodges' predecessors were unsuccessful in challenging the Energy Department. In 1997, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit by then-Gov. David Beasley to stop shipment of 19 tons of spent nuclear fuel rods to Savannah River. And in 1994, then-Gov. Carroll Campbell unsuccessfully fought to stop a trainload of nuclear waste from reaching the site.
If Hodges goes through with his threat to use police to block shipments, the federal government will be able to get a court injunction ordering him to stop, said University of South Carolina law professor Eldon Wedlock.
"I don't think Hodges has any real thoughts that he can be successful in a judicial challenge," Wedlock said. "He's trying to make a political point that the people of South Carolina should not be burdened with this material. He's just trying to get press over the fact, and impress people with the gravity of the situation."
Recycling Radioactive MetalsPublic Citizen - Press Release - August 16, 2001
Flawed Hearing Process Indicates Nuclear Waste Recycling is a Foregone Conclusion
ARLINGTON, Va. - The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is stacking the deck against the public in an effort to do the nuclear industry's bidding and ultimately authorize the recycling of radioactive waste into consumer products, Public Citizen said at a hearing today.
Even though there is virtually no public support for the recycling of radioactive waste, the agency has embarked on the process necessary to authorize it, Public Citizen said. As part of this process, the DOE is holding two public hearings today in Arlington. But the public was given just a month's notice - not enough time to study what is a complex issue and prepare comments, particularly during a time when so many people are away. The DOE is required to take public comments into account in determining the scope of its Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS).
The DOE - under heavy pressure from the nuclear industry - is developing a program to dump vast quantities of radioactive scrap metal into municipal landfills or to recycle it into everyday household products and industrial materials. Currently, some radioactive wastes and materials - except some metals - can be released from DOE nuclear weapons sites without restrictions. The DOE, in January and July 2000, banned the release of some radioactive metals, but the policy being discussed in the hearings would replace those bans. The DOE's process to authorize the release of radioactive metals begins with the PEIS being discussed at today's hearings.
The PEIS process has not had a promising start. The DOE initially contracted with San Diego-based Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) to perform an environmental review of the recycling plan. But SAIC would profit from radioactive recycling at a nuclear waste site in Tennessee - a clear conflict of interest. In late July, Public Citizen and others pointed out the conflict to the DOE, and the agency revoked the contract. A similar conflict involving radioactive recycling led to the termination last year of an SAIC contract with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
"Today's hearings should have been postponed until another contractor was chosen," said Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program. "The agency should make all documents relevant to contractor selection available for review well in advance of any hearing. Evaluating the contractor is a crucial part of an open process."
Another flaw in the process was revealed this week. For a similar Cincinnati public hearing on Tuesday, a telephone conference was quietly set up to allow "interested DOE/contractor staff and stakeholders at Paducah and Portsmouth to participate," according to a DOE employee's e-mail. But members of the public who have expressed an interest in being kept up to date on issue and the PEIS process and who are on the PEIS distribution e-mail list were never notified or invited to participate by teleconference.
"It has become clear that the DOE really wants to hear only from its own employees and contractors who support this ludicrous plan," said Public Citizen policy analyst David Ritter. "When special notification regarding this issue is sent out to DOE staff, but not to those on the PEIS distribution list, it indicates the degree to which DOE wants to stack the deck at these hearings."
Yet another flaw in the process is evident in the DOE's choice of hearing facilitator: Holmes Brown, a longtime employee of Afton Associates, Inc. Afton Associates is a paid advocate for the interests of radioactive waste producers and has received funding indirectly from the DOE to promote nuclear programs. Public interest groups are requesting information from the DOE about Brown and about the conflict of interest in the now-cancelled SAIC contract.
"The hiring of a nuclear industry lobbyist to facilitate these so-called public hearings is clear evidence that the DOE is trying to push this plan through no matter what," Hauter said. "The DOE wants to help the industry follow the polluter's golden rule: The solution to pollution is dilution."
The DOE also has failed to make available to the public records indicating what radioactive materials have been and are currently being dispersed without restrictions or recycled into everyday products. Public Citizen is urging the agency to stop dispersing radioactive materials and to strengthen and expand its current bans on recycling radioactive metal.
Governor to Bar U.S. Plutonium ShipmentsNew York Times - By DAVID FIRESTONE - August 11, 2001
Charging that a large shipment of plutonium from nuclear weapons may be on its way to permanent storage in his state rather than to the temporary stay needed for processing, Gov. Jim Hodges has ordered the South Carolina Highway Patrol to draw up plans for blocking the state's borders to federal trucks bearing it.
Mr. Hodges says the Bush administration has reneged on a plan worked out by the Clinton administration to move the plutonium out of the Savannah River Site, near Aiken, S.C., after it is converted to power- plant fuel or encased in glass. Without a guarantee that the radioactive material will eventually be moved out of the state, he said in an interview today, he will "do whatever it takes" to keep it from coming in.
"I'll stand squarely in front of the trucks, if that's what it takes to protect the health and safety of our people," he said. "In the meantime, we've got a range of options, including roadblocks. We are not going to be stuck with permanent storage of plutonium in our state."
In a memorandum released by his office, Mr. Hodges ordered B. Boykin Rose, the state's public safety director, to evaluate options for highway roadblocks, a step that recalls Gov. Cecil D. Andrus's use of the Idaho state police in 1988 to block shipments of nuclear waste from the Navy to a processing plant in his state. Mr. Hodges said a federal lawsuit was another option being considered.
The Energy Department, which operates the Savannah River Site, a nuclear processing and disposal complex, said it hoped to continue discussing the issue with South Carolina officials to prevent confrontations at the border. Joe Davis, a spokesman for the department, said Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham promised on a visit to the complex this week that the plutonium would not be permanently stored in South Carolina.
"We're committed to making sure that the materials that come into the state leave the state," Mr. Davis quoted Mr. Abraham as saying.
But Mr. Hodges said that he was not satisfied with vague assurances and that he had not been given a detailed plan on how the waste will be removed. If the government moves to South Carolina all the plutonium that requires processing, he said, it will leave the state isolated, because no other state will want the material back.
"We will be left holding the proverbial bag," the governor wrote in his memorandum.
The two sides cannot even agree on when the first shipment of more than 50 tons of plutonium, from Rocky Flats, the shuttered Colorado nuclear weapons complex, will enter South Carolina on its way to the Savannah River Site, about 20 miles downstream from Augusta, Ga. Mr. Hodges said he believed that the trucks would begin coming in two weeks, but Mr. Davis said there would be no shipments until this fall.
The plutonium at issue was left over from the production of nuclear weapons. In 1996, the United States and Russia agreed to take equal amounts out of their nuclear stockpiles and either convert it to fuel for nuclear power plants or encase it in radioactive glass to keep it from being stolen.
But in May, citing budget pressures, the Bush administration said it would not yet begin the expensive process of stabilizing the plutonium and encasing it in glass. Instead, officials said, waste will be stored in containers at the South Carolina complex while the issue is studied further.
That infuriated Mr. Hodges, who said the state had contributed enough to the nation's nuclear program by allowing Savannah River to manufacture plutonium and tritium gas for bombs as far back as 1952. The state has no intention of being the storage site for warhead waste, he said, suggesting that it be stored instead in a state with many remote locations, like Nevada.
The end of the cold war allowed the government to shut down the original five reactors at the 310-square- mile Savannah River complex, and now the only plutonium manufactured there is used as batteries for space probes. But the site still plays an important role in storing and processing spent fuel and other waste.
The cost of processing the plutonium has grown sharply, however, precisely at a time when the Bush administration is looking for ways to cut the budget of most agencies, including the Energy Department. A confidential report from the department, made public on Thursday by the private Nuclear Control Institute, said the cost of the 22-year plutonium disposal program that resulted from the agreement with the Russians had now risen to $6.6 billion — a 50 percent increase over a 1999 estimate.
Mr. Hodges, a Democrat, said politics did not play a role in his stand, and added that he did not believe his state was being made a target for waste because he is a Democrat at a time when Republicans are in the White House. This afternoon, in fact, one of his most bitter political enemies, State Attorney General Charlie Condon, a Republican, issued a strong statement of support for his position, pledging to work with him to keep the government from forcing the state to accept nuclear waste.
Plutonium Plan Faces OverhaulAssociated Press - By H. Josef Hebert - August 10, 2001
WASHINGTON –– The Energy Department is revamping a Clinton-era plan to dispose of 50 metric tons of surplus plutonium amid cost overruns, prompting threats from South Carolina's governor to block shipments into the state.
An Energy Department report, made public Thursday by a private group, concludes that the cost of disposing of the plutonium will be at least $6.6 billion over 22 years, about 50 percent more than estimated two years ago.
At the same time, the Bush administration has put on hold part of the program that called for some of the plutonium to be put in glass logs for eventual burial at the Yucca Mountain nuclear repository in Nevada, once that facility is approved.
That decision has brought complaints from South Carolina officials who are concerned that the department will ship tons of plutonium from its weapons facilities into the state for processing with no assurance the material will ever leave the state.
"When South Carolina agreed to accept plutonium ... DOE agreed that there would a clear exit strategy," South Carolina Gov. Jim Hodges said recently.
Hodges, a Democrat, said the "shifting nature" of the government's plutonium disposition strategy suggests that the Energy Department "plans to renege on many of its prior commitments" to the state.
Energy Department spokesman Joe Davis said that Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, who talked with Hodges earlier this week, is eager to resolve the dispute.
In 1999, the Clinton administration announced a "dual strategy" for getting rid of the excess plutonium from Cold War-era warheads and plutonium found at various weapons facilities. Under the plan, 33 metric tons would be converted into a mixed-oxide, or MOX, fuel for burning in civilian power reactors. Another 17 metric tons, thought too impure for conversion would be immobilized in glass containers and eventually buried in Nevada.
But earlier this year, the administration stopped funding the immobilization program and announced the entire plutonium disposal plan was being reviewed.
Abraham said that it was too expensive to pursue both programs and that the department would focus for now on building the MOX conversion facilities at the Savannah River complex. He suggested that the immobilization track would be resumed later.
But South Carolina officials fear that might never happen.
"The dual track was an essential component of our agreement," insists Hodges, pledging that if he is not assured of a "timely exit strategy" he would block shipments into the state – raising the specter of a standoff with federal officials.
Years ago, Idaho's governor dispatched the highway patrol and set up roadblocks to keep nuclear spent fuel shipments out of that state until a settlement was reached with the Energy Department.
Meanwhile, an Energy Department report released Thursday by the Nuclear Control Institute, a Washington-based advocacy group involved in nuclear nonproliferation issues, showed the cost of the program has grown from about $4.4 billion in 1999 to $6.6 billion over its 22-year life.
"This shows a massive cost escalation," said Tom Clements, the group's executive director, adding it calls into question the MOX option which represents most of the increase. The institute opposes using plutonium for civilian reactors and argues all of it should be put in glass to reduce the risks of nuclear proliferation.
Plutonium Cost Cover-upThe Nuclear Control Institute - August 10, 2001
The Nuclear Control Institute today released a Department of Energy (DOE) report being withheld from Congress on the escalating cost estimates for the disposition of surplus weapons plutonium. DOE continues to withhold the report from Congress despite a legal requirement that it be provided by February 15, 2001 to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees. The report shows that the estimated cost for disposition of plutonium as nuclear fuel has increased dramatically, thus calling into question the viability of this approach.
The draft report, required in the Fiscal Year 2001 Appropriations Act, reveals that the estimated cost of U.S. plutonium disposition has risen to $6.6 billion, a 50% increase over 1999 estimates. The estimated cost of disposition of plutonium as fuel (mixed oxide, or MOX) in commercial nuclear reactors has risen about 50% since 1999 to about $3 billion, while disposition via immobilization of plutonium in high-level nuclear waste has stayed flat since 1999 at about $1.5 billion. Immobilization and MOX are the components of DOE’s “dual track” plutonium disposition program, designed to dispose of 50 tons of surplus weapons plutonium.
“We find it contrary to the will of Congress and harmful to the discussion over the fate of surplus plutonium that DOE has withheld release of this report which was required by law,” said Tom Clements, Executive Director of the Nuclear Control Institute, a non- profit non-proliferation research and advocacy center. The report was withheld even while funding levels for the program for Fiscal Year 2002 were being determined in the House and Senate Appropriations Committees. “The report confirms that the plutonium disposition program faces great cost increases, with the MOX program being a main driver in those increases. These startling cost increases call into question the political and economic viability of the MOX program.”
The report, prepared by the DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration’s Office of Fissile Material Disposition is entitled "Report to Congress on the Projected Life-Cycle Costs of the U.S. and Russian Fissile Material Disposition Programs." The document, labeled “Distribution Draft, Do not cite or quote,” is being released by NCI in order to ensure that Congress has full access to it and to better inform the discussion about a program which is now encountering greater skepticism. The report can be found on the NCI web site at http://www.nci.org/new/pucost.pdf. The report was obtained from documents submitted to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission by the MOX consortium Duke Cogema Stone & Webster (DCS) in current proceedings on the construction authorization for the MOX plant.
The Nuclear August of 1945New York Times - By NIKOLAY PALCHIKOFF - August 6, 2001
I was one of the first American soldiers to visit Hiroshima after its destruction by the atomic bomb 56 years ago today. Until recently, it was not something I talked about. Still now, at 77, it's hard not to cry when I picture walking into that city more than half a century ago. But it's important to remember. There are few of us around who do.
I went to Hiroshima some three weeks after the fatal day. I had been born and raised there and was going home to search for my family. My father was a member of the Russian nobility and had been an officer in the White Army. He fled Russia with my mother during the Russian Revolution and settled in Japan. I grew up eating piroshki and sushi, speaking Russian and Japanese. Before the war, when I was 16, I left Japan to go to school in the United States. The rest of my family stayed behind.
After Pearl Harbor, like many 18-year old boys, I yearned to become a soldier. With my Slavic ethnicity and Japanese language fluency, I became a member of United States Army intelligence, working in translation and interrogation.
I first heard about the bombing of Hiroshima the day it happened. I was 21 at the time, translating Japanese radio in the Philippines. No one believed my reports. My Army superiors ridiculed my translation skills. The next day, President Harry Truman announced to the world that, indeed, the United States had dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima.
Soon afterward I was sent to Japan to help make sure the Japanese were living up to the conditions of the surrender agreement, and I traveled to Hiroshima. It was the worst moment of my life. Although I had seen wartime atrocities, I wasn't prepared for what I saw now: nothing. No birds. No people. No buildings. No trees. No life. Outlines of human bodies burned like negatives in cement.
The house I had grown up in was gone. The city had vaporized.
Fortunately, just a few days before Hiroshima was attacked, my family had moved to a house far enough away from the bomb's epicenter so that they survived. When I found them, there was a moment of joy, until they described the bomb's aftermath: People walking and dropping dead in their tracks. People running for the river, seeking escape from the scorching heat. Skin falling off bodies. Everyone desperate for water.
My family and I left for Tokyo and then went to America. I vowed never to return. What does one do after walking into a nuclear dust bowl? Like many, I believed that peace could come only from having a strong defense. I decided to remain in the Army while the United States prepared for its newest enemies, the Russians. During the Cuban missile crisis I built an elaborate bomb shelter under my house, complete with water, septic tank and canned food. I was ready for an attack.
One day the reserves called me away from work to participate in an "emergency" drill. But when I discovered they were simulating a nuclear war in the drill, and that my job was to keep the "contaminated" people away from the "noncontaminated" people, something suddenly didn't seem right. I knew that in a real nuclear war there would be few people standing around, contamination would affect everyone and most people would be dead. I began to rethink the Army's mission and soon resigned.
For a long time, despite what I had seen in Hiroshima, I thought dropping the bomb had been the right thing to do. I believed what Truman had said, that the bomb had saved lives. But as we entered the arms race with the Soviet Union, my mind began to change. I had seen the destruction that was felt for generations to come. I feared for the future of my grandchildren. Often, I envisioned my classmates, evaporated by the bomb. Why couldn't the United States have dropped the bomb on an island with no inhabitants to show Japan what a powerful weapon it had?
I have returned to Hiroshima twice since 1945, once in 1986 and once in 1995 on the 50th anniversary of the bombing. On that second trip, I walked for one month, in the scorching heat of Japan's summer, from Kobe to Hiroshima, talking to Japanese people about my experiences. I spoke at a conference in Hiroshima commemorating the anniversary, begging forgiveness for any part I might have played in what I now consider a heinous crime. It was a speech I couldn't finish. But I had come to realize that remembering and talking about such atrocities is the only way we can prevent them from happening again.