nuclear-news

The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

V. C. Summer former nuclear workers filing lawsuits against nuclear plant employers

Attorneys filing lawsuits against nuclear plant employers, http://wach.com/news/local/attorneys-filing-lawsuits-against-nuclear-plant-employersby Michelle Zhu, 18 Aug 17, 

It’s called the WARN Act, which stands for Worker Adjustment Retraining Notification. It requires employers of more than 100 workers to provide 60 day advance notice of mass layoffs. In response, Attorney Jack Raisner and his partners filed lawsuits against both Westinghouse and SCANA at the beginning of August.

At this point, complaints have been filed and the Outten and Golden firm is waiting for an answer. Attorney Raisner says they can’t guarantee an outcome but they feel confident something will come out of the case. If the plaintiffs win, all employees will receive up to eight weeks of lost pay, plus benefits. The process could take as little as a few months or up to several years.

August 19, 2017 Posted by | employment, Legal, USA | Leave a comment

NRC to Amend Rules on Medical Uses of Radioactive Materials

 https://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/news/2017/17-038.pdf
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has approved amendments to its requirements for medical uses of radioactive materials. A final rule, approved Aug. 17, modifies 10 CFR Part 35 and makes conforming changes to Parts 30 and 32. The rule will be published in the coming months in the Federal Register after the NRC staff makes certain revisions directed by the Commission.
The changes will amend the definition of medical events associated with permanent implant brachytherapy; update training and experience requirements for authorized users, medical physicists, radiation safety officers, and nuclear pharmacists; address a petition the NRC received seeking to recognize the qualifications of board certified physicists and radiation safety officers not specifically named on a license; change requirements for measuring molybdenum contamination and reporting generator tests that exceed allowed concentration levels; allow associate radiation safety officers to be named on a medical license; and make several minor clarifications.
While implementing the current regulations, NRC staff, stakeholders, and NRC’s Advisory Committee on the Medical Uses of Isotopes identified the need for the revisions. A proposed rule appeared in the July 21, 2014, Federal Register for 120 days of public comment. The final rule takes those comments into consideration and provides responses to them.

August 19, 2017 Posted by | Legal, USA | Leave a comment

Federal judge rules that USA govt could be liable for uranium cleanup on Navajo land

Gov’t Is Owner In Navajo Land Uranium Cleanup Suit: Judge, By Kat Sieniuc. Law360, New York (August 16, 2017, ) — An Arizona federal judge on Tuesday ruled that the federal government qualifies under environmental cleanup law as an owner of more than a dozen old uranium sites on Navajo Nation land and could be liable for cleaning up the area.

U.S. District Judge David G. Campbell partially granted El Paso Natural Gas Company LLC’s bid for a quick win against the United States and U.S. the Department of the Interior, as well as the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the U.S. Department of Energy, among other…https://www.law360.com/articles/954711/gov-t-is-owner-in-navajo-land-uranium-cleanup-suit-judge

August 18, 2017 Posted by | Legal, Uranium, USA | Leave a comment

Lawsuit against S.C. Electric & Gas – accuses mismanagement of over $1 billion of its customers’ money

Lawsuit accuses SCE&G of negligence in scuttled South Carolina nuclear construction project, Post and Courier By Thad Moore tmoore@postandcourier.com Aug 12, 17, 

A lawsuit filed late Friday accuses S.C. Electric & Gas of mismanaging more than $1 billion of its customers’ money in the power company’s bid to build two nuclear reactors near Columbia that have since been scuttled.

The lawsuit, which is seeking class-action status, says the utility hid financial problems at the V.C. Summer nuclear power plant from its customers, even as costs spiraled and delays mounted. It’s the first of its kind to be brought against the power company since the project was abandoned last week.

The case was filed in Richland County circuit court by LeBrian Cleckley, a Columbia man who says he and thousands of other ratepayers paid more than $1 billion for a project that may never generate a single kilowatt of electricity.

If it’s approved as a class-action case, the lawsuit would cover a massive swath of South Carolinians: SCE&G has 709,000 electric customers across the state.

A spokeswoman for SCE&G declined to comment, saying the power company doesn’t discuss pending litigation.

SCE&G customers have been paying for the project for nearly a decade thanks to a 2007 state law that allows electric companies to charge ratepayers for the cost of building power plants before they come online. SCE&G and its partner, Santee Cooper, sunk some $9 billion into the project before pulling the plug……http://www.postandcourier.com/news/lawsuit-accuses-sce-g-of-negligence-in-scuttled-south-carolina/article_d273b663-7dd6-5599-96eb-308f2d336ffd.html

August 14, 2017 Posted by | Legal, USA | Leave a comment

U.S,. Court extends freeze in litigation over the Clean Power Plan – a blow to climate action

A federal court just dealt another blow to Obama’s climate legacy https://thinkprogress.org/clean-power-plan-on-hold-again-5a76487bf9be/

Obama’s climate regulations could save the United States billions — but they face a precarious future under the Trump administration. 

August 12, 2017 Posted by | climate change, Legal, USA | Leave a comment

South Carolina sues federal government over plutonium left behind

SC Attorney General sues feds for $100 million over plutonium left behind, BY JOHN MONK
jmonk@thestate.com, AUGUST 08, 2017 
COLUMBIA, SC 

The South Carolina Attorney General’s Office announced Tuesday it has filed a lawsuit against the federal government seeking to recover an eye-catching $100 million it says the U.S. Department of Energy owes the state for failing to make good on a promise to remove one ton of plutonium from the Savannah River Site this year.

“A case of such magnitude has never been filed by South Carolina against the federal government,” a press release from the attorney general’s office said.

The press release said that Congress mandated that the U.S. Department of Energy would pay South Carolina $1 million per day, beginning Jan. 1, 2016, for every day the department failed to remove from the state one metric ton of weapons-grade defense plutonium. The requirement is in place during the first 100 days of each year from 2016 through 2021.

“The Department of Energy has failed to process or remove the plutonium or pay the state the $100 million owed for 2016 or 2017. This lawsuit seeks the recovery of the $100 million owed for 2017,” the press release said……http://www.thestate.com/news/local/article166008462.html

August 9, 2017 Posted by | - plutonium, Legal, USA | Leave a comment

Friends of the Earth and Sierra Club to take legal action over “Abandonment Plan” for Canceled Nuclear Reactor Construction

Friends of the Earth and Sierra Club File Formal Intervention with SC Public Service Commission,  Concerning SCE&G’s “Abandonment Plan” for Canceled Nuclear Reactor Construction Project www.commondreams.org/newswire/2017/08/07/friends-earth-and-sierra-club-file-formal-intervention-sc-public-service,8 Aug 17

 Friends of the Earth/Sierra Club will soon file a request that the hearing it garnered in response to a complaint filed on June 22 (Docket 2017-207-E) to be merged with SCE&G’s abandonment docket. The PSC issued an order on August 2 that positions on docket consolidation be filed by FOE/Sierra Club and SCE&G within 21 days.

SCE&G ratepayers already pay 18% of their monthly bill, averaging $27 per household, to pay for the failed nuclear project. Customers have been hit with nine rate hikes since 2009 to pay for the project in advance. Under SCE&G’s abandonment plan, that percentage of the bill would be increased, to pay for $2.2 billion in abandonment costs. SCE&G has presented a pay-back period of 60 years, meaning that additional billions of dollars would be collected by SCE&G, while no costs would be assumed by SCE&G and its shareholders.

Reflective of growing concern on the political level about the failed reactor project, leaders in the South Carolina Senate on August 4 requested a special legislative session to discuss SCE&G’s failed project. The attorney general of South Carolina followed by also submitting a letter to the legislature in support of such a legislative session and requested that any additional rate hikes to pay for abandonment be delayed while an investigation is proceeding.

COLUMBIA, S.C. – In an effort to protect ratepayers and advocate for alternative energy, Friends of the Earth and the Sierra Club today filed a formal intervention against a proposal from South Carolina Electric and Gas (SCE&G) to abandon its troubled nuclear construction project and charge ratepayers $2.2 billion over the next 60 years to pay for the failed project.

The plan, filed on August 1 by SCE&G with South Carolina Public Service Commission (PSC), abandoned the problem-plagued V.C. Summer reactor construction project. (See Docket 2017-244-E.) The project was abruptly halted on July 31 after continuous formal opposition by Friends of the Earth and the Sierra Club since 2008.

“Due to growing pressure from the public and legislators, the PSC will not be able to simply rubber stamp passing the cost onto SCE&G’s ratepayers,” said Tom Clements, senior adviser with Friends of the Earth. “We will fight this unjust plan and make sure that the company and its shareholders are put on the financial hook for the bad decisions made by SCE&G since 2008. It is simply unacceptable that SCE&G customers, who will not get any benefit after paying into the project since its inception, will now be stiffed with all of the costs while SCE&G walks away unscathed.”

The Friends of the Earth/Sierra Club intervention petition, filed by well-known South Carolina environmental lawyer Bob Guild, requests that the PSC review the imprudence of decisions related to the project, that reparations be made to SCE&G customers and that “available least cost efficiency and renewable energy alternatives,” as advocated by the groups now be pursued.

The hearing earlier granted to Friends of the Earth/Sierra Club on the project will likely now be consolidated with the abandonment docket, giving the organizations the right to review past cost overrun decisions, chronic schedule delays and repayment to customers for money wasted by SCE&G.

The abandonment petition filed by SCE&G included a suggested November date for a hearing on the matter, but in an unprecedented move late on the evening of Friday, August 4, the PSC’s chief clerk rejected the hearing dates. As pressure grows on how the PSC failed to properly monitor the project, no new dates have been set for the abandonment hearing.

The next step in the process will be for the PSC to approve the Friends of the Earth/Sierra Club intervention, which will then enable discovery to be filed for internal SCE&G documents. In particular, the groups want to learn what SCE&G knew about the bankruptcy of the reactor design company Westinghouse, filed on March 29, and if the PSC was informed by the company about what it knew.

Friends of the Earth is the U.S. voice of the world’s largest grassroots environmental network, with member groups in 77 countries. Since 1969, Friends of the Earth has fought to create a more healthy, just world.

August 9, 2017 Posted by | Legal, USA | Leave a comment

USA Congress going all out to make Trump’s anti-climate orders become the law

How Congress Is Cementing Trump’s Anti-Climate Orders into Law These efforts are mostly flying under the radar, but they could short-circuit lawsuits and make it harder to restore environmental protections. Inside Climate News, Marianne Lavelle 31 JULY 17, 

How NRDC will fight Trump’s attack on our environment.

President Donald Trump marvels at his own velocity when he boasts about dismantling the Obama climate legacy. “I have been moving at record pace to cancel these regulations and to eliminate the barriers to domestic energy production, like never before,” he said at a recent White House event.

August 7, 2017 Posted by | climate change, Legal, politics, USA | Leave a comment

What about an illegal order to fire a nuclear weapon? Must the military obey?

Would the military really have to obey a Trump command to fire a nuclear weapon? http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-colangelo-duty-nuclear-20170804-story.html, Anthony J. Colangelo

Every member of the U.S. military has sworn an oath … to obey the officers and the president of the United States as the commander in chief appointed over us,” he said.

But is that quite right? Isn’t there such a thing as an illegal order? And if so, what kind of right or, more accurately, what kind of duty exists to disobey it?

Second point first: As a matter of fact, it is illegal to obey an obviously illegal order. Indeed, the law clearly rejects the “superior orders” defense. Colloquially put, the defense goes something like this: “I cannot be liable for carrying out an illegal act because I was simply following orders.” At least since the Nazis were prosecuted for war crimes and crimes against humanity at Nuremberg, this defense has largely disintegrated.

If — continuing the Nazi parallel — the “commander in chief appointed over us” tells military officials to commit genocide, they can’t legally go along with it. Legally, they must say no.

But how can, say, the commander of the U.S. Pacific fleet know if an order is so obviously illegal that he’d be held liable?

Under international and U.S. law, the order must be “manifestly” or “clearly” illegal, not just of debatable or arguable legality. What this means is that the person ordered to launch or to plan the launch knows or should know that the order is illegal. The Department of Defense manual cites as an example firing on the shipwrecked. An order to shoot an innocent civilian in the head also would qualify.

The kind of weapon used is, of course, germane as well. The law of war — otherwise known as humanitarian law — is designed to protect civilian life and reduce suffering even though, inevitably, in armed conflict there will be some amount of civilian death and suffering.

At least five unique characteristics ominously separate nuclear weapons from conventional weapons in ways that promise to increase civilian death and suffering. First, quantitatively, the blast power, heat and energy generated far outstrip that of conventional weapons. Second, the radiation released is so powerful that it damages DNA and causes death and severe health defects throughout the entire lives of survivors as well as their children exposed in utero. Third, nuclear weapons make impossible humanitarian assistance to survivors at the blast scene struggling to survive, leading to more suffering and death. Fourth, damage to the environment leads to widespread famine and starvation. And fifth, nuclear weapons cause long-lasting multi-generational psychological injury to survivors of the blast.

All of these factors weigh heavily against the humanitarian goals of the law of war, which again is designed chiefly to prevent and reduce civilian death and suffering.

So anyone ordered to plan or launch a nuclear strike is on notice: An order to use a nuclear weapon instead of a conventional weapon when the same military advantage can be gained by either gives rise to a duty to reject that order. To do otherwise and follow the order would constitute a war crime for which the actor could be held liable.

Anthony J. Colangelo is a Gerald J. Ford Research Fellow and professor of law at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, and consultant for the Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainability.

August 5, 2017 Posted by | Legal, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Bill for compensation for Mohave County residents made ill by exposure to radiation

Bill hopes to compensate Mohave County residents impacted by nuclear tests http://www.12news.com/news/local/arizona/bill-hopes-to-compensate-mohave-county-residents-impacted-by-nuclear-tests/461398687, 12 News , August 02, 2017 A bill introduced Friday aims to help people in Mohave County, Arizona, who have health problems because of the government’s nuclear testing in Nevada.

August 4, 2017 Posted by | health, Legal, USA | Leave a comment

Injustice: Mohave County downwinders wait ?forever for compensation for radiation induced illnesses

Clock ticking for righting injustice to county’s downwinders http://www.havasunews.com/opinion/our-view-clock-ticking-for-righting-injustice-to-county-s/article_67ca1e70-7680-11e7-a1d7-7f9b1c5a1866.html Jul 31, 2017

Time, obviously, isn’t on the side of those in southern Mohave County seeking compensation for illnesses caused by atomic weapons tests more than a half century ago.

Nor is geography. The federal government compensates civilians who got sick from the radiation, some as far away as Wyoming. In a cruel oversight, Mohave County south of the Grand Canyon isn’t part of the compensation area.

U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar has filed yet another bill to correct the injustice. Will is go any further than the ones he and Sen. John McCain authored almost three years ago? And, if the bill passes, is it too late to do much good?

The latter question is very real. Above ground atomic weapons tests continued in the Nevada desert until the early 1960s, meaning the youngest “downwinders” who were alive at the time are now almost 55 years old.

It’s unclear how many people in our region would be actually qualify for the compensation if not excluded by geography. During the testing period, the peak population of the county was about 8,500.

The federal compensation program, established when the government admitted the tests caused a variety of cancers to the downwinders, is aimed at providing financial help and also treatment. We’d like to think the treatment options could help a few people if the bill were to become law. The clock is ticking quickly for those people.

The compensation fund also provides assistance to qualified survivors, an option that is good but doesn’t right the wrong. The Gosar bill is one that’s easy to delay, if that’s the intention. It’s very difficult to reconstruct baseline data from a half century ago. How much radiation dusted southern Mohave County? Who was affected? Hard data is lacking.

Yet the issue is really one of fairness and common sense. Why are some of the included compensation areas many hundreds of miles away from the testing ground, while our area, virtually next door, is not?

The real question is why it’s taken so long to correct a past injustice.

August 2, 2017 Posted by | health, Legal, USA | Leave a comment

USA Labor Department tactic: delay compensation as long as possible – nuclear workers die

Longtime critics of the program’s administration point to numerous examples not only of claimants dying after years of waiting for their compensation but of spouses who refiled for survivorship claims dying while waiting for their compensation awards.

Labor Department Whistleblower: Agency Officials Intentionally Denied or Delayed Pay-Outs to Nuclear Workers in Hopes They Would Die Government attorney who raised red flags said Perez, other Obama officials ignored his complaints about hostility toward nuclear-worker claims, Washington Free Beacon  Susan Crabtree, 21 July 17,

A senior attorney at the Labor Department is accusing agency officials of writing and manipulating regulations to intentionally delay and deny congressionally mandated compensation to nuclear-weapons workers who suffered from sicknesses—and in some cases died—as a result of their work building the nation’s Cold War nuclear arsenal.

The attorney, Stephen Silbiger, says Labor Department leadership under former Labor Secretary Tom Perez ignored years of his complaints about the “open hostility” he said some officials exhibited toward claimants, many of whom are too poor and sick to fight the agency’s denials and red tape in federal court.

When Congress passed the law creating the compensation program in 2000, a bipartisan group of lawmakers promised these nuclear workers a claimant-friendly path to compensating them or their families for illnesses related to the country’s nuclear build-up and their exposure to toxins at bombing-making facilities.

Under the law, the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA), qualified workers or their survivors who were diagnosed with certain types of cancer or other diseases from exposure to toxic substances at covered facilities are entitled to between tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation to help pay medical bills and loss of wages due to their illnesses, with a cap of $400,000.

However, Silbiger and other critics say government officials often purposely thwarted workers’ attempts to seek the compensation by writing regulations that made qualification much more stringent than Congress intended, failing to disclose all the application rules, changing eligibility rules midstream, and delaying compensation for years until the sick workers died.

“There’s explicit hostility toward claimants, and this has become a game for bureaucrats to see how clever they can be in manipulating the statute and the regs to deny benefits to indigent claimants,” Silbiger told the Washington Free Beacon in his first public complaint about the program’s administrators.

Silbiger says the problems with the compensation program parallel some of those at the heart of decades of Veterans Affairs Department corruption and abuse.

“The problem in the VA is that nobody would confront these people [poorly administrating the VA medical service]—it’s very similar,” he said. “Nobody really cares about the program—these people have no real constituency. They’re rural, they’re elderly, they have no political clout, so they’re ignored.”

Silbiger, an attorney in the Labor Department’s Solicitor’s Office, which is charged with meeting the agency’s legal service demands, says that President Donald Trump and Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta now have a chance to fix the problems.

Two Labor Department spokesman did not respond to repeated emails seeking answers to a list of Free Beacon questions about the program, including whether there is a current claimant backlog, exactly how many claimants have received compensation versus how many have filed for it, and why top officials never took action in response to Silbiger’s complaints.

The Democratic National Committee, which Perez now chairs, also did not respond to a request for comment after acknowledging receipt of the questions……….

Longtime critics of the program’s administration point to numerous examples not only of claimants dying after years of waiting for their compensation but of spouses who refiled for survivorship claims dying while waiting for their compensation awards.

Some of Silbiger’s complaints echo recent allegations from the Alliance of Nuclear Workers Advocacy Groups (ANWAG), although the two parties said they do not know each other and have not conferred on the topic or anything else.

In a letter to the Labor Department Inspector General Scott Dahl dated July 12, ANWAG called for an immediate and full investigation into the administrators’ handling of the claims “to determine if unethical or illegal regulatory procedures occurred which may have resulted in unjustified denial of claims.”………

ANWAG, however, remains deeply concerned about other recent eligibility rules changes, they say make it more difficult to qualify for compensation. In its July 12 letter to the Labor Department’s inspector general, ANWAG argued that that changes to the rules EEOIC program administrators made earlier this year are illegal because they were never formally adopted through the rulemaking process and were used to deny claims months and even years before officially proposed.

“We do not take this step lightly,” ANWAG stated in its letter, noting that it represents more than 100 advocates across the country helping sick nuclear workers and their survivors receive compensation Congress promised them.

“We believe government employees responsible for implementing EEOICPA have abused their power, ignored the laws of the land [and] failed to comply with executive orders requiring that agencies operate in a transparent manner,” ANWAG wrote, noting that the Labor Department received nearly 500 comments during the rulemaking promise with many commenters voicing their objection to the proposed changes, including those dealing with changes to eligibility for wage-loss compensation.

The new rules require that a worker must identify the “trigger month” in which he first became disabled and that the worker must be employed during that “trigger month” to receive any wage-loss compensation.

ANWAG argued that the new rule did not take into account that the symptoms of the illness could have begun long before a worker left their position and long before reaching a definitive doctor diagnosis of their illness.

“Since DOL regulations accepts [sic] that a worker was injured the last day he or she worked at a facility, it seems logical that DOL would only need to review the medical records they relied upon to accept a disease and compare those records (such as date of diagnosis or documentation of symptoms consistent with the disease before a formal diagnosis was rendered) to the Social Security Administration’s quarterly wages to determine when the worker first lost wages due to [a] covered disease,” the organization wrote.

To make matters worse, the Labor Department revised the rule for wage-loss claims to reflect this more stringent standard in July 2015, four months before they issued proposed rules to do so, the group said. It cited a case in which EEOICP administrators used the same language about the new “trigger month” requirement.

ANWAG also cited a case of the EEOICP officials using this “unauthorized wording” to deny a wage-loss claim seven years ago, in February 12, 2009.

The group also referred to the Lucero decision to back up their argument that the Labor Department is narrowly and illegally interpreting the law Congress passed to compensate nuclear workers for their illnesses in a timely and even-handed way.

“It is ANWAG’s position that DEEOIC has, at least in the changes made for wage-loss claims, overstepped their authority by restricting the ability to claim loss of wages to a very narrow time period,” Barrie wrote.

“Congress understood that many workers suffered from occupational disease which went often not correctly diagnosed for months after the symptoms appeared,” she argued.

“The statute clearly lays out the manner for which DEEOIC is to figure out amount of wage loss. It does not give DEEOIC the authority to limit wage loss to only workers who were employed during the same month they were diagnosed with a covered condition.” http://freebeacon.com/issues/labor-department-whistleblower-agency-officials-intentionally-denied-or-delayed-pay-outs-to-nuclear-workers-in-hopes-they-would-die/

July 28, 2017 Posted by | employment, health, Legal, USA | Leave a comment

Lawsuit aims to stop construction of the problem-plagued Uranium Processing Facility (UPF)

Public Interest Organizations File Lawsuit Against New Nuclear Bomb Plant http://www.ladailypost.com/content/public-interest-organizations-file-lawsuit-against-new-nuclear-bomb-plant, by Carol A. Clark  July 26, 2017, OREPA News: WASHINGTON, D.C. ― The Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance (OREPA), Nuclear Watch New Mexico, and the Natural Resources Defense Council filed a federal lawsuit July 20, to stop construction of the problem-plagued Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) until a legally required environmental review is completed.

 The UPF at the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA’s) Y-12 production plant near Oak Ridge, Tenn., is slated to produce new thermonuclear weapons components until the year 2080. The UPF is the tip of the spear for the U.S.’s planned one trillion dollar-plus make over of its nuclear weapons arsenal, delivery systems, and production plants.
“The story of this new bomb plant is a long tale of outrageous waste and mismanagement, false starts and re-dos, a federal agency that refuses to meet its legal obligation to engage the public, and a Senator that is bent on protecting this piece of prime nuclear pork for his home state,” said Ralph Hutchison, coordinator of OREPA. “But the short version is this: when the NNSA made dramatic changes to the UPF, and admitted that it intends to continue to operate dangerous, already contaminated facilities for another twenty or thirty years, they ran afoul of the National Environmental Policy Act. Our complaint demands that the NNSA complete a supplemental environmental impact statement on the latest iteration of its flawed plans.”
The NNSA first issued a formal “Record of Decision” to build the UPF in 2011. Within a year, the agency had to admit it had made a half-billion dollar mistake because the designed footprint of the bomb plant was not big enough to hold all of the required equipment and safety features. The American taxpayer had to eat that half billion dollars, as the NNSA held no contractor responsible for it. The agency’s parent organization, the Department of Energy, has been on the Government Accountability Office’s High Risk List for project mismanagement and chronic cost overruns for 26 consecutive years.
More recently, the House FY 2018 Energy and Water Development Appropriations report noted that the NNSA had to reprogram $403 million out of the UPF’s $1.4 billion contingency fund to address “unforeseen issues” before ground is even broken. Both the NNSA and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R.-TN, chair of Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee) have repeatedly claimed that UPF construction will not exceed $6.5 billion. That declared budget cap seems increasingly uncertain, which could have serious negative political consequences for the troubled facility.
The UPF started with an original estimated price tag of between $600 million to $1 billion in 2006. In December 2013 an independent cost assessment by the Department of Defense pegged the UPF at more than $19 billion, which stopped the project dead in its tracks and compelled NNSA to develop a new approach. The agency commissioned a “Red Team” to perform a quick, secret study, whose recommendation was eventually adopted. In July 2016, the NNSA published an Amended Record of Decision in the Federal Register describing its new plan.
“It was a dramatic change,” commented Jay Coghlan, Executive Director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico. “Instead of consolidating all enriched uranium operations into one big, new UPF, NNSA decided to build multiple smaller but integrated buildings, only one of which would be designed to modern seismic standards. More importantly, the agency declared it would continue to indefinitely use deteriorating, already contaminated facilities for dangerous highly enriched uranium operations, while admitting that the buildings can not meet current environmental and seismic standards.”
The National Environmental Policy Act requires a federal agency to revisit any environmental analysis when its plan undergoes significant changes that might impact the environment, or when new information comes to light. It also requires public involvement throughout the process. “NEPA’s fundamental purposes are to ensure that agencies take a hard look at consequences before taking action and to ensure that the public has a voice in agency decisions,” said William Lawton, an attorney working on the case at Meyer Glitzenstein & Eubanks, LLP. “Here, the NNSA has chosen to save money by continuing to rely on outdated, deteriorating buildings that run a very real risk of collapsing and releasing nuclear contamination in the event of an earthquake. The agency is putting the public at risk, and the public has a right to make sure that the government has taken the legally required hard look at those serious risks.”
“Since 2011, despite our repeated efforts to get information, including filing Freedom of Information Act requests, visiting DOE offices, asking officials for information and writing hundreds of letters, we have been shut out of the process completely,” noted OREPA’s Hutchison. “When we saw the final document, admitting that they were going to continue to use dangerous risky facilities without bringing them up to code, we realized why the NNSA was so determined not to make its plan public.”
Coghlan noted that the NNSA faced a similar scenario several years ago at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico when plans for a huge new plutonium pit fabrication facility were substantially changed. “We told NNSA they had to complete more public review, and the agency wisely decided to prepare a supplemental environmental impact statement,” he said. “The proposed changes to the UPF are even more dramatic, and we are invoking that precedent to demand that NNSA follow the law.”

July 28, 2017 Posted by | Legal, USA | Leave a comment

New York’s nuclear power subsidies upheld by judge

U.S. judge refuses to halt New York nuclear power plant subsidies, Reuters, JULY 26, 2017  Jonathan Stempel, NEW YORK   – A federal judge on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit by energy companies and trade groups to stop New York Governor Andrew Cuomo from providing billions of dollars in subsidies to prop up struggling nuclear power plants in the state.

U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni in Manhattan rejected claims that federal law preempted New York and its Public Service Commission from offering credits to promote clean energy and reduce reliance on fossil-fueled or gas plants.

The plaintiffs said the credits could boost electric bills for New York’s “captive ratepayers” by $7.6 billion over 12 years, and violate the “dormant” Commerce Clause by impeding Congress’ power to regulate commerce among states.

But the judge said New York’s “zero-emissions credits” program was “plainly related to a matter of legitimate state concern”: the production of clean energy, and reduction of emissions from other energy that could add to global warming……..

Audrey Zibelman, in her role as PSC chair, was the lead defendant. Nuclear generators receiving the credits and their owners, including Exelon Corp, also sided with the governor.

Cuomo endorsed the subsidies in connection with his “Clean Energy Standard” announced last August, which required that half of New York’s electricity come from renewable energy sources such as wind and solar by 2030.

The case is Coalition for Competitive Electricity et al v. Zibelman et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 16-08164.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; editing by Grant McCool  https://www.reuters.com/article/us-new-york-nuclearpower-idUSKBN1AA2VF

July 26, 2017 Posted by | Legal, USA | Leave a comment

Nuclear power: not compatible with human rights in Japan’s Constitution

Is nuclear power compatible with human rights in Constitution? Asahi Shimbun July 24, 2017 One year has passed since an evacuation order was lifted on July 12, 2016, for most parts of the Odaka district of Minami-Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, which lies within a 20-kilometer radius of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

Stores and schools in the district are gradually being reopened. Voices of high school students are heard echoing through the streets at times of the day when they go to school and return home. At the same time, though, many stores remain shuttered and grass is running wild in the yards of many houses.

City government figures show that Odaka was home to only 2,046 residents as of July 12, less than one-sixth of the corresponding figure at the time of the 2011 disaster at the nuclear plant, which is operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO).

The nuclear disaster, triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, deprived many people of their “lives as usual,” which should have been guaranteed under the Constitution of Japan.

DISASTER HIGHLIGHTED ESSENTIALS OF CONSTITUTION

Katsuaki Shiga, a 68-year-old fisherman, has given up hope of returning to Odaka.

His home, which he had just built near the coastline, was inundated by the tsunami. The home went dilapidated while he was banned entry to the premises in the wake of the nuclear disaster, and Shiga had no choice but to have it dismantled.

“(The disaster) changed not just my life but also the lives of all people in our community,” Shiga said. “That made me think about the essentials of the Constitution, such as the right to life and fundamental human rights.”

The government of Minami-Soma in May last year distributed a brochure containing the entire text of the Constitution to all households in the city.

Yasuzo Suzuki (1904-1983), a scholar of constitutional law who hailed from Odaka, included an explicit mention of the right to life in a draft outline of Japan’s Constitution, which he worked out immediately after World War II ended in 1945.

“The people shall have the right to maintain wholesome and cultured living standards,” the draft said, in a prelude to Article 25 of the current Constitution.

Katsunobu Sakurai, mayor of Minami-Soma, wanted the city’s residents to cast their minds back to a starting point at a time when life had taken a sudden turn for the worse for many of them.

Several tens of thousands of inhabitants of Fukushima Prefecture remain evacuated either within or outside the prefecture’s borders. Countless people have lost their longtime livelihoods or dwellings, which means their freedom to choose and change their residences and to choose their occupations (Article 22), along with their right to own or hold property (Article 29), were severely violated.

Many children were no longer able to attend schools in their hometowns, which means their right to an education (Article 26) was also compromised.

And most importantly, the tragedy drove many people into “disaster-related deaths.”

“The nuclear disaster has made it impossible to maintain the sort of life that is described in the Constitution,” Sakurai said emphatically. “That is unconstitutional, isn’t it?”

CONSTITUTION AS PILLAR AND POST

The Fukui District Court in May 2014 issued an injunction against the planned restart of reactors at Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Oi nuclear plant in a lawsuit filed by residents living near the power-generating facility in Fukui Prefecture.

“The use of nuclear energy is meant to fulfill the socially important functions of generating electric power, but that is inferior in standing to the core part of personal rights in light of the Constitution,” the court said in its decision.

Akiko Morimatsu said she was given hope by that court decision, which based itself on the Constitution. The 43-year-old heads a group of plaintiffs from the Kansai region in a group lawsuit filed by evacuees from the nuclear disaster, who are demanding compensation from the central government and TEPCO.

Worried about her two young children’s exposure to radiation, Morimatsu fled to Osaka from Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture, although the area she was from was not under an evacuation order.

Voluntary evacuees like her, who constitute a minority, have had to face unfriendly eyes both in and outside of Fukushima Prefecture, and have received little help from administrative organs and scanty damage payments from TEPCO.

She said she wondered if she had made the right choice, and she took a fresh look at the Constitution, which she had studied in her student years. She thereupon found such statements as “all peoples of the world have the right to live in peace, free from fear and want” (preamble) and “all of the people shall be respected as individuals” (Article 13).

“This should be the pillar and post for me,” Morimatsu said she thought.

She argued that it is up to individual freedom to choose between evacuating and staying, and that all individuals, no matter which option they have chosen, should be granted assistance that allows them to realize the sort of life that is guaranteed under the Constitution.

Seventy years after the Constitution came into force, people are still turning to the supreme law of Japan as a weapon in their fight to win back their “lives as usual.” That reality should not be forgotten and should be taken seriously…… http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201707240022.html 

July 26, 2017 Posted by | Japan, Legal | Leave a comment