The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

Los Alamos Study Group takes legal action against National Nuclear Security Administration on costs of plutonium pits

Lawsuit seeks LANL study detailing costs, risks of plutonium work By Rebecca Moss | The New Mexican, 15 Mar 18

      An Albuquerque-based nonprofit that advocates for nuclear disarmament filed a lawsuit this week asking a U.S. District Court judge to order the release of federal documents detailing the costs and risks of plutonium work planned at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

In its lawsuit, filed Wednesday in the federal District Court in Albuquerque, the Los Alamos Study Group accuses the National Nuclear Security Administration of improperly withholding a study that it says should be released upon request under the federal Freedom of Information Act.

While congressional staff members and some lab officials have been briefed on the document, argues the nonprofit — a longtime critic of the lab and the U.S. Department of Energy — the unclassified study has not been released to the public and has not been provided to the group, despite a request made under the public records law more than three months ago.

 The National Nuclear Security Administration in November completed the roughly 400-page study comparing the potential costs, time frame and risks of creating a proposed assembly-line factory for plutonium pit production at various Energy Department sites.

The Los Alamos lab has been producing pits — the grapefruit-size fission triggers that ignite nuclear weapons — on a smaller scale for decades, and New Mexico’s congressional delegation has been pushing to keep that work in the state as the nation’s mission to modernize its nuclear weapons arsenal ramps up.

A summary of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s study, leaked in December, shows that Los Alamos and the Savannah River Site in South Carolina are the final contenders for the pit factory, expected to cost up to $7.5 billion and take 10 to 20 years to complete.

According to the leaked material, which was reviewed by The New Mexican, the work would take longer to complete in Los Alamos and costs would be higher there.

The Los Alamos Study Group also contends the risks of pit production at Los Alamos are significant and should be disclosed to the public.

The nonprofit’s director, Greg Mello, said in a statement Thursday, “We believe [pit production] is proceeding ‘under cover of darkness’ on purely ideological grounds, and not on any defensible managerial basis. … It is a vast waste of resources, though lucrative for a few contractors.”

The organization believes the U.S. already has an excess of pits in its weapons stockpile and that future production would present a grave risk to the public while wasting public funds. The U.S. arsenal contains 23,000 pits, the group says in its suit, at least a third of which its says are viable and would last through 2063.

 Los Alamos began producing plutonium pits after the Rocky Flats Plant in Colorado was shut down in the early 1990s, following a federal raid that found the plant rife with environmental contamination and nuclear safety violations.

Residents in the Rocky Flats area spent more than two decades entangled in a lawsuit with the plant’s operators after plutonium was found to have traveled to thousands of homes.

Los Alamos has had its share of nuclear safety violations, as well.

The lab’s plutonium facility, which restarted pit production in 2015 following a yearslong pause over safety concerns, was cited for a series of violations in the last year alone. Several workers were contaminated with radiation in 2017, and a small fire burned one worker. The lab was fined several million dollars for mishandling an out-of-state shipment of plutonium, and federal inspectors raised concerns recently about how the lab manages the toxic metal beryllium.

Contact Rebecca Moss at 505-986-3011 or


March 17, 2018 Posted by | legal, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Successful legal action against nuclear power, and more court cases to come

Nuclear Power Facing a Tsunami of Litigation, Nippon, Shizume Saiji [2018.03.12]   In March 2011, a magnitude-9 earthquake triggered a giant tsunami that crippled the cooling system at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, leading to a catastrophic accident that continues to reverberate seven years later. Science reporter Shizume Saiji surveys the legal fallout from the meltdown, from claims against the government and the operator to a raft of actions aimed at permanently shutting down the nation’s nuclear power industry………….

Complacency and Opacity

In the wake of the Fukushima accident, NISA (since replaced by the Nuclear Regulation Authority) was faulted for its lack of independence. The agency was under the authority of the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry, which promotes the use of nuclear power, and officials maintain that its regulatory powers were limited. In addition, a closed, inbred environment encouraged unhealthy ties between NISA and the electric power industry. As a consequence, NISA had fallen into the habit of accommodating and supporting the utilities instead of overseeing them. TEPCO, for its part, had developed a deeply rooted culture of denial, habitually concealing information that might supply ammunition to anti-nuclear activists or fuel fears among the local citizenry. The company brushed off the warnings, convincing itself that the danger from a giant tsunami was purely hypothetical.

So far, district courts have reached decisions on three major class-action suits, and in each case they have agreed with the plaintiffs that the state and TEPCO could have foreseen the danger from a major tsunami once the 2002 report on earthquake risks was released. Two of the district courts, Maebashi and Fukushima, found both the state and TEPCO negligent for failing to prevent the meltdowns. The Chiba District Court, on the other hand, dismissed claims against the state on the grounds that the government was focusing on earthquake safety at the time and may not have been able to formulate effective measures in time to protect Fukushima Daiichi against the March 2011 tsunami. With the government and TEPCO girding up to appeal the lower courts’ decisions, the cases could drag on for years……….

Fighting Nuclear Power, One Plant at a Time

On a different but related front, citizens’ groups and other plaintiffs are vigorously pursuing lawsuits and injunctions aimed directly at shutting down nuclear power plants around the country.

Efforts to block nuclear energy development through legal action date all the way back to the 1970s.

………. At present, almost all of Japan’s operable nuclear power plants are in the midst of some kind of litigation. In one case, the plaintiff is a local government: The city of Hakodate in Hokkaidō has filed a lawsuit to block the construction and operation of the Ōma Nuclear Power Station across the Tsugaru Strait in Aomori Prefecture.[Excellent graphs show 38 nuclear reactors suspended, and 3 operating]

Lawyers on a Mission

Lawyers Kawai Hiroyuki and Kaido Yūichi have been key figures in the fight against nuclear power since before the Fukushima accident. In the wake of the disaster, they founded the National Network of Counsels in Cases against Nuclear Power Plants, a group that has been pursuing legal action against nuclear facilities on behalf of citizens and other plaintiffs nationwide.

Kawai and Kaido are also representing the shareholders of TEPCO, who are suing the company’s former executives for an unprecedented ¥5.5 trillion. In addition, as lawyers for the Complainants for the Criminal Prosecution of the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster, the two attorneys are working alongside the prosecuting team in the criminal case against three TEPCO executives, which parallels the civil suit in terms of arguments, evidence, and testimony.

Even so, the trial—which officially opened last June and is expected to continue at least through the coming summer—is expected to attract intense media coverage as witness examinations begin this spring. More than 20 witnesses are scheduled to testify. The case also involves a massive volume of documentary evidence, including records of interviews conducted by the government’s Investigation Committee on the Accident at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Station, along with countless pages of emails, internal memos, meeting minutes, and reports. Will all this information shed new light on the human factors behind the Fukushima accident? The nation will be watching closely.

(Originally published in Japanese on February 19, 2018).

March 14, 2018 Posted by | Japan, Legal | Leave a comment

Group tries to get reparation funds for people exposed to Trinity Nuclear Test, By: KRQE Media  Mar 12, 2018 ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A group is wanting to convince Congress that New Mexico should get reparation funds, decades after testing the first nuclear bomb at the Trinity Site.


March 14, 2018 Posted by | legal, opposition to nuclear, USA | Leave a comment

The fight for justice for Fukushima nuclear evacuees: the determination of Mrs Mizue Kanno

This woman is winning the fight for justice after Fukushima  by Kazue Suzuki and Shaun Burnie  


March 12, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima continuing, Legal, PERSONAL STORIES | Leave a comment

Latest in the AREVA nuclear soap opera: Areva to pay Finland’s TVO 450 mln euros

 Le Monde 10th March 2018, [Machine Translation] EPR: epilogue of the Finnish soap opera Areva. The nuclear group will pay hundreds of millions of euros in penalties for the
delay of ten years in the Olkiluoto reactor project.

Areva to pay Finland’s TVO 450 mln euros over nuclear reactor dispute  Reuters Staff  HELSINKI, March 11 (Reuters) – Finnish utility Teollisuuden Voima (TVO) said on Sunday it had agreed a settlement with French nuclear company Areva and Germany’s Siemens in the long-running dispute over cost overruns and delays on their EPR nuclear reactor project.

Areva-Siemens will pay TVO compensation of 450 million euros ($553.73 million), the Finnish company said in a statement.

TVO and Areva-Siemens were claiming billions of euros from each other due to the delays in the Olkiluoto 3 reactor project in southwest Finland. Its start was postponed last year to May 2019 – a decade later than planned.

$1 = 0.8127 euros Reporting by Tuomas Forsell


March 12, 2018 Posted by | business and costs, Finland, France, Legal | Leave a comment

U.S. mining industry files petitions to overturn prohibition on uranium mining near Grand Canyon

Guardian 10th March 2018, The US mining industry has asked the supreme court to overturn an Obama-era
rule prohibiting the mining of uranium on public lands adjacent to the
Grand Canyon. The National Mining Association (NMA) and the American
Exploration and Mining Association (AEMA) filed petitions on Friday asking
the court to reverse the 2012 ban on new uranium mining claims on more than
1 million acres of public land surrounding Grand Canyon national park.


March 12, 2018 Posted by | Legal, Uranium, USA | Leave a comment

Court actions over Missouri’s nuclear radioactive contamination in St Louis – near West Lake Landfill and Coldwater Creek.

Lawsuits: Widespread radioactive contamination in north county, The lawsuits seek relocation and financial awards for thousands of people.  Grant Bissell, ebruary 22, 2018  ST. LOUIS COUNTY – A pair of lawsuits announced Wednesday claim radioactive contamination could be widespread in north St. Louis County.


February 24, 2018 Posted by | Legal, USA | Leave a comment

Legal challenge to European Union against approving Hungary’s nuclear expansion plans

Austria files EU legal challenge to Hungarian nuclear power plan Reuters Staff, 22 Feb 18,  VIENNA (Reuters) – Staunchly anti-nuclear Austria has filed a legal challenge at the European Court of Justice against the European Commission over its approval of Hungary’s plans to expand an atomic power plant.

Austria’s new government, an alliance between Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s conservatives and the far-right Freedom Party, has pledged to continue Vienna’s decades-long policy of opposing nuclear power.

It said last month that it would file the legal challenge against the expansion of the Paks power plant situated near the border it shares with Hungary.

“We must take up this David-versus-Goliath struggle for the sake of our nature, our environment and our unique countryside,” the minister for sustainability and tourism, Elisabeth Koestinger, said in a statement on Thursday announcing the government had started the case.

“Nuclear energy has no place in Europe. We will not deviate from this line by even a centimeter.”

A spokesman for the EU executive said: “The Commission will defend its decision in Court.”

In March, EU state aid regulators approved Hungary’s plan to build two new reactors at its Paks nuclear site with the help of Russia’s Rosatom, saying Hungarian authorities had agreed to several measures to ensure fair competition.

The two new reactors will double the plant’s nominal capacity of 2,000 megawatts. Hungary aims to start construction on the reactors this year, with the first facility expected due to be completed in 2025.

In most complex cases of this kind, the Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice has found in favor of the Commission.

($1 = 0.7174 pounds)

Reporting by Francois Murphy; Additional reporting by Alissa de Carbonnel in Brussels; Editing by Alison Williams


February 22, 2018 Posted by | EUROPE, Legal | Leave a comment

Swedish Environmental Court’s very thorough study on copper canisters for storing spent nuclear fuel rods

MKG 20th Feb 2018, Translation into English of the Swedish Environmental Court’s opinion on
the final repository for spent nuclear fuel – as well as some comments onthe decision and the further process. The court said no to the application because it considered that there were problems with the copper canister that had to be resolved now and not later.

The translation shows the court’s judicial argumentation and why it decided not to accept the regulator
SSM’s opinion that the problems with the integrity of the copper canister were not serious and could likely be solved at a later stage in the decision-making process.

The main difference between the court’s and the regulator’s decision-making was that the court decided to rely on a multitude of scientific sources and information and not only on the material provided by SKB.

It had also been uncovered that the main corrosion expert at SSM did not want to say yes to the application at this time that may have influenced the court’s decision-making. In fact there appear to have been many dissenting voices in the regulator despite the regulator’s claim in the court that a united SSM stood behind its opinion.


February 22, 2018 Posted by | Legal, Sweden, wastes | Leave a comment

Class legal action for victims of West Lake Landfill radiation

Class action lawsuits filed for victims of West Lake Landfill radiation, By Jessica Karins For The St. Louis American, 22 Feb 18, 

        Radioactive material came to St. Louis in the 1940s with World War II, when a uranium processing plant was constructed downtown. Years later, in the 1970s, radioactive waste from that site was transported to the West Lake Landfill in the St. Louis County suburb of Bridgeton. That material is still impacting St. Louis today, but residents in the surrounding area may be getting a ray of hope in the form of a legal case.

Recently, the HBO documentary “Atomic Homefront” brought national attention to the long struggle of North St. Louis residents to gain accountability for the effects of radioactive waste dumped at West Lake Landfill and Coldwater Creek. Now, several law firms are joining together to file a class-action lawsuit on behalf of those impacted.

“This is an unacceptable violation of personal rights, property rights, and at its core, the civil rights of all people adversely impacted by this highly contaminated radioactive source,” civil rights attorney Anthony Gray said.

Gray, of Johnson Gray LLC, and class action attorney Ryan Keane of Keane Law LLC hosted a press conference in St. Ann on Feb. 20 to introduce the suit. Their firms, along with several other national firms, are filing two lawsuits against companies they consider to hold responsibility for polluting residential areas.

One of the suits was filed on behalf of residents living around the West Lake Landfill; the other was filed on behalf of those living in the floodplain of Coldwater Creek. Homes and other properties around both sites have tested positive for high levels of radiation.

The Environmental Protection Agency under Scott Pruitt agreed on Feb. 1 to remove the majority of the radioactive material from the West Lake Landfill over a period of five years, but the lawyers in this case said that is not enough.

“Too little has been done over the last several years, and over the last several decades,” Keane said.

“Atomic Homefront,” which focuses on the efforts of citizen activist group Just Moms STL, documents high incidences of rare cancers in the areas around West Lake Landfill and Coldwater Creek and highlights families who want to move away from the area but, due to the plummeting property values of their homes, cannot afford to.

According to Keane, tests done in preparation for the lawsuits showed high levels of radiation within several homes and businesses. He also said an expert will testify that radioactive materials were built into construction sites in Bridgeton, laid underneath the foundations of homes.

Keane said the effects of the radioactivity could become even more widespread if an underground fire that has been burning at the landfill since at least 2010 reaches the radioactive waste. The chemical reactions caused by this, he said, could lead to contaminated rain which would fall on every part of St. Louis.

After the Russian Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986, radioactive rains spread the impact across the continent and reached as far away as Wales.

“People should be very upset about this,” Keane said. “They should be fired up about this.”

Defendants in the cases include Republic Services, Cutter Corp and other corporations that have handled waste disposal. The attorneys will seek damages for affected residents that could include compensation, home buyouts and relocation, as well as a cleanup of the sites.

Keane said homeowners in the area will receive a flyer explaining the cases and containing a 1-800 number they can call to learn more.


February 22, 2018 Posted by | Legal, USA | Leave a comment

Lawyers kept busy with the chaos of South Carolina’s failed nuclear project

Lawyers are benefiting from chaos of South Carolina’s failed nuclear project, By Andrew Brown Feb 18, 2018 

      COLUMBIA — As Westinghouse Electric’s bankruptcy dashed South Carolina’s nuclear ambitions, one group of people reaped the rewards: lawyers.

One attorney charged $280 to respond to a grand jury subpoena.

Another invoiced $407 to research the statute of limitations for criminal charges in South Carolina.

Others got paid more than $5,810 to review the “potential criminal liability” stemming from The Post and Courier’s story Stamped for Failure, which revealed how Westinghouse disregarded state engineering laws in their attempt to build a new generation of nuclear reactors.

These are just some of the legal expenses found in the bankruptcy records for Westinghouse, the company that designed and attempted to build the two unfinished nuclear reactors at V.C. Summer station.

The court records show Westinghouse paid more than $1 million last year for more than a dozen highly paid defense attorneys to monitor the legal disputes and political backlash that erupted in South Carolina after the nuclear project was dropped last summer.

The company’s legal bills open a small window into the ongoing cost of what is widely considered the biggest economic failure in South Carolina history. The invoices also highlight Westinghouse’s concerns over the possible criminal implications stemming from its decade of work on the nuclear reactors near Jenkinsville.

Westinghouse declined to answer questions about the ongoing legal expenses.

“It may just be they are trying to cover themselves,” said state Sen. Shane Massey, an Edgefield Republican who led a special committee that investigated V.C. Summer. “Or, as things progressed, they might have realized they are in trouble.”

“They probably should be in trouble,” Massey said. “Westinghouse is largely responsible for where we are right now.”……..


February 19, 2018 Posted by | legal, USA | Leave a comment

Nuclear power critics to testify in Vermont Yankee case

VT Digger, By Mike Faher, Feb 12 2018   State regulators will consider the testimony of two prominent nuclear power critics in deciding whether a cleanup company should be allowed to buy Vermont Yankee.


February 16, 2018 Posted by | legal, USA | Leave a comment

Can the president be prosecuted for war crimes in the event of a nuclear strike?, Anthony J. Colangelo, 

Can U.S. nuclear strike planners and executors be prosecuted for war crimes? Short answer, yes. And the planners are more vulnerable to prosecution than world leaders, such as President Donald Trump.

A preliminary question, of course, is what would constitute an illegal nuclear strike order. It is fairly clear that any use of nuclear weapons to achieve military objectives that conventional weapons can otherwise achieve would be illegal.

The reason is that the nuclear option would violate principles of the law of war, or what’s called humanitarian law, by causing indiscriminate and disproportionate loss of life and superfluous injury, since nuclear weapons are far more catastrophic than conventional weapons. If conventional weapons could achieve the same military objectives, then any order to use nuclear weapons instead would be manifestly illegal, leading to allegations of war crimes. But heads of state like Trump are generally immune from prosecution, at least while they remain in office, even for serious violations of international law like war crimes and crimes against humanity.

However, the whole reason heads of state enjoy immunity is that the state would be unable effectively to represent itself in its dealings with other states if these individuals were stuck in foreign states’ docks. Thus high-ranking members of the U.S. Strategic Command and other planning bodies likely fall outside the scope of immunity, and the farther down the chain one goes, the less immunity applies. In turn, only heads of state and perhaps other extremely high-ranking officials would have immunity.

But where could these planners and executors be prosecuted? One option would be in U.S. domestic courts or military tribunals, especially if there is a change in administration. Another option would be foreign tribunals. Because war crimes are subject to what’s called universal jurisdiction, any nation in the world may prosecute the perpetrators of these crimes. This is not just theoretical or academic.
The practice of universal jurisdiction has spiked in recent years when it comes to serious violations of international law, such as torture, crimes against humanity and certain acts of terrorism.

Nuclear strike planners have a duty under international and domestic U.S. law to reject illegal nuclear strike orders. If they do not, they can be held liable in both domestic and foreign courts. Immunity will not shield them from prosecution.

Anthony J. Colangelo is a law professor at Southern Methodist University and a senior associate at the Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainability. He wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News.


February 14, 2018 Posted by | legal, USA | Leave a comment

NextEra Energy leaves Nuclear Energy Institute, takes legal action against it

Utility Dive 5th Feb 2018, NextEra Energy declined to renew its membership in the Nuclear Energy
Institute and is now suing the trade group over access to a nuclear
industry personnel database, Personnel Access Data System (PADS). NEI has
blocked access to the resource unless NextEra pays close to $900,000.

NextEra operates eight nuclear reactors but decided to exit the group after
it advocated for a now-defunct Department of Energy proposal that would
have propped up struggling nuclear and coal generators. NextEra also has a
large portfolio of renewable and gas-fired assets that would have been hurt
by the proposal.

NextEra’s decision reflects uncertainty in the nuclear
industry, where plants face fierce competition from natural gas and
stagnant demand, while struggling to control rising operational costs.
Louisiana-based Entergy also decided to exit NEI membership.


February 14, 2018 Posted by | Legal, USA | Leave a comment

Lawsuit against Georgia Regulators Over Nuclear Decision

Vogtle Opponents Sue Georgia Regulators Over Nuclear Decision, WABE,  • Opponents of a nuclear power expansion in Georgia are suing over it. Environmental groups claim state regulators didn’t follow their own rules when they decided to let construction at Plant Vogtle continue.

In December, the Georgia Public Service Commission voted unanimouslyto keep work on two new nuclear reactors going, even though they’re five years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget.

The groups Georgia Interfaith Power and Light and the Partnership for Southern Equity claim the commission rushed the decision and should have gathered more information.

“This was the wrong way to go about making a multi-billion dollar decision,” said Kurt Ebersbach, an attorney at Southern Environmental Law Center, who represents the groups.

The suit is being filed in Fulton County Superior Court…….


February 14, 2018 Posted by | legal, USA | Leave a comment