nuclear-news

The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

New Mexico bill stalled – would have classed nuclear power as “renewable”

renewable-lie

Bill to label nuclear energy as renewable stalls A bill aimed at classifying nuclear power as a renewable energy source in New Mexico stalled Thursday afternoon in committee on a tie vote.

House Bill 406, sponsored by Rep. Cathrynn Brown, R-Carlsbad, would have amended the state’s Renewable Energy Act, which requires energy companies provide a certain amount of electricity from renewable sources…. New  Mexico Political Report 24 Feb 17 

Nuclear Is Renewable Energy? http://krwg.org/post/nuclear-renewable-energy
By CVNM •Santa Fe, N.M. 24 Feb 17  – Today, the House Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee debated Nuclear Energy as Renewable Energy (HB 406, Brown). The bill was tabled on a tied vote. CVNM Legislative Director Ben Shelton and CVNM Education Fund Western New Mexico Program Director Talia Boyd released the following statements:

“Nuclear energy is part of the problem, not the solution. Proposing to classify nuclear as renewable energy – as Governor Martinez did her in energy plan – disrespects the sacrifice Indigenous communities in western New Mexico have already made and continue to make with their health from the impacts of uranium mining,” says Ben Shelton, CVNM Legislative Director. “In addition, adding nuclear energy to the Renewable Energy Portfolio standard neutralizes its job creating potential because of nuclear assets already held by New Mexico’s two largest electric utilities – something our leaders should not consider a possibility.”

“My community in Gallup and Church Rock have witnessed our health, culture, families, and land be desecrated and sacrificed for uranium – an industry that many in our communities do not want, as demonstrated by a ban on uranium mining passed by the Navajo Nation in 2005,” says Talia Boyd, CVNM Education Fund Western New Mexico Organizer and member of the Diné Nation.

“Communities that have been living with the impacts of poor energy policy need to be at the table shaping our energy future by putting hardworking New Mexicans first with clean, renewable energy jobs, like wind and solar.”

February 24, 2017 Posted by | politics, spinbuster, USA | Leave a comment

The link between nuclear power stations and cancer rates

radiation-causing-cancerA link between cancer rates and nuclear plants? http://www.pottsmerc.com/article/MP/20170221/NEWS/170229937  Joseph Mangano Executive Director Radiation and Public Health Project 02/21/17,SINCE THE TWO NUCLEAR REACTORS AT LIMERICK Began operating in the 1980s, the question of whether toxic radiation releases affected local cancer rates has persisted.

February 24, 2017 Posted by | USA, health, Reference | Leave a comment

Trump aims to expand US nuclear arsenal, make it ‘top of the pack’

trump-full-figureDonald Trump wants to expand US nuclear arsenal, make it ‘top of the pack’  http://www.smh.com.au/world/donald-trump-wants-to-expand-us-nuclear-arsenal-make-it-top-of-the-pack-20170223-guk6ms.htm, Steve Holland, 23 Feb  17 

Washington: President Donald Trump has said he wants to build up the US nuclear arsenal to ensure it is at the “top of the pack,” saying the United States has fallen behind in its atomic weapons capacity.

In a Reuters interview, Trump also said China could solve the national security challenge posed by North Korea “very easily if they want to,” ratcheting up pressure on Beijing to exert more influence to rein in Pyongyang’s increasingly bellicose actions.

n his first comments about the US nuclear arsenal since taking office on January 20, Mr Trump said the United States has “fallen behind on nuclear weapon capacity.”

“… We’re never going to fall behind any country even if it’s a friendly country, we’re never going to fall behind on nuclear power.

“It would be wonderful, a dream would be that no country would have nukes, but if countries are going to have nukes, we’re going to be at the top of the pack,” Mr Trump said.

The new strategic arms limitation treaty, known as New START, between the US and Russia requires that by February 5, 2018, both countries must limit their arsenals of strategic nuclear weapons to equal levels for 10 years.

The treaty permits both countries to have no more than 800 deployed and non-deployed land-based intercontinental and submarine-launched ballistic missile launchers and heavy bombers equipped to carry nuclear weapons, and contains equal limits on other nuclear weapons.

Analysts have questioned whether Mr Trump wants to abrogate New START or would begin deploying other warheads.

In the interview, Mr Trump called New START “a one-sided deal”.

“Just another bad deal that the country made, whether it’s START, whether it’s the Iran deal … We’re going to start making good deals,” he said.

The United States is in the midst of a $US1 trillion ($1.3 trillion), 30-year modernisation of its aging ballistic missile submarines, bombers and land-based missiles, a price tag that most experts say the country cannot afford.

Mr Trump also complained that the Russian deployment of a ground-based cruise missile is in violation of a 1987 treaty that bans land-based American and Russian intermediate-range missiles.

“To me it’s a big deal,” he said.

Asked if he would raise the issue with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Mr Trump said he would do so “if and when we meet.” He said he had no meetings scheduled as of yet with Mr Putin.

Speaking from behind his desk in the Oval Office, Mr Trump declared that “we’re very angry” at North Korea’s ballistic missile tests and said accelerating a missile defense system for US allies Japan and South Korea was among many options available.

“There’s talks of a lot more than that,” Mr Trump said, when asked about the missile defense system. “We’ll see what happens. But it’s a very dangerous situation, and China can end it very quickly in my opinion.”

February 24, 2017 Posted by | politics international, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

President Donald Trump’s control of U.S. nuclear forces is no longer a laughing matter.

TrumpThe Trump Nuclear Threat, It’s time to worry about Donald Trump’s control of U.S. nuclear forces. US News, By Louis René Beres | Feb. 21, 2017,

“The man who laughs,” warned the poet Bertolt Brecht, “has simply not yet heard the horrible news.” President Donald Trump’s control of U.S. nuclear forces is no longer a laughing matter.

Further, no longer does such a concerning conclusion have to be extrapolated from this president’s overall indifference to reason, facts and logic. Now, instead, it flows directly and unambiguously from his explicit press conference declaration last week that, regarding a Russian ship off the East coast, “the greatest thing I could do is shoot that ship that’s 30 miles offshore right out of the water.”  There was absolutely no defensible reason for this gratuitous declaration. These are not the musings of an ordinary or normal American president. Rather, extraneous to any other purpose than incessantly bizarre self-promotion, they represent revealingly clinical warnings of deep emotional disturbance, especially when examined together with other blatant and incontestable signs of malignant narcissism. Naturally, all decent and informed U.S. citizens will hesitate to concur offhandedly, or to in any way appear disrespectful to longstanding presidential authority, but there now also exists a much higher citizen obligation: This is the unavoidable responsibility to speak openly and candidly about a plainly emerging existential threat.

To be sure, as I know personally from almost 50 years of scholarship involving core matters of U.S. senior command authority (National Command Authority, or NCA), there are various institutional protections built into any presidential order to use nuclear weapons. Nonetheless, virtually all of these safeguards are prescriptively operational only at lower command levels, and not at the very highest level of decisional authority. In other words, succinctly, there are no permissible or codified legal grounds to disobey a presidential order to use nuclear weapons.  This means, inter alia, that if a U.S. president were sometime to issue an irrational nuclear order, the only way for the secretary of defense, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs and possibly several relevant others to obstruct this unwarranted order would be prima facie illegal. Of course, such informal safeguards might still manage to succeed, but we really ought to inquire, now, about implementing certain other more suitably predictable and formally structural impediments….

…..Thus far, we have witnessed a new president who inappropriately analogizes the conduct of world affairs to real estate haggling, and who confuses personal bluster and bravado for usable strength and power. More than anything else, we must now prepare to speak more openly about this confusion, and also about Trump’s correspondingly dangerous behaviors. American national security can never be properly served by a president who proudly announces his own decisional infallibility (“I alone can fix it”), and who identifies growing international chaos as a distinctly positive negotiation opportunity.http://www.usnews.com/opinion/world-report/articles/2017-02-21/the-existential-threat-of-donald-trump-and-nuclear-weapons

February 22, 2017 Posted by | politics, psychology and culture, USA, weapons and war | 1 Comment

On both sides o f USA-Canada border, opposition grows to transport of nuclear wastes

radiation-truckOpposition growing to cross-border nuclear shipments, http://news.wbfo.org/post/opposition-growing-cross-border-nuclear-shipments, Opposition is brewing on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border about plans to move dozens of shipments of nuclear waste from a plant in Chalk River, Ontario, to a plant in South Carolina.

Buffalo Congressman Brian Higgins has been very vocal in his opposition. He is being joined by opposition in Canada.   Dean Allison is the member of Parliament for Niagara West, which includes the QEW, a potential route for some shipments. The Conservative Allison says the shipments pose real problems for first responders because they are not being told anything about the shipments or how to prepare for the highly radioactive material.

“I’ve understood from talking to some of the people with the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility that it’s almost 17,000 times more toxic and more radioactive than when it first started and when it was first shipped, originally,” Allison says. “So our first responders need to have some kind of idea what it is because, more than likely, they will be the ones on the road, on the scene should anything happen.”

The material started in the United States and has been made far more radioactive in Canada because of research and developing nuclear materials for medical use. Higgins has long been demanding information about the shipments and their routes.

Beamsville resident Allison says he is trying to set up a meeting in his district to bring together residents, first responders and shipments officials to talk about what is going on.

“We’re going to try to get some of the key players down,” Allison says. “I don’t anticipate they’re going to give us more information but we’re going to certainly press and see if we can get anything that may be helpful to our first responders.”

February 22, 2017 Posted by | Canada, safety, USA | Leave a comment

Larry Criscione, Nuclear Regulatory Crusader

safety-symbol-SmFlag-USANuclear Regulatory Crusader   http://allthingsnuclear.org/dlochbaum/nuclear-regulatory-crusader   DAVE LOCHBAUM, DIRECTOR, NUCLEAR SAFETY PROJECT | JANUARY 23, 2017, To many, the acronym NRC stands for Nuclear Regulatory Commission. At times, NRC has been said to stand for Nobody Really Cares, Nuclear Rubberstamp Committee, and Nielsen Ratings Commission.

In regard to Larry Criscione, it may stand for Nuclear Regulatory Crusader.Larry is an engineer working for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Last year, Larry received the Joe A. Callaway Award for Civic Courage from The Safeek Nader Trust. Joe Callaway established the award in 1990 to recognize individuals who, with integrity and at some personal risk, take a public stance to advance truth and justice.

In March 2011, the three operating reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan melted down after a tsunami generated by a large earthquake flooded the site and disabled primary and backup power supplies to emergency equipment. In public, the NRC denied that reactors operating in the U.S. were vulnerable to such hazards.

In private, the NRC knew otherwise.

Flooding Risk at Oconee

In June 2010—nine months before Fukushima—the NRC issued a Confirmatory Action Letter to the owner of the Oconee nuclear plant in South Carolina requiring more than a dozen measures be taken. The measures were intended to lessen the chances that the Jocassee Dam fails and to increase the chances that the three operating reactors at Oconee survive should the dam fail anyway.

An evaluation showed that if the dam—located about 21 miles upriver from Oconee—failed, the site would be inundated with about 12.5 to 16.8 feet of flood water. The site was protected by a flood wall about seven feet tall, so it mattered little whether the actual depth was 12.5, 13, 14, 15, or 16.8 feet.

The NRC estimated that if the dam failed and flooded the site, there was a 100 percent chance that all three reactors would meltdown.

But the NRC issued the Confirmatory Action Letter secretly and did not tell the public about the hazard it required Oconee’s owner to lessen. After Fukushima tragically demonstrated the hazard posed by flooding, the NRC continued to cover-up measures taken and planned to lessen the flooding vulnerability at Oconee.

Larry and the OIG

So, Larry sent a 19-page letter dated September 18, 2002, to the NRC Chairman chronicling this history and asking four things:

  1. The NRC’s Office of General Counsel (OGC) should review the documents related to flooding at Oconee and the associated federal regulations to determine whether the documents could be made publicly available.
  1. The NRC’s Office of Nuclear Security and Incident Response (NSIR) should review the information on flooding hazards redacted from documents released to the public in response to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to determine whether additional information could be made publicly available.
  1. Based on the OGC and NSIR reviews, ensure that all flooding hazard documents that can be made publicly available are publicly available.
  1. The NRC’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) should investigate whether the agency has been inappropriately marking documents as containing “Security-Related Information.”

Exercising his rights under the Lloyd-La Follette Act of 1912, Larry copied U.S. Congressional staff members on the email transmitting his letter to the NRC Chairman.

Larry’s letter was obtained by a reporter and featured in a Huffington Post article dated October 19, 2012.

As Larry had requested, the NRC’s OIG investigated handling of documents about flooding hazards. But rather than investigate whether NRC had improperly withheld information as he contended, OIG investigated whether Larry had improperly released information. As detailed in our 2015 report on the NRC and nuclear power safety, OIG made Larry an offer—he could voluntarily resign from the NRC or they would turn over his case to the Department of Justice (DOJ) for prosecution.

Larry did not resign.

OIG did refer the case to DOJ.

DOJ did not prosecute.

Through FOIA, UCS obtained DOJ’s response to NRC declining to prosecute Criscione. Under the Primary Reasons for Declination section, DOJ checked one box—No Federal Offense Committed.

Fortunately for Larry, not breaking the law is not yet against the law.

Thanks to Larry’s selfless efforts, the flooding hazards at Oconee have been made public. Larry had been right about the NRC inappropriately withholding information from the public. When lawyers and investigators were all through, the information he sought to have publicly released was publicly released. The NRC lacked legal grounds to continue hiding it.

More importantly, NRC’s mangers may think twice—or at least once—before withholding dam safety information in the future.

Unfortunately for Larry, he experienced unnecessary stress and expense defending himself against baseless OIG investigations. The Callaway Award does not fully offset those unfortunate consequences. But it helps show Larry and others who have our backs that not everyone wants to twist a dagger in their backs.

video of the award presentation and Larry’s acceptance speech has been posted to YouTube.

Bottom Line

Doing the right thing when it’s relatively easy fails to accurately measure courage.

Larry Criscione did the right thing when it was a very hard thing to do. He could have remained silent like so many of his co-workers opted to do. He faced a strenuous courage test and aced it.

February 22, 2017 Posted by | PERSONAL STORIES, safety, USA | Leave a comment

Florida Senate bill to promote solar energy, and repeal nuclear fees

text politicsFlag-USAPro-consumer Florida energy bills would expand solar, repeal nuclear fees http://protectingyourpocket.blog.mypalmbeachpost.com/2017/02/21/pro-consumer-florida-energy-bills-would-expand-solar-repeal-nuclear-fees/

February 22, 2017 Posted by | Legal, politics, USA | Leave a comment

Pacific Northwest ratepayers could save hundreds of millions of dollars by shutting down NW nuclear-power plan

Study: Savings possible by shutting down NW nuclear-power plant Seattle Times  February 21, 2017 The Associated Press  PORTLAND (AP) — A new study says Pacific Northwest ratepayers could save hundreds of millions of dollars if the Bonneville Power Administration and Energy Northwest close the region’s only commercial nuclear power plant and replace its output with renewable energy.

The Oregonian/OregonLive reports (http://bit.ly/2lJ7Z7q) that the Portland-based McCullough Research consulting firm estimated savings from $261.2 million to $530.7 million over 10 years due to historically low renewable energy prices.

 The report was commissioned by the anti-nuclear group Physicians for Social Responsibility and is the latest salvo against the aging plant….http://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/study-savings-possible-by-shutting-down-nuclear-power-plant/

February 22, 2017 Posted by | business and costs, USA | Leave a comment

Growing concern over Trump’s mental condition

Their letter prompted another, from Dr Allen Frances, professor emeritus of psychiatry and behavioural sciences at Duke University Medical College, who happens to be the expert psychiatrist who defined narcissistic personality disorder.

He rebuked the authors, arguing that to claim that Trump is mentally ill is an insult to those who truly are. But he also had this to say – Trump may be a “world-class narcissist”.

But the debate has taken off.  Another psychologist weighed in last month, telling US News and World Report that Trump displays a malignant narcissism, characterised by grandiosity, sadism and anti-social behaviour.

trump-how-badAmericans take an anxious journey to the centre of Donald Trump’s mind, The Age,Paul McGeough, 20 Feb 17  Washington: Flip references by reporters – mine included – to Donald Trump not taking his meds have been criticised as offensive to the mentally ill. But Trump’s unhinged behaviour, as in his erratic press conference on Thursday, ensures that the President’s mental state is the stuff of debate.

Rick Wilson, a Republican Party strategist and Trump critic, saw the Thursday press conference as a turning point – instead of a divide between left and right, the split he sees in America is between those who saw the spectacle as a “success” and those who are “terrified” for the future of the country.

“[His press conference] could have been evidence in a mental competency hearing,” he told The Washington Post. “It was really pretty disturbing and terrifying to watch this guy and think: ‘What happens when the stakes are higher?’”

On Saturday, The New York Times‘ conservative columnist David Brooks wrote in similar language about the press conference: “President Trump’s mental state is like a train that long ago left freewheeling and iconoclastic, has raced through indulgent, chaotic and unnerving, and is now careening past unhinged, unmoored and unglued.”

It’s not just the commentariat in the “fake press”, on which Trump has upped the ante, denouncing them as “the enemy of the American people”. Mental health professionals are weighing in.

In a letter to the editor of The New York Times last week, 35 psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers acknowledged they were in breach of professional rules against evaluating public figures, but to remain silent, they wrote, denied journalists and members of Congress the value of their expertise at this critical time.

Here’s their diagnosis: “Mr. Trump’s speech and actions demonstrate an inability to tolerate views different from his own, leading to rage reactions. His words and behaviour suggest a profound inability to empathise. Individuals with these traits distort reality to suit their psychological state, attacking facts and those who convey them (journalists, scientists).

“In a powerful leader, these attacks are likely to increase, as his personal myth of greatness appears to be confirmed. We believe that the grave emotional instability indicated by Mr Trump’s speech and actions makes him incapable of serving safely as president.”

Their letter prompted another, from Dr Allen Frances, professor emeritus of psychiatry and behavioural sciences at Duke University Medical College, who happens to be the expert psychiatrist who defined narcissistic personality disorder.

He rebuked the authors, arguing that to claim that Trump is mentally ill is an insult to those who truly are. But he also had this to say – Trump may be a “world-class narcissist”.

But the debate has taken off.  Another psychologist weighed in last month, telling US News and World Report that Trump displays a malignant narcissism, characterised by grandiosity, sadism and anti-social behaviour.

Trump biographer Michael D’Antonio observes: “He lives inside his head, where he runs the same continuous loop of conflict with people he turns into enemies for the purposes of his psychodrama.”

The press conference was Trump unleashed. As though he couldn’t help himself, he seized the lectern at the end of a first chaotic month that had prompted this assessment from General Tony Thomas, head of the military’s Special Operations Command: “Our government continues to be in unbelievable turmoil. I hope they sort it out soon, because we’re a nation at war.”

In casting aside the usual filters and talking heads such as Sean Spicer and Kellyanne Conway, Trump signalled an attempted reset. After weeks of leaks, he is determined to rewrite the agenda – he was doing it again at a Boeing factory in South Carolina on Friday and at a campaign-style rally in Florida on Saturday.

Instead of being confronted by pesky, fake journalists, Trump was hungry for the adoring fans who turned out to both events, described by presidential historian Timothy Naftali as “an attempt to inject some adrenaline into his administration and shake a perception of loserdom“.

At the Florida bash, Trump basked in the glow of a 9000-strong crowd, forgetting his plummeting polls as he re-ran a string of well-worn campaign promises and whacked the media again before reaching his crescendo.

After serial exaggerations and misrepresentations of all that his administration has achieved, or not, he declared: “It’s a new day in America – this will be change for the ages, change like never before.”

But back in the real world, White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was probably earning a presidential rebuke by acknowledging Trump’s frustration with media reporting, as she explained the Florida gig was likely to be the first to put Trump out front more often.

“There’s definitely frustration that the media makes up stories and reports things that aren’t true,” she told the Post. The Florida rally, she said, was an attempt “for the President to speak directly to the American people and not have his message filtered through a biased media.”………

As he basked in the limelight at Boeing on Friday, Associated Press dropped an exclusive – an internal administration document outlining a plan for the National Guard to be drafted to round up undocumented migrants. Despite its conformity with all that Trump said in the election campaign, the White House claimed it had been discarded.

Also on Friday, Trump hit a new low in opinion polls – confirming his standing as the least popular new president in American history, Gallup found that just 38 per cent of Americans approve his performance, against 56 per cent who disapprove.

Amidst a constant sense of crisis, two emerging patterns work against Trump – the Republican establishment figures who might save his administration are increasingly reluctant to work for him and he is being hemmed in by the checks and balances of the American democratic process.

Also working against him is the toxic brew he has concocted in the White House – factions divided by ideology and new hires defeated by their youth and inexperience.

After the debacle of appointing a national security adviser who proved incapable of surviving in the job for a month, Trump is desperately seeking for a replacement…….

Trump and those around him are paranoid about loyalty. In the last week, the State Department sacked six senior career staffers who were deemed suspect. And faction wars continue with gusto…….. http://www.theage.com.au/world/americans-take-an-anxious-journey-to-the-centre-of-donald-trumps-mind-20170219-gugc6j.html

February 20, 2017 Posted by | politics, USA | Leave a comment

Toshiba pulls out: it’s the end for Texas nuclear project

nuclear-dominoesFlag-USAToshiba pulling plug on US nuclear reactor plan. Write-downs, delays spell end to Texas project. Nikkei Asina Review,  February 20, 2017 TOKYO –– Toshiba appears set to withdraw from a plan to build two nuclear reactors at a U.S. power plant amid sizable write-downs on American nuclear operations and lengthy construction delays.

The Japanese manufacturer had been contracted to build the third and fourth reactors for U.S. utility NRG Energy’s South Texas Project, taking Toshiba’s advanced boiling water reactors abroad for the first time. Toshiba looks to pull out of the project, and will decide later what to do with its stake in the joint venture that serves as the developer.

  The reactors were to debut as early as 2016. But delays on the project have brought heavy costs for Toshiba, including write-downs totaling 72 billion yen ($638 million at current rates) logged in fiscal 2013 and fiscal 2014. Ground has not been broken on the units, while work such as civil engineering lies outside Toshiba’s purview. Further losses are unlikely, according to a source involved with the project……http://asia.nikkei.com/Business/Companies/Toshiba-pulling-plug-on-US-nuclear-reactor-plan

February 20, 2017 Posted by | business and costs, USA | 1 Comment

Court battle over pro nuclear law – ‘Future Energy Jobs’

legal actionFlag-USANuclear power struggle winds up in court, Herald and Review, TONY REID H&R Staff Writer, 19 Feb 17    CLINTON – Smoldering resentment over the new law that saved Clinton Power Station – and its 700 jobs – has now flared into a federal lawsuit.

Filed on Valentine’s Day, the suit expresses no love for the Future Energy Jobs law and asked a federal judge to block the legislation, which is due to take effect in June.

The law guarantees the survival of the Clinton nuclear power station and another nuclear plant in Quad-Cities for 10 years by offering taxpayer subsidies worth up to $235 million a year to top up the price paid for the stations’ electricity.

 Exelon Corp., the owner of both stations, said they were both losing money and faced closure without cash help. It also claimed the subsidies would help even the playing field with other nongreenhouse gas producing energy sources like wind power, which have enjoyed substantial tax breaks.

The lawsuit was filed by several rival power producers, including Dynegy Inc., which once owned the former Illinois Power Co. in Decatur and which runs natural gas and coal-fueled power stations, and a trade group, the Electric Power Supply Association.

They allege the new law is fundamentally unfair and skews the wholesale power marketplace at the expense of power customers because rivals without the advantage of subsidies won’t be able to compete, causing prices to, eventually, rise.

The lawsuit also claims Illinois lawmakers acted unlawfully and unconstitutionally by interfering in a regional wholesale power market that is under the ultimate control of a federal agency, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC.

Running to some 40 pages, the lawsuit spells out the price advantage the two Exelon nuclear stations will enjoy for their power, priced in blocks called megawatt hours, or MWhs. Current prices now, set at regional power auctions, run at $18 and $25 per Mwh for Quad-Cities and Clinton respectively, but will be topped up by taxpayer payments worth another $16.50 per Mwh under the new law…….

And it isn’t just manufacturers that are objecting. The Illinois Public Interest Research Group, or PIRG, a consumer organization that often finds itself opposing big companies, is standing with them in opposition to the Future Energy Jobs legislation.

While the organization likes some of the provisions encouraging renewable energy, it has a big problem with effectively bailing out two nuclear power plants.

“We fundamentally don’t agree with it, because Illinois ratepayers have already paid for these nuclear plants multiple times over,” Illinois PIRG director Abe Scarr said.

“Every dollar that we spend on propping up these old nuclear plants is an opportunity lost, and it’s a dollar we’re not spending on the transition to truly clean renewable energy.

“Putting our thumb on the scale for nuclear power depresses the price for the wholesale power market and makes it harder for renewables and other power providers to compete in that market.” http://herald-review.com/business/energy/nuclear-power-struggle-winds-up-in-court/article_389fc122-970a-5910-b39a-b4bf15f8a207.html

February 20, 2017 Posted by | Legal, USA | Leave a comment

America’s nuclear weapons made workers very ill

body-radThe perils of Pantex: Hundreds of workers sickened at Texas nuclear weapons plant http://www.star-telegram.com/news/state/texas/article49500030.html

Panhandle nuclear weapons assembly plant a hazardous workplace

Workers used to joke that they made soap at the facility

More than 1,300 workers and families have been awarded compensation since 2000

Bob Ruzich, a 31-year worker at the nuclear assembly plant here, rarely got sick. He had to cash out his sick hours every year because he was so healthy.

But in a matter of months, the Pantex Plant worker became so fragile that he had to be rushed by helicopter to the hospital. Ruzich’s 18-year-old son watched from the front yard of their Panhandle home as his father’s motionless body was lifted into the air, said his wife, Barbara Ruzich.

“You do what you have to do,” Barbara Ruzich said. “You don’t sit back and cry.”

Years ago, it was popular for plant workers to tell spouses and other loved ones that they made soap at the nuclear weapons assembly facility on a 16,000-acre parcel. But Pantex now conjures up a different image, as hundreds have suddenly fallen ill or died at the plant, a vital component in the nation’s nuclear weapons program since the 1950s.

The federal government has made concessions to a growing number of workers, like Ruzich, whose Pantex jobs made them sick. Many hundreds have been provided with medical coverage and lump sum payments, under the energy employees’ compensation program, according to records provided to the Star-Telegram by the Labor Department.

Bob Ruzich, now 64, said he never thought the chemicals in the maintenance warehouse and the toxins on the production line would give him throat and tongue cancer.

“I didn’t think much about it, but I do now believe that’s what caused my cancer,’’ said Ruzich, who worked dismantling warheads and in the maintenance department since 1982.

Several years ago, less than 1 in 5 claims were decided in favor of workers and their families, according to records provided to the Star-Telegram. Now, more than half are typically handed compensation and medical care because of a prevalence of scientific evidence that their illness was caused by an exposure to plant hazards, records say.

All told, $171 million in compensation and medical bills has been disbursed to more than 1,300 workers and families since the energy employees’ compensation program began in 2000, the program’s numbers say.

“The number of claimaints or sick workers was beyond the expectations of those who originally created the program,” said Sarah Ray, a former Pantex critical safety systems training specialist, who has filed thousands of claims on behalf of Pantex workers and their families since the program started.

“Overall, there just has not been a real grasp of the true situations faced by nuclear weapons workers,” said Ray, who believes that thousands more aren’t aware that they are sick because they have not developed symptoms. “They are different than workers who insert a bolt in a car door.”

Until they hear about the deteriorating health of co-workers and friends, most people seldom realize the harm that has been done, said Clarence Rashada, an instrument technician at the plant for 21 years.

And then it’s too late, Rashada said.

“People are just coming to grips with this — that the plant made them sick — and they are angry,” he said. “The problem that you have was, for example, the secrecy that we had for so many years.”

 ‘Heartbreaking’

If anyone understands the devastation of Pantex workers and their families, it’s David Pompa, now a Pantex safety and industrial hygiene officer who worked as a production line technician years ago.

Since 2000, Pompa has documented each sick case in a running log that includes more than several hundred employees. Over the years, Pompa has gone with the sick to see doctors, to meet with supervisors and staff members and to special hearings with government claims examiners, employees said.

“These are my friends,’’ Pompa said. “I’ve always been concerned with the health of the workers.”

In the last 1  1/2 years, five current or former employees have died suddenly, Pompa said. When one worker, in his early 60s, was diagnosed with lung cancer early this year, his organs were covered in granulomas, a tissue inflammation that occurs when the body is trying to fight off infection.

“Another worker called me in November that she had some health issues and, in March, she’s gone,” Pompa said. “… Another worker went from the doctor’s office to the hospital to hospice. It was that quick.”

The sick include physical education trainers, auditors, instrument technicians and firefighters, Pompa said. They are production technicians, laboratory workers and janitors. They are security guards and warehouse clerks, Pompa said.

“What I hear is heartbreaking,” Pompa said. “It’s plantwide.”

Ray, the former Pantex training specialist, said she now hears of more families burying their dead.

“Workers at Pantex are walking time bombs,’’ Ray said. “They have this false bravado — especially the guys. Then all of a sudden, they are really, really sick and they learn they are deathly ill from some lung problem. Then they’ve got something else and they die, just because they’re not paying attention to the minor signs.”

Ray’s own husband, a former Pantex engineer, died within three months of a lung cancer diagnosis. He was 54, Ray said.

“He went from being a very active, very healthy man and then he was gone,” Ray said.

Lisa Trevino, a 22-year Pantex employee, now works with Pompa in the safety and industrial hygiene department, which issues to workers safety-protective gear, such as safety glasses, shoes, respirators, radiation dosimeters and other air sampling devices.

“I hear all the people calling David telling him that they are sick, that they have cancer, the respiratory problems, the beryllium,” Trevino said. “It makes me sick just hearing about it.”

Family frustrations

The government had agreed to compensate Eddie Gray, a security guard at the Pantex Plant, for indirectly causing the condition that ultimately led to his death.

But on the July 2014 morning that her 60-year-old husband died, Linda Gray was told that his promised federal benefits would stop.

“I cannot fault Eddie for working there,” Linda Gray said. “It provided for us a very good living, but I hate that the industry was ever established.”

Rachel P. Leiton, director of the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program under the Labor Department, says the agency over the years has implemented shortcuts to ease access to the program for families.

‘We try to the best we can to compensate them based on our statutory authority that we’re given. … It’s a nonadversarial system; the money is there to provide benefits to these employees. … We do whatever we can to try to assist them,” Leiton said.

But families like the Grays often become frustrated when trying to tap claims. Many are elderly and have a work-related impairment, such as heart disease or diabetes. Many feel that the government makes the process more difficult for them so as to deter claims.

“Have you ever used any kind of health insurance? You get a whole sense from the insurance companies that they don’t want to pay out the money in the hopes you go away. Here, it is in spades,” said Dr. Arthur Frank, professor of environmental and occupational health in the public health department at Drexel University in Philadelphia.

“The workers are given an extraordinarily hard time,” said Frank, who was at Pantex in the early 2000s to help identify workers who had been exposed to toxins.

Bob Ruzich waited more than three years for a claim to be decided in his favor and was initially denied while in the heat of battle with cancer. Linda Gray submitted her husband’s death certificate last October to try to get a final payment of benefits. It was included in a 15-page fax.

“It will be January before I can get to you,” she was told by the new case examiner assigned to her claim.

The last compensation check arrived more than a year after Eddie Gray’s death.

‘We’re going to help’

When the program began 15 years ago, Ray said, the Labor Department made promises: “We’re going to help you. It’s going to be easy.”

Ray, who has filed thousands of claims on behalf of Pantex workers and their families, said it can take years for claimants to receive money or get healthcare assistance. Ray has a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a master’s in instructional technology.

She’s seen widespread examples of payouts that occur only after a worker dies. She handled the claim of one widow who just this year received a payout on a claim that her husband filed in 2005. The husband died of cancer in 2011.

“Many claimants have commented that they think the claims are drug out so that the claimants die,” Ray said. “It truly is less costly to pay a survivor than it is to pay compensation and provide long-term healthcare for a living worker.”

Half of all claims are settled on behalf of survivors, including workers’ spouses, children, parents, grandchildren and grandparents, Leiton indicated.

Leiton’s office has made some changes in response to similar complaints of delays.

For example, once it secures a statement from a doctor, the Labor Department can grant waivers so that fiscal officers can retrieve bank information and secure lump sum checks into the checking accounts of terminal workers “within a matter of days,” Leiton said.

“I personally believe that the program is very important,” Leiton said.

Dr. Laurence J. Fuortes, professor of occupational and environmental health at the College of Public Health at the University of Iowa, said the program has done a lot of good.

“This is not the work of the devil,” said Fuortes, who wrote a health petition that led to more than doubling the number of application claims at Pantex. “These are saints in government who tried to enact a program to address historic wrongs.”

‘They killed him’

It was a typical afternoon drive home for Charlie Somerville, a production line technician at the Pantex Plant.

But as he drove, he began to feel an itching sensation that rose through his body. By the time he got home, he couldn’t bear the discomfort. He tore off his shirt to expose large welts on his back.

“I got it checked out and the doctor told me it was probably hives,” Somerville said.

In 2002, Somerville, now 66, was found to have developed an allergic response to beryllium, a cancer-causing metal used in the production of nuclear warheads. He has since developed chronic beryllium disease, a potentially fatal respiratory disease that can also affect the liver, kidneys, heart and nervous system.

In the early years of the energy employees’ compensation program, more than a dozen workers, like Somerville, tested positive for beryllium sensitization and later developed the full-blown disease and radiogenic cancers, Pompa said.

Eddie Gray, Linda Gray’s husband who was a security guard at Pantex, had chronic beryllium disease before he developed three other cancers, she said.

And Ray suspects that her husband, the former Pantex engineer who died of lung cancer, had a beryllium sensitivity. He died March 6, 1998.

“They killed him, in my estimation,” Ray said.

Workers at Pantex are required to undergo annual physicals in which they submit blood samples sent for analysis to National Jewish Health, a Denver-based medical research facility that specializes in respiratory and allergic disorders.

A local doctor won’t be able to diagnose the condition, said Pete Lopez, a 43-year plant employee who has chronic beryllium disease.

“It’s something doctors don’t deal with daily,” Lopez said. “You say beryllium and they’re like what’s beryllium and how did you get involved with beryllium.”

To treat his condition, Lopez must take heavy steroids and codeine for a cough that would be incessant if left untreated, he said. He has had kidney failure.

“You can’t live dying,” Lopez said. “You got to die living.”

Somerville said he has not been to a doctor since he retired more than five years ago. He has trouble breathing, and he wheezes and has an intermittent cough. He knows he needs immediate medical attention, but he’s not eager to do battle with a government claims examiner to get the proper medical care.

“I don’t understand why you have to do that so often when all you should have to do is make one phone call, but anyway that’s just the way it is,” Somerville said.

“I just got tired of messing with it. But I’m going to have to go because it’s been so long.”

Yamil Berard: 817-390-7705@yberard

February 20, 2017 Posted by | health, PERSONAL STORIES, USA | Leave a comment

USA confirms use of depleted uranium i n Syria, despite its previous promises

depleted-uraniumSamuel Oakford:  US promised it wouldn’t use Depleted Uranium in Syria. But then it did. February 14, 2017. Officials have confirmed that the US military – despite vowing not to use controversial Depleted Uranium (DU) weapons on the battlefield in Iraq and Syria – fired thousands of rounds of such munitions during two high-profile raids on oil trucks in Islamic State-controlled Syria in late 2015. The air assaults mark the first confirmed use of this armament since the 2003 Iraq invasion, when hundreds of thousands of rounds were fired, leading to outrage among local communities which alleged that toxic remnants caused both cancer and birth defects.https://airwars.org/news/depleteduranium1/

ICBUW: United States confirms that it has fired depleted uranium in Syria 21 October 2016. US admits that it fired DU on two occasions in November 2015, contrary to earlier claims; military justification for use unclear after target analysis; ICBUW and PAX call for full disclosure to facilitate harm reduction measures; Russia takes advantage of news to distract from its own conduct in the conflict.   http://www.bandepleteduranium.org/en/united-states-confirms-fired-du-syria

February 20, 2017 Posted by | depleted uranium, Syria, USA | Leave a comment

Top science adviser warns on the change in culture in the Trump era

science-denialObama’s top science adviser’s guide to navigating the Trump era John Holdren: “We can be in for a major shift in the culture around science.” Vox News,  Feb 18, 2017 BOSTON — If there’s a subtext to this year’s meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the largest gathering of scientists of the year, it’s anxiety for the future.

John Holdren, the top science adviser to President Barack Obama who spoke Friday at the conference, summed it up like this:

“I’m worried — based on early indications — that we can be in for a major shift in the culture around science and technology and its eminence in government. We appear to have a president now that resists facts that do not comport to his preferences. And that bodes ill on the Obama Administration’s emphases on scientific integrity, transparency, and public access.”

Trump has yet to select people for several top science jobs in the administration — such as NASA administrator, director of the CDC, and director of the NIH.

 But with the appointment of Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency, he’s signaled that his administration will be making big changes to environmental regulation. One of the first bills he signed as president killed an Obama era rule that made it harder for coal companies to dump waste in streams.

One of the names floated for Trump’s science adviser is Will Happer, a former Princeton physics professor who recently told ProPublica the science on global warming was “very, very shaky.”……

Scientists are becoming more politically engaged in the Trump era, and it shows here at AAAS. Later in the day, Harvard science historian Naomi Oreskes got a standing ovation after speaking on how scientists can — and should — be “sentinels” for the public, and shouldn’t fear a loss of credibility for getting more politically engaged……http://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2017/2/18/14653234/holdren-aaas-science-trump

February 20, 2017 Posted by | politics, USA | Leave a comment

SOMETIMES there’s A BIT of good news at Hanford nuclear facility

Fortunately, there is a bit of good news in his heap of radioactivity. Last November, a settlement was reached between the US Department of Justice, Bechtel Corp. and AECOM (formerly URS) for a whopping $125 million. The civil lawsuit alleged taxpayer funds were mismanaged and that both companies performed shoddy work. The lawsuit also claimed that government funds were illegally used to lobby members of Congress. Brought on by whistleblowers Gary Brunson, Donna Busche, and Walter Tamosaitis (Busche and Tamosaitis’s sagas were highlighted in two Investigative Fund reports I authored for Seattle Weekly in 2011 and 2012), the settlement was one of the largest in DoE history.

No doubt it was a substantial victory for whistleblowers and government accountability, despite the fact that the defendants did not admit guilt. Now, Washington State legislators are pushing HB 1723, a bill that would protect and treat Hanford workers for certain health problems that are a result of the work they’ve done at the facility, such as respiratory problems, heart issues, certain cancers like bone, breast, lung and thyroid, as well as neurological issues.

Hanford-waste-tanksGood News and Bad News at Hanford, America’s Most Polluted Site http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/02/09/good-news-and-bad-news-at-hanford-americas-most-polluted-site/FEBRUARY 9, 2017“The people running Hanford need to have a moral compass that directs them in the right way, as human beings, to do the right thing to protect these people,” retired Hanford employee Mike Geffre, who worked at Hanford for 26 years, told KING 5. “They’re trying to save money and save face. They’re standing behind their old position that there’s no problem. That’s absurd. They need to accept the fact that they made mistakes and get over it.”

text-evacuation-sign-hanford

Toxic odors at an old nuclear depot? This would be startling news anywhere else. But this is Hanford after all, where taxpayer money freely flows to contractors despite the snail-paced half-life of their work. Twenty years and $19 billion later, Hanford is still a nightmare — likely the most toxic site in the Western Hemisphere. Not one ounce of nuclear waste has ever been treated, and there are no indications Hanford will be nuke free anytime soon. To date, at least 1 million gallons of radioactive waste has leaked and is making its way to the Columbia River. It’s an environmental disaster of epic proportions — a disaster created by our government’s atomic obsession during the Cold War era.

No doubt, Hanford is a wreck in search of a remedy, yet the costs covered by American taxpayers appears to be growing exponentially. At the tail end of 2016, the estimated cost of turning the radioactive gunk into glass rods bumped up a cool $4.5 billion (adding to the ultimate price tag for the remaining Hanford cleanup, which had already reached a whopping $107.7 billion). These sorts of increases are so common they hardly make news anymore.

Donald Trump’s pick for Department of Energy Secretary, Rick Perry, who infamously stated he’d like to do away with the DoE altogether, now admits that Hanford’s one of the most dangerous facilities in the nation. But his commitment to cleaning up the fiscal and nuclear boondoggle remains to be seen. The plant that is to turn the waste into glass rods is set to open in 2023, but it’s a safe bet that won’t be happening. It’s already two decades behind schedule.

Meanwhile, workers on the front lines of the cleanup are often put in situations that are poorly monitored and exceedingly unsafe. Over the past three years KING 5 News in Seattle has tracked dozens of employees who were exposed to chemical vapors at Hanford and found their illnesses to include “toxic encephalopathy (dementia), reactive airway disease, COPD, and painful nerve damage.”

“The people running Hanford need to have a moral compass that directs them in the right way, as human beings, to do the right thing to protect these people,” retired Hanford employee Mike Geffre, who worked at Hanford for 26 years, told KING 5. “They’re trying to save money and save face. They’re standing behind their old position that there’s no problem. That’s absurd. They need to accept the fact that they made mistakes and get over it.”

Fortunately, there is a bit of good news in his heap of radioactivity. Last November, a settlement was reached between the US Department of Justice, Bechtel Corp. and AECOM (formerly URS) for a whopping $125 million. The civil lawsuit alleged taxpayer funds were mismanaged and that both companies performed shoddy work. The lawsuit also claimed that government funds were illegally used to lobby members of Congress. Brought on by whistleblowers Gary Brunson, Donna Busche, and Walter Tamosaitis (Busche and Tamosaitis’s sagas were highlighted in two Investigative Fund reports I authored for Seattle Weekly in 2011 and 2012), the settlement was one of the largest in DoE history.

No doubt it was a substantial victory for whistleblowers and government accountability, despite the fact that the defendants did not admit guilt. Now, Washington State legislators are pushing HB 1723, a bill that would protect and treat Hanford workers for certain health problems that are a result of the work they’ve done at the facility, such as respiratory problems, heart issues, certain cancers like bone, breast, lung and thyroid, as well as neurological issues.

“Currently, many Hanford workers are not receiving necessary medical care because they are put in the impossible situation of being unable to specify the chemicals to which they have been exposed, and in what concentrations, making it difficult for their doctors to connect their disease with their exposures,” Randy Walli, Business Manager for the pipefitters union, Local 598, told King 5.

Compensation for whistleblowers and employees whose health is impacted by their work are steps in the right direction. But Hanford’s contractors and the DoE that oversees them still have much to do to make the increasingly expensive nuclear cleanup at Hanford, safe, effective and transparent.

This piece first appeared at The Investigate Fund.

February 10, 2017 Posted by | Legal, USA, wastes | Leave a comment