The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

Trump and retinue in Saudi Arabia – the main event $110 billion arms package

Saudis welcome Trump with gold medal, receive arms package, By JULIE PACE and JONATHAN LEMIRE, RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP), 21 May 17  — President Donald Trump basked in Saudi Arabia’s lavish royal welcome Saturday as he left behind, at least temporarily, the snowballing controversies dogging him in Washington. Trump rewarded his hosts with a $110 billion arms package aimed at bolstering Saudi security and a slew of business agreements.

“That was a tremendous day, tremendous investments in the United States,” Trump said during a meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef……..

Trump made no substantial remarks on his first day abroad and spent most of his time shuttling between opulent palace ballrooms with the king. The two were overheard discussing natural resources and arms, and Salman bemoaned the destruction caused by Syria’s civil war.

The most tangible agreement between the two leaders was the $110 billion sale of military equipment to Saudi Arabia that is effective immediately and could expand up to $350 billion over 10 years. The deal includes tanks, combat ships, missile defense systems, radar and communications, and cybersecurity technology. The State Department said the agreement could support “tens of thousands of new jobs in the United States.”

Trump was joined on the trip by the CEOs of several major U.S. companies, which announced their own agreements with the Saudis. Among them was a $15 billion arrangement with GE focused on power, oil and gas, and health care.

The president was trailed on the trip by a large number of advisers, including Tillerson, chief of staff Reince Priebus and chief strategist Steve Bannon. Trump’s son-in law, Jared Kushner, and daughter Ivanka, both senior advisers, were also part of the official delegation………

May 22, 2017 Posted by | politics international, Saudi Arabia, USA | Leave a comment

Hanford nuclear waste site – a possible leak

Possible leak found at Washington nuclear site, NewsFix, MAY 21, 2017, BY CNN WIRE, WASHINGTON — Authorities at Washington state’s Hanford nuclear waste site are investigating a possible leak after discovering radioactive material on a worker’s clothing. The discovery follows an incident two weeks earlier in which a site tunnel collapsed, sparking fears of radiation exposure.

Washington River Protection Solutions, a contractor working at the site, on Thursday detected high readings of radiation on a robotic device known as a crawler that workers were pulling out of a nuclear waste tank. Contamination was also discovered on the clothing of one of the workers.

“Established decontamination procedures were followed, which involves removing the contaminated clothing. Further surveying the worker showed no contamination remained. No other workers were affected, and all members of the crew were cleared for normal duty,” said WRPS spokesman Peter Bengtson.

The Double-Shell Tank AZ-101 contains 800,000 gallons of nuclear waste, according to the Washington Department of Ecology, which oversees the Hanford site. The nuclear plant is located in the south-central part of Washington state, about 45 miles from Yakima.

Using leak-detection instruments, WRPS said it did not find liquid escaping the tank. However, workers are preparing a plan to conduct a visual inspection by video.

State officials are also urging the US Department of Energy to investigate the incident and determine the safety of the site…….

May 22, 2017 Posted by | incidents, USA | Leave a comment

Nuclear storage plan at San Onofre beach leaves out tribal voices

Beachfront Nuclear Wasteland in Southern California? Nuclear storage plan at San Onofre beach leaves out tribal voices, Indian Country Today  Dina Gilio-Whitaker • May 15, 2017

A controversial plan to temporarily store more than three million pounds of spent nuclear fuel 100 feet from one of Southern California’s most popular beaches, San Onofre, is meeting with fierce resistance from local communities, including tribal members. The problem for the Native population is that while the formal decision-making process systematically involved a wide variety of stakeholders including local and state governments, community groups, environmentalists, academics, military, and business, education, and labor leaders, tribal governments were excluded.

The Backstory

Halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego, and with eight million people living within a 50-mile radius, the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) looms above what is otherwise a pristine stretch of coastline. It is surrounded by San Onofre State Park, one of the state’s busiest parks, which sits within the Camp Pendleton Marine Base. San Onofre is the traditional territory of the Acjachemen people, who know the area as Panhe. Prior to colonization, San Onofre was also territory shared by the San Luis Rey Band of Mission Indians (Luiseño). Both are state-recognized tribes. All these factors mean there are many different people with strong opinions about nuclear waste storage near their communities.

The aging “nuke plant,” as local residents call it, is owned primarily by Southern California Edison, and was permanently shut down in 2013 after a discovery that it was leaking radioactive gas. It is scheduled for full decommissioning; at issue is how and where to store the accumulated radioactive waste in the short term before a long-term plan can be worked out.

“To the best of our knowledge, our tribal government was never contacted by Edison,” Rebecca Robles, Acjachemen tribal member and co-director of the United Coalition to Protect Panhe, told ICMN. Other local tribal leaders declined to comment……

Spent fuel rods currently stored in cooling pools in SONGS’ two reactors need to be removed to dry storage, which according to studies is safer. SONGS planned to move more than 100 steel casks encased in concrete containers and bury them onsite just 100 feet from the high-tide mark in an area already plagued by erosion. In addition, ocean levels at that site are rising faster than expected, according to a recent study by the U.S. Geological Survey. Google Earth images highlight the reason that residents are so alarmed by the location of the storage, as the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

With increased awareness of the issue has come increased public criticism. Critics believe burying the waste so close to the beach in an earthquake-prone region is a recipe for disaster, in light of the 2011 Fukushima catastrophe, according to the Orange County Register.

They also believe that the 5/8-inch steel casks that SONGS plans to use are far too flimsy, according to a report by the citizen group San Onofre Safety.

Because SONGS is in the coastal zone it is subject to California Coastal Commission rules, and was granted a permit by the commission to temporarily store the waste for 20 years. In November 2015 the community watchdog group Citizen’s Oversight filed a lawsuit against the Coastal Commission, demanding that the permit be revoked and another site found, Reuters reported. Citizen’s Oversight and the state are now negotiating a settlement, Fox 5 News reported on April 7.

Decisions Made Without Tribal Input……. State law AB 52 requires consultation with tribal governments before it issues permits for development-related projects, prompting questions about why local Native nations weren’t consulted in this case……

It remains to be seen if or how the lawsuit negotiations will affect the location of the waste storage site. No matter what happens, however, this is only the beginning stage of the interim storage at SONGS and there will be a need for the Community Engagement Panel for years to come to monitor the issue. That means there is still plenty of reason for a tribal appointment.

May 22, 2017 Posted by | indigenous issues, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Makeshift fix for breached Hanford radioactive waste tunnel

Temporary cover in place over breached Hanford radioactive waste tunnel, BY ANNETTE CARY,  21 May 17, Heavy plastic was pulled over the top of a Hanford waste storage tunnel on Saturday, helping keep the radioactive contents of the tunnel contained while a more permanent fix is planned.

May 22, 2017 Posted by | safety, USA | Leave a comment

While resident electricity rates soared, SCANA nuclear power executives received $3.5 million in bonuses

SCANA executives received $3.5 million in bonuses since 2008May 20, 2017 

SCANA executives have received $3.5 million in bonuses since 2008, according to public records.

The bonuses were awarded during the same time period in which SCANA subsidiary South Carolina Electric & Gas raised electric rates nine times for residential customers, public records show.

Bonuses came as costs have skyrocketed for two AP1000 reactors under construction at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Facility in Fairfax County. SCANA is a 55 percent owner of the reactors; Santee Cooper owns 45 percent.

The reactors are now years behind schedule and at least $2.5 billion over budget, government records show.

Westinghouse, the lead contractor at V.C. Summer, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on March 29. SCANA and Santee Cooper are temporarily assuming costs of construction at V.C. Summer per terms of an interim assessment agreement reached with Westinghouse in April.

SCANA awarded bonuses to executives in 2008-2009 and 2012-2014, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Individual bonus amounts ranged $36,600 to $500,000.

The bonuses are in addition to salary and compensation figures appearing in special reports published by the Aiken Standard.

In April, the Aiken Standard reported that the top five SCANA executives collectively received about $937,000 in compensation increases from 2015 to 2016. Total compensation rose from $13.06 million to nearly $14 million, public records show……..

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

A ‘nuclear renaissance’ turns into a financial quagmire: Plant Vogtle

Plant Vogtle: Georgia’s nuclear ‘renaissance’ now a financial quagmire By Russell Grantham and Johnny Edwards – The Atlanta Journal-Constitution  May 19, 2017

Southern Company’s chief executive has said more than once that the giant utility’s project to build two more nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle would be history-making.

He may be right, but not in the way he meant.

Years behind schedule, billions over budget, and with a key contractor’s bankruptcy clouding its future, the troubled Vogtle project near Augusta is fast becoming Exhibit A for why no U.S. utility before Atlanta-based Southern had tried building a new reactor in 30-plus years.

Most Georgians who get electric bills could eventually pay for overruns on the project that are likely to grow. Customers of Southern subsidiary Georgia Power already pay a Vogtle-related surcharge that adds about $100 a year to the average residential bill, with the ultimate effect on ratepayers yet to be determined.

Also uncertain is how the project will get done.

On March 29, Westinghouse Electric, the company that designed the new Vogtle reactors and eventually became the primary contractor on the project, filed for bankruptcy. As part of its Chapter 11 restructuring, the company is expected to ditch the fixed-cost contracts that led to billions in losses on its work at Plant Vogtle and a similar nuclear project in South Carolina.

Under an interim deal announced a week ago, Southern and Georgia Power plan to take over running the Vogtle expansion, which is not quite half-done. Westinghouse will still help, but in a smaller role.

Beyond that they face a more elemental decision: spend billions more finishing the reactors, convert the project to another type of power plant such as natural gas, or just abandon it — leaving two dormant cooling towers and skeletal buildings.

A Georgia Power spokesman said the company is doing a “full-scale” study to “determine the best path forward.”

The utility has acknowledged that Westinghouse’s bankruptcy will mean more delays and costs. The elected members of the Georgia Public Service Commission eventually will determine the actual construction costs to be borne by ratepayers.

Meanwhile, Southern CEO Thomas Fanning, who as recently as last year said the project was going “beautifully,” got a 2016 compensation package worth $15.8 million, including a $2.7 million bonus………

Richard Nephew, a senior research scholar at the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University, said the utility underestimated the costs of replacing a vanished industry of nuclear construction workers and suppliers.

……….Westinghouse’s financial meltdown has rattled even the most loyal Plant Vogtle supporters – those living in the shadows of the towers in rural Burke County, population 23,000, who rely on the plant for a stable economy and a flush tax digest……..

History repeats itself

Delays, cost overruns and contractor snarls were not part of the picture government and industry officials painted in 2009 when state regulators approved the project to add the new reactors.

In addition to arguing it was needed to help power Georgia’s growth, Fanning called the Vogtle expansion a “national priority” to help revive the U.S. nuclear power industry. It would be a “renaissance,” he said.

But construction of Plant Vogtle’s first two reactors had provided a vivid example of the potential complications.

Plant Vogtle was conceived around 1970, with an original cost estimate of about $660 million. Construction was expected to take about eight years. Then, Three Mile Island happened. Regulations tightened. Demand for materials and interest rates shot up in the 1980s.

Construction took 13 years. The final price tag: around $9 billion…….

However the Vogtle expansion plays out from here, it won’t likely be held up as the model it was intended to provide.

Of the dozens of new reactor projects once being considered for licensing by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, all have been shelved except the Vogtle and South Carolina projects. Georgia Power has tabled plans to study a new nuclear plant south of Columbus, citing slowing demand growth…….

May 20, 2017 Posted by | business and costs, USA | Leave a comment

FirstEnergy Solutions could go bankrupt. First Energy pleads for tax-payer subsidies

FirstEnergy CEO Discusses Possible Bankruptcy For Generation Company The CEO of one of Ohio’s largest energy providers made a rare appearance before state lawmakers, pleading for nuclear plant subsidies. This push comes as the company is nearing a major decision

FirstEnergy CEO Chuck Jones personally went before the Ohio Senate, saying subsidies would prop up their two struggling nuclear plants.

If passed, FirstEnergy customers would see about a $5 increase to their monthly electric bills.

Time might be running out to save these plants. As Jones explains, the subsidiary FirstEnergy Solutions which controls all the power generation could soon declare bankruptcy.

“They’re looking at that right now. That decision could happen anywhere between today and six months from now.”

Jones pointed out that he does not make decisions for FirstEnergy Solutions.

The nuclear credits bill has stalled in the House and Senate and will likely not come back up until the fall.

May 20, 2017 Posted by | business and costs, politics, USA | Leave a comment

Ohio legislature suspends decision on bailing out nuclear power plants

Ohio House Sidelines Bailout of 2 FirstEnergy Nuclear Plants  Opponents are praising a decision to suspend deliberations on a proposed bailout of Ohio’s two nuclear plants, even as Akron-based FirstEnergy continues to push for the deal.  US News, May 19, 2017, By JULIE CARR SMYTH, AP Statehouse Correspondent COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Opponents are praising a decision to suspend deliberations on the proposed financial rescue of Ohio’s two nuclear plants, even as Akron-based FirstEnergy continues to push for the deal.

House Public Utilities Chairman Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican, discontinued testimony on legislation containing the proposal Wednesday after vocal protests by consumer, business, and environmental groups and energy competitors.

“I am not sensing a keen desire on the part of the House members to vote on this and doubt that we will have more hearings in the near future unless something cataclysmic should happen,” quoted Seitz as saying.

The plan calls for a special fee charged to customers that the company argues is necessary to secure the future of its aging Davis-Besse and Perry plants. The two facilities produce 14 percent of Ohio’s electricity.

FirstEnergy CEO Chuck Jones took his case to the Ohio Senate on Thursday, testifying for more than an hour before the Senate Public Utilities Committee on separate legislation containing the bailout plan……..

Exactly how much the plan would generate for the nuclear plants isn’t clear because subsidies are based on a complex formula involving plant emissions. Recently approved subsidy deals in New York and Illinois aimed at stopping unprofitable nuclear plants from closing prematurely cost billions.

 The Environmental Defense Council has placed the price tag for the Ohio proposal at $5.25 billion. The Ohio Consumers’ Counsel, representing utility ratepayers, calculated the costs to each of FirstEnergy’s 2 million residential customers at $57 a year, on average, for up to 16 years, with the potential that the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio could allow upward adjustments.

Seitz’s decision to sideline the proposal was praised by the Coalition Against Nuclear Bailouts, a group of more than 50 organizations that has joined forces to fight the plan. The coalition includes the Ohio Oil and Gas Association, the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association, associations representing bars, bowling alleys and other small businesses, and a host of local community representatives.

Commissioner Pete Gerken of Lucas County, which includes Toledo, said the proposal would cause families and businesses in FirstEnergy’s territory to “foot the hefty bill.”

“Further, this proposed bailout would pick winners and losers in the energy generation market and could drive private investment, jobs and tax revenues for local governments and schools out of Lucas County and other areas of the state,” he said.

The Lucas County commissioners, in northwest Ohio, and the mayor of Lordstown, in northeast Ohio, are among groups that announced opposition to the bailout ahead of Seitz’s action.

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

Chinese fighter jets buzz US ‘nuclear sniffer’ plane over East China Sea by Travis J. Tritten |  Two Chinese fighter jets intercepted a U.S. surveillance plane in the East China Sea on Wednesday amid larger diplomatic efforts over North Korea, the Air Force said.

The service said the crew members of the WC-135 nuclear-sniffing aircraft determined the Chinese pilots of the Su-30 jets were being “unprofessional.” The encounter was still under investigation.

“The issue is being addressed with China through appropriate diplomatic and military channels,” Pacific Air Forces spokeswoman Lt. Col. Lori Hodge said in a released statement.

The WC-135 Constant Phoenix is capable of detecting nuclear weapons activity and was deployed last month to Kadena Air Base on Japan’s far southern island of Okinawa as the North Koreans were ramping up missile testing.

Since then, the Trump administration has been looking to China to pressure the regime of Kim Jong Un to give up its ambitions for a nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile that could reach the U.S. mainland.

However, there is deep friction between China and the U.S. over that country’s territorial claims in the East China Sea, which includes the Korean peninsula and Japan.

May 20, 2017 Posted by | China, politics international, USA | Leave a comment

Donald Trump in particular, should NOT have sole the authority to use nuclear weapons

No president — especially Trump — should have sole the authority to use nuclear weapons Diane Russell, May 18, 2017 When I was 8 years old, another rural Maine girl just two years older than me made international headlines when she had the audacity to write the Soviet premier and ask him if he was going to go to war against the United States. When her letter went around the world, Maine’s “fearless girl,” Samantha Smith, created space for world leaders to negotiate a de-escalation of the Cold War. The courage she showed resulted in three decades of nuclear arms control with what is now Russia, including treaties to reduce the number of nuclear weapons.

President Donald Trump’s erratic behavior, Twitter tirades and general instability has followed him off the campaign trail and into the White House, jeopardizing the relative progress we have made to reduce the dangers posed by nuclear weapons. Despite the U.S. intelligence community’s reports that Russia interfered in the election to swing it in Trump’s favor, tensions between these two nuclear-armed nations remain worryingly high. Moreover, Trump’s rhetoric and posturing toward North Korea are increasing the risk of nuclear conflict on the Korean peninsula. A war with North Korea would be catastrophic.

With that in mind, Maine’s own Stephen King recently sent out a pointed tweet: “That this guy has his finger on the nuclear trigger is worse than any horror story I ever wrote.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Trump’s sole control of the United States nuclear arsenal is worse than any nightmare King could turn into a novel. But the real danger lies in the fact he can launch thousands of our nuclear weapons within the time it takes to order a cup of coffee — and there are no checks and balances in place stop him.

The framers of our Constitution purposefully gave the legislative branch of government the power to declare war because, as James Madison put it, the executive was not “ safely to be trusted with it.” American democracy is built on a system of checks and balances, ensuring that no one entity retains absolute power. But in a shocking disregard for this principle, ultimate authority over whether nuclear weapons are used rests solely with the president.

It takes approximately five minutes to launch a nuclear weapon. Once the president gives the order to launch, the Pentagon and everyone down the chain of command must comply with the commander-in-chief’s directive. Short of disobeying a direct order or an outright coup, no mechanism exists as a stopgap on this power.

This is, at its core, completely undemocratic. The decision to use nuclear weapons should be undertaken only with the utmost caution and not left up to any single individual, let alone one so erratic.

Growing alarm over this very real possibility isn’t isolated, and it isn’t occurring in a vacuum. Earlier this month, former nuclear commanders around the world launched a crisis group to serve as a “shadow security council” in order to advise world leaders in reducing the growing danger of a nuclear conflict. In January, The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved the Doomsday Clock, which signals how close humanity is to destruction, closer to midnight. And former Secretary of Defense Bill Perry, who oversaw the U.S. nuclear arsenal for decades and played a supporting role in the Cuban Missile Crisis, continues expressing his alarm over the skyrocketing risks of a nuclear exchange.

Several members of Congress also have taken note of the great power that is vested in the executive branch when it comes to nuclear weapons. In February, U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts, and U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu, D-California, introduced the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act, which would prevent any president from launching nuclear weapon in a pre-emptive first strike without congressional authorization. The legislations is backed by at least 500,000 Americans who signed a petition calling on all members of Congress to co-sponsor it.

We have an opportunity to write a new page in the American history books for the courage of Maine leaders in reducing the threat of nuclear weapons. Let Stephen King write the horror stories. If U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King co-sponsor this common-sense legislation, they would be acting to uphold Samantha Smith’s legacy of preventing nuclear war.

Diane Russell served eight years in the Maine House of Representatives. She currently serves as the national security political director at Women’s Action for New Directions. Follow her on Twitter: @MissWrite.

May 19, 2017 Posted by | USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Scathing criticism of Ontario’s proposed plan for nuclear plant emergencies

Ontario’s proposed plan for nuclear plant emergencies ripped, THE CANADIAN PRESS, MAY 18, 2017 TORONTO – Ontario’s proposed plan for how to respond in the unlikely event of a nuclear emergency falls short, environmental groups say. The province recently released an update to its emergency planning for potential large-scale accidents at the Pickering, Darlington, Bruce Power, Chalk River and FERMI 2 nuclear sites. It deals with co-ordinating responses and public communication, zones and evacuation procedures, preventing food and water contamination, and limiting exposure to radiation.

The environmental groups, including Greenpeace and the Canadian Environmental Law Association, say the proposal isn’t based on a large enough incident, and needs to plan for an accident on the scale of the 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan.

Given we’re seeing nuclear accidents at the international level about once a decade, we need to prepare for such events,” said Shawn-Patrick Stensil with Greenpeace.

“These proposals do a disservice to Ontarians. They make no proposals to tangibly strengthen public safety and ignore key lessons from Fukushima. It’s unacceptable.”

Community Safety Minister Marie-France Lalonde said the plan “definitely” covers a Fukushima-scale accident………

Environmental advocates have for years been urging a wider distribution of those potassium iodide, or KI, pills. Radioactive iodine is released in the event of a nuclear accident, and the potassium iodide pills can help protect against thyroid cancer.

The pills are currently distributed to households and businesses within a 10-kilometre radius of the nuclear sites, but the environmentalists want that to be 50 kilometres. People outside the 10-kilometre radius can currently request the pills.

The groups also say the government has no comprehensive plan to address potential contamination of the Great Lakes, which are a source of drinking water for millions……..

The plan is posted for public comment until July 14 on the province’s regulatory and environmental registries. Lalonde said experts will be reviewing all the comments to decide what changes need to be made.

May 19, 2017 Posted by | Canada, safety | Leave a comment

Pit collapse at Idaho Nuclear Landfill

Cleanup at Idaho Nuclear Landfill on Hold After Pit Collapse
Officials are trying to determine what caused the side of a pit at a nuclear waste landfill in Idaho to collapse. 
May 18, 2017, By REBECCA BOONE, Associated Press  BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Some cleanup efforts at a nuclear waste landfill in Idaho were placed on hold while workers try to figure out what caused a collapse in a dig area that sent an excavator into a pit.

The excavator was digging up transuranic waste — which is waste contaminated with highly radioactive elements.

No radiation was released during the May 11 incident, and no one was injured, said Erik Simpson with Fluor Idaho, a contractor hired to clean up the site at the Idaho National Laboratory.

The excavator was digging at the 97-acre (392,545-sq. meter) Subsurface Disposal Area near Idaho Falls when the side of the pit collapsed.

 Simpson said the excavator slid partway into the 21-foot (6 -meter) deep pit. The operator remained in his protective cab for about 90 minutes.

May 19, 2017 Posted by | incidents, USA | Leave a comment

Gov. Andrew Cuomo urged to pull the plug on nuclear bailout, as lawmakers work against it

New York’s nuclear “bailout” faces court challenges and questions from lawmakers, Mc Alester News capital,  By Joe Mahoney | CNHI State Reporter May 18, 201ALBANY — The Cuomo administration’s effort to drive subsidies to three upstate nuclear-power plants is being challenged in both the courts and the halls of the statehouse.

The cost of what critics call a “nuclear bailout” is already being reflected in higher utility bills across the state.The opponents warn the plan will lead to higher costs for taxpayers and consumers as power bills increase for municipalities, school districts, universities and hospitals.

 Under the subsidy program, which has been approved by the Public Service Commission, New York utilities are buying power at inflated rates from Exelon, a Chicago company that owns the reactors at Nine Mile Point on the shores of Lake Ontario, James FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant in Oswego County and the R.E. Ginna Nuclear Plant in Wayne County.

OPPOSITION FORCES   Legislation to derail the program is pending in both houses of the State Legislature, though the fate of the measure is unclear. Meanwhile, lawsuits challenging the subsidy have been filed against the state by a group of owners of gas-fired power plants. The group contends the subsidy is illegal because it interferes with the federal government’s ability to regulate energy prices.

On a separate but related front, Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, an environmental group, is challenging the arrangement in state court. It contends state regulators failed to follow proper procedures in approving the subsidy last year and that ratepayers will be left facing “unreasonable and unjust” costs.

The New York Public Interest Research Group, a consumer watchdog, has joined Clearwater’s court action. Its legislative director, Blair Horner, said court arguments in both lawsuits are expected to be heard within the next several weeks.

Horner noted several lawmakers have concerns that they were left out of the loop when Gov. Andrew Cuomo pushed through a subsidy that is expected to cost billions of dollars.

“It’s sort of astonishing to them that they were cut out of the process,” he said…….

DEMONSTRATION  Those fighting the nuclear subsidy have stepped up their campaign to convince Cuomo to pull the plug on it.

Representatives of NYPIRG and other groups opposed to it, calling themselves Stop the Cuomo Tax, staged a demonstration this week outside the governor’s Manhattan office.

“Too many of us have trouble paying our utility bills already, and now Governor Cuomo is raising our rates by almost $8 billion to fund a giant giveaway to Exelon,” one of the protestors, Renata Pumarol, deputy director of New York Communities for Change, said in a statement.

Joe Mahoney covers the New York Statehouse for CNHI’s newspapers and websites. Reach him at

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

Ohio House Public Utilities Committee suspends further hearings on FirstEnergy’s special nuclear customer charges

FirstEnergy nuclear hearings suspended in Ohio House,  By John Funk, The Plain 
 May 17, 2017  CLEVELAND, Ohio — The chairman of the Ohio House Public Utilities Committee has suspended further hearings — and a vote — on a proposed bill allowing FirstEnergy to create a special customer charge to subsidize its nuclear power plant fleet.

“We have heard over 10 hours of testimony on this bill [House Bill 178]. I have given proponents and opponents a chance to make their case,” said William Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican who chairs the committee.

“I am not sensing a keen desire on the part of the House members to vote on this and doubt that we will have more hearings in the near future unless something cataclysmic should happen.”

Cataclysmic events might include a decision by FirstEnergy Solutions to seek bankruptcy protection from its creditors or a decision by the company to immediately close its four nuclear power plants.

FirstEnergy Solutions, the unregulated subsidiary of FirstEnergy, is legally the owner of all of the company’s power plants. FirstEnergy Solutions has been operating with junk bond ratings for some time.

Its parent has tried to distance itself from the company, even creating a separate board of directors, which includes two FirstEnergy employees. But FirstEnergy recently had to guarantee a cash settlement between FirstEnergy Solutions and several railroad companies claiming breach of contract when FirstEnergy Solutions closed coal-fired power plants along Lake Erie and declined further deliveries…….

May 19, 2017 Posted by | business and costs, politics, USA | Leave a comment

30 years of warnings on Hanford nuclear site un-safety have been ignored

Thousands of workers were forced to shelter after a roof collapsed at a waste site created in the 1950s and mostly ignored since then, Center for Public Integrity, By Peter CaryPatrick Malone, May 13, 2017 
A series of warnings by state and federal experts, stretching back more than thirty years, preceded this week’s cave-in of a tunnel in Hanford, Washington, that holds lethally radioactive debris from the U.S. nuclear weapons program, according to government documents.

A report in 1980 for the Energy Department, which oversees safety and cleanup work at the site, said that wooden beams holding up the tunnel had lost a third of their strength by then. A contractor for the department pointed to the issue again in 1991, warning that by the year 2001, the beams would be further degraded.

A group of academic experts, working under contract to the department, said more alarmingly in a 1,969-page report in August 2015 that the roof of the tunnel in question had been seriously weakened and that a “partial or complete failure” could expose individuals even 380 feet away to dangerous levels of radiation.

No action was taken by the department in response, and earlier this month — the precise date remains uncertain because conditions at the site were not closely monitored — a portion of the roof collapsed at the tunnel, creating a 20-foot square hole. Afterward, the managers of the Hanford site were forced on May 9 to order 3,000 workers to shelter indoors. But instead of shoring up the beams inside the tunnel in question, they poured in 54 new truckloads of dirt.

The tunnel was one of two at the Energy Department’s Hanford reservation used as dumping grounds from 1960 to 2000 for radioactive machine parts, vessels, and other equipment. It was, in short, a tangible expression of the department’s policy of covering over some of its nuclear bomb-making detritus and effectively pretending it isn’t there.

The neglect followed a blunt warning 26 years ago from the State of Washington — cited in a 1991 Energy Department contractor’s report — that the tunnels were not a safe repository and that the wastes should be moved elsewhere.

Under an agreement overseen by a federal court in eastern Washington, the department was supposed to start crafting a way to deal with the tunnel’s lethal dangers by September 2015, but it missed the deadline and promised to do it later this year as part of an overall agreement with the state and the Environmental Protection Agency to push back completion of the site’s overall cleanup from 2024 to 2042. (Hanford remains the most toxic site in America and the government’s most costly environmental cleanup task.)…….

In the 1991 report, by Los Alamos Technical Associates, Inc., the authors made clear after conducting an internal inspection of the tunnel that the DOE knew the timbers holding up the roof had been substantially weakened as early as 1980. It predicted that by 2001, they would be at 60 percent of their original strength and recommended another evaluation in 2001. But records indicate that it never happened.

A Department of Ecology inspection in 2015 noted that because the tunnels were closed up, “no permanent emergency equipment, communications equipment, warning systems, personal protective equipment, or spill control and containment supplies” were located inside — deficiencies that could complicate emergency efforts in the case of a tunnel fire or other safety incident.

A Government Accountability Office estimate in 2016 placed the total cost of cleaning up the toxic legacy of the U.S. nuclear weapon program at more than $250 billion.

May 17, 2017 Posted by | Reference, safety, USA | Leave a comment