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The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

Hanford’s nuclear site ‘the most toxic place in America’

Former nuclear site in Washington state is ‘causing workers to develop terminal illnesses’ – and it won’t be cleaned up for another 50 more years (photos) 

  • The Hanford Site in Washington state was used to produce plutonium from 1943 through the end of the Cold War
  • Washington River Protection Solutions is now cleaning up the site 
  • Workers at the site say they are being exposed to radioactive fumes 
  • A watchdog group says that three workers have died as a result of exposure to nuclear waste on the job  
  • Just this year, 61 workers have allegedly been exposed to toxic materials
  • But the government contractor says that everyone who has been checked out for possible exposure has been cleared to return to work 

 

A former nuclear site in Washington state is poisoning workers and threatening the health of those who live around it, according to a new investigation.

Some experts have called the former Hanford nuclear plant ‘the most toxic place in America’ and ‘an underground Chernobyl waiting to happen’.

The site, located in a rural area along the Columbia River, was commissioned by the Manhattan Project to produce plutonium for the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II.  

It remained an active nuclear site until the end of the Cold War, when it was decommissioned and the Department of Energy subcontracted Washington River Protection Solutions to start the clean-up.

But current and former workers at the site have told NBC that the underground containers holding the site’s nuclear waste are leaking, and that they have been exposed to the toxic fumes because the company has not given them the right safety equipment.

Their health issues include dementia, nerve damage, memory loss and respiratory problems.

Watchdog group Hanford Challenge says that at least three workers’ deaths have been linked to exposure at the site, but officials with Washington River Protection Solutions have refused to admit they are putting their workers in danger. Those workers are Gary Sall, Deb Fish and Dan Golden.

But several studies show that’s not the case and just this year, 61 workers have allegedly been exposed to toxic materials.

For their story, NBC spoke to DOE Deputy Assistant Secretary Mark Whitney, who said that all workers who have been evaluated for possible exposure have been cleared to return to work. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3986750/Former-nuclear-site-Washington-state-causing-workers-develop-terminal-illnesses-won-t-cleaned-50-years.html#ixzz4RctEncj2

December 2, 2016 Posted by | health, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Time that lawmakers limited the power of American President to start using nuclear weapons

TrumpNo one can stop President Trump from using nuclear weapons  Chicago Tribune, Alex WellersteinSpecial to The Washington Post, 1 Dec 16, 

All year, the prospect of giving the real estate and reality TV mogul the power to launch attacks that would kill millions of people was one of the main reasons his opponents argued against electing him. “A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons,” Hillary Clinton said in her speech accepting the Democratic presidential nomination. Republicans who didn’t support Trump — and even some who did, such as Florida Sen. Marco Rubio — also said they didn’t think Trump could be trusted with the launch codes.

Now they’re his. When Trump takes office in January, he will have sole authority over more than 7,000 warheads. There is no failsafe. The whole point of U.S. nuclear weapons control is to make sure that the president — and only the president — can use them whenever he decides to do so. The only sure way to keep President Trump from launching a nuclear attack, under the system we’ve had in place since the early Cold War, would have been to elect someone else.

When the legal framework for nuclear weapons was developed, the fear was about not irrational presidents but trigger-happy generals. The Atomic Energy Act of 1946, passed with President Harry Truman’s signature after nine months of acrimonious congressional hearings, firmly put the power of the atomic bomb in the hands of the president and the civilian components of the executive branch. It was a momentous and controversial law, crafted in the months following the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, with an eye toward future standoffs with the Soviet Union…….

Eventually, the brass adopted the idea that, when it came to nuclear matters, they were at the president’s beck and call. It was not generals’ responsibility to make the order; it was their responsibility to carry it out.

That the president would be the only person competent to use nuclear weapons was never challenged. Even asking the question would throw the entire system into disarray, as Maj. Harold Hering learned in 1973. Hering was a 21-year Air Force veteran who was decorated for his flying in Vietnam before being sent for training as a nuclear missile squadron commander. He had been taught that officers had an obligation to disobey illegal orders. So when he was told how to launch a nuclear attack, he asked what seemed like a simple question: How could he be sure that an order to launch his missiles was lawful? How could he be sure, for example, that the president wasn’t insane? Instead of an answer, he got the boot: an aborted promotion and an administrative discharge for “failure to demonstrate acceptable qualities of leadership” and for indicating “a defective mental attitude towards his duties.”

The Air Force’s problem, in short, is that once a serviceman starts down the rabbit hole of doubt, he becomes an unreliable second-guesser — and suddenly he is one of the few people who can decide whether nuclear weapons are used.

The procedure for ordering a nuclear attack involves more than one person: The president cannot literally press a button on his desk and start World War III. There is no “nuclear button” at all. Instead, the U.S. nuclear command-and-control system is bureaucratically and technically complex, stretching out to encompass land-based missile silos, submarine-based ballistic and cruise missiles, and weapons capable of being dropped from bombers. The chain of command requires that the president order the secretary of defense to carry out a launch; the secretary serves as the conduit for implementation by the military. There are succession policies in place so that the procedure can be continued in the event of the death or incapacitation of either the president or the secretary of defense — or their designated successors.

Most details of how a nuclear war would be started are classified, because an enemy who knew enough about the system could come up with ways to complicate or defeat it. What is known is that an aide is always following the president, carrying at least one large satchel (often two) known as the “nuclear football,” reportedly containing information about nuclear attack possibilities and how the president could verify his identity, authenticate orders and communicate with the military about implementing them……..

It might be worth resurrecting this debate , if we take seriously the idea that presidents — any of them, much less Trump — should not have the legal authority to conduct arbitrary and unilateral nuclear war. Perhaps now, decades after the end of the Cold War, we are past the moment when we need to entrust that power in a single person. One can imagine a law that would allow the president to use nuclear weapons in the face of imminent danger, the sort of situation in which a matter of minutes or even seconds could make a difference, but would enact formal requirements for outside consensus when more options were on the table. It would not require a full renunciation of the possibility of a first-strike nuclear attack (something the United States has never been willing to make) but might add some reassurances that such decisions would not be made unilaterally.

Congress ceded a considerable amount of power to the presidency in 1946. Seventy years later, maybe it is time lawmakers took some of it back. http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/commentary/ct-trump-use-nuclear-weapons-20161201-story.html

December 2, 2016 Posted by | politics, USA, weapons and war | 1 Comment

Anti -science climate deniers and haters paid by industries

I could fill this newspaper with the names of Trump staffers who have emerged from such groups:

spin-global.nukeFrightened by Donald Trump? You don’t know the half of it, Guardian, George Monbiot, 1 Dec 16 Many of his staffers are from an opaque corporate misinformation network. We must understand this if we are to have any hope of fighting back against them. Yes, Donald Trump’s politics are incoherent. But those who surround him know just what they want, and his lack of clarity enhances their power. To understand what is coming, we need to understand who they are. I know all too well, because I have spent the past 15 years fighting them.

Over this time, I have watched as tobacco, coal, oil, chemicals and biotech companies have poured billions of dollars into an international misinformation machine composed of thinktanks, bloggers and fake citizens’ groups. Its purpose is to portray the interests of billionaires as the interests of the common people, to wage war against trade unions and beat down attempts to regulate business and tax the very rich. Now the people who helped run this machine are shaping the government.

I first encountered the machine when writing about climate change. The fury and loathing directed at climate scientists and campaigners seemed incomprehensible until I realised they were fake: the hatred had been paid for. The bloggers and institutes whipping up this anger were funded by oil and coal companies.

Among those I clashed with was Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI). The CEI calls itself a thinktank, but looks to me like a corporate lobbying group. It is not transparent about its funding, but we now know it has received $2m from ExxonMobilmore than $4m from a group called the Donors Trust (which represents various corporations and billionaires), $800,000 from groups set up by the tycoons Charles and David Koch, and substantial sums from coal, tobacco and pharmaceutical companies.

For years, Ebell and the CEI have attacked efforts to limit climate change, through lobbying, lawsuits and campaigns. An advertisement released by the institute had the punchline “Carbon dioxide: they call it pollution. We call it life.”

It has sought to eliminate funding for environmental education, lobbied against the Endangered Species Act, harried climate scientists and campaigned in favour of mountaintop removal by coal companies. In 2004, Ebell sent a memo to one of George W Bush’s staffers calling for the head of the Environmental Protection Agency to be sacked. Where is Ebell now? Oh – leading Trump’s transition team for the Environmental Protection Agency.

Charles and David Koch – who for years have funded extreme pro-corporate politics – might not have been enthusiasts for Trump’s candidacy, but their people were all over his campaign. Until June, Trump’s campaign manager was Corey Lewandowski, who like other members of Trump’s team came from a group called Americans for Prosperity (AFP).

This purports to be a grassroots campaign, but it was founded and funded by the Koch brothers. It set up the first Tea Party Facebook page and organised the first Tea Party events. With a budget of hundreds of millions of dollars, AFP has campaigned ferociously on issues that coincide with the Koch brothers’ commercial interests in oil, gas, minerals, timber and chemicals.

In Michigan, it helped force through the “right to work bill”, in pursuit of what AFP’s local director called “taking the unions out at the knees”. It has campaigned nationwide against action on climate change. It has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into unseating the politicians who won’t do its bidding and replacing them with those who will.

I could fill this newspaper with the names of Trump staffers who have emerged from such groups: people such as Doug Domenech, from the Texas Public Policy Foundation, funded among others by the Koch brothers, Exxon and the Donors Trust; Barry Bennett, whose Alliance for America’s Future (now called One Nation) refused to disclose its donors when challenged; and Thomas Pyle, president of the American Energy Alliance, funded by Exxon and others. This is to say nothing of Trump’s own crashing conflicts of interest. Trump promised to “drain the swamp” of the lobbyists and corporate stooges working in Washington. But it looks as if the only swamps he’ll drain will be real ones, as his team launches its war on the natural world……… https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/30/donald-trump-george-monbiot-misinformation#comment-88633094

 

December 2, 2016 Posted by | climate change, spinbuster, USA | Leave a comment

Clearwater takes legal action agasinst New York over subsidy to nuclear power stations

taxpayer bailoutClearwater sues NY over nuclear bailout, Ploughkeepsie Journal , Albany Bureau1 December 1, 2016 ALBANY – A multi-billion-dollar, ratepayer-backed bailout for three upstate nuclear power plants is facing another challenge in the courts.

December 2, 2016 Posted by | Legal, USA | Leave a comment

Exelon’s nuclear bailout in trouble

taxpayer-bailout-exelonNew trouble for Exelon nuke bailout as Rauner balks, Chicago Business, By  , 1 Dec 16,  The calendar has turned to December, and a sudden wind has chilled the prospects for Exelon’s nuclear bailout.

The deal Exelon announced yesterday with Gov. Bruce Rauner appears to be teetering today. Rauner’s staff has found problems it didn’t anticipate now that the bill language purporting to carry out the governor’s agreement with the Chicago-based energy company is out.

Among the issues “not agreed to” are “loose cap language” that doesn’t appear to protect business ratepayers the way Rauner envisioned when Exelon announced that businesses would pay no more than 1.3 percent more than the rates they pay today to finance an annual $200 million-plus subsidy to keep open two money-losing nuclear plants Exelon has moved to close, according to a source close to the negotiations.

Rauner also discovered a provision on prevailing wages that he accused archrival House Speaker Michael Madigan of inserting into the bill, this source said.

Madigan’s spokesman, Steve Brown, said the prevailing wage language has been in the legislation for months. “Once again, they’re grasping at straws and they’re not quite getting the grip,” he said.

Rauner’s camp is characterizing the provisions as “poison pills.” But the source said the governor still is committed to the “framework” he negotiated with Exelon.

How this will impact floor votes scheduled for today on what was before now a rapidly moving compromise is unclear.

Crain’s will update with further developments.

The CEO of Illinois’ second largest power generator is fuming over Rauner’s 11th-hour agreement to support Exelon’s nuclear-plant bailout—calling it a “regressive tax on rural America.” ……..http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20161201/NEWS11/161209995/exelon-nuclear-bailout-hits-a-snag-as-illinois-gov-bruce-rauner-balks

 

Illinois Lawmakers and Attorney General Wary Of Nuclear Deal http://northernpublicradio.org/post/illinois-lawmakers-and-attorney-general-wary-nuclear-deal

 Exelon says it finally has a deal to subsidize nuclear power plants in Clinton and the Quad Cities.

On Wednesday afternoon, after weeks of intense negotiating, ComEd and Exelon put out a news release saying they had a deal thanks to Gov. Bruce Rauner.  But the administration didn’t publicly support the bill at a House hearing. And it hasn’t responded to repeated media inquiries about the governor’s stance.

That has some state lawmakers on edge. Linda Chapa LaVia is a Democrat from Aurora and heads the House Energy Committee.

“It has happened in the past where we get to a point where it gets to the governor’s desk, and then we take a wrong direction,” she says. Consumer groups also have reservations about the measure. Susan Satter is with the Illinois Attorney General’s office. Her boss opposed previous versions of the Exelon deal, and Satter says she isn’t ready to weigh in on the latest proposal.

“This is a wildly complicated effort, and we just simply have not had the time to understand how it’s going to work,” Satter said.

Over the decade the plan would be in effect, ComEd says its average residential customers would pay no more than 25 cents a month related to the subsidy.

December 1 is the final day the General Assembly meets this year.  Exelon also claims it’s the last chance to keep the Clinton and Quad Cites plants open.

December 2, 2016 Posted by | politics, USA | Leave a comment

NRC fines TVA for Browns Ferry violations

 30 November 2016 The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) has been given 30 days to pay a $140,000 civil penalty proposed by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for fire watch violations at the Browns Ferry nuclear power plant in Alabama. The violations relate to “numerous” occasions in May 2015 when five workers contracted to provide fire watch services failed to conduct roving fire watch patrols as required under NRC regulations. The patrols were required to compensate for fire protection equipment that was out of service at the time……..http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/RS-NRC-fines-TVA-for-Browns-Ferry-violations-301

December 2, 2016 Posted by | safety, USA | Leave a comment

People power, not Trump, has killed the Trans Pacific Partnership

TPPA NZThe TPP wasn’t killed by Donald Trump – our protests worked https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/28/tpp-protests-mass-opposition-worked-trump-presidency We the people can create change by standing together. This is crucial to remember for the next four years, Guardian,  and , 28 Nov 16,

The real story is that an unprecedented, international uprising of people from across the political spectrum took on some of the most powerful institutions in the world, and won.

Sure, Donald Trump – and Bernie Sanders’ – campaign focus on the TPP elevated US awareness about the pact, a wide-reaching international agreement negotiated by the Obama administration. But no single politician killed this deal.

If not for the constant pressure from activists and civil society groups, the TPP would have become law long before the recent US election. But thanks to intense, creative and strategic organizing from the day the text was finalized in 2015, there was never a majority of support for the pact in Congress. That’s why it was never implemented.

The TPP is a massive global deal that was negotiated in secret with hundreds of corporate advisers given special access while the public was locked out. It would have handed multinational corporations like Walmart, AT&T and Monsanto extraordinary new powers over everything from the wages we earn, to the way we use the internet, to the safety of the food we feed our children.

Perhaps most shockingly, the TPP would have allowed corporations to sue governments before tribunals of three corporate lawyers, essentially creating an unaccountable, shadow legal system outside of our traditional courts to punish governments that pass laws that corporations don’t like.

A simple agreement to lower tariffs and other anticompetitive barriers to trade wouldn’t have been so controversial. But big business couldn’t resist the urge to abuse the extreme secrecy surrounding the TPP negotiations to stuff the pact with a wishlist for policies they knew they could never pass through traditional means.

That unchecked greed was the TPP’s demise. What emerged from the closed-door negotiations was more than 5,000 pages of policy so clearly against the public interest that it awakened a firestorm of opposition that swept the globe, and in the end, sent the TPP to its grave.

While negotiations were still under way, tens of thousands of people joined mass protests in Japan, Peru, Australia, New Zealand and other Pacific Rim nations. They pushed back on the TPP’s worst provisions, held their leaders’ feet to the fire and dragged the talks out for years. This early wave of international resistance changed the game: it bought time for activists to organize an effective opposition in the US, which was seen as all-important in the global calculus of the Washington-led deal. If Congress did not ratify the TPP, it would die.

In the meantime, an unlikely alliance was forming. Activists, farmers, labor unions, tech companies, environmentalists, economists, nurses, LGBTQadvocates, libertarians and librarians mounted an intense opposition to the “fast track” legislation that the White House needed to rush the final agreement through Congress. The coalition that formed grew from dozens, to hundreds, to literally thousands of organizations, many working together for the first time, ranging from Black Lives Matter to Doctors Without Borders to the Tea Party.

We marched in the streets. We rallied outside the hotels and resorts that hosted the secret negotiations. Cancer patients protesting about the TPP’s impact on healthcare access engaged in civil disobedience and were arrested. Internet freedom activists mobilized thousands of websites for online protests that bombarded lawmakers with emails and phone calls. Academics picked apart leaked versions of the deal, and coordinated with advocates to launch a campaign to educate the public on its flaws.

Hard-hitting activism and public outcry slowed the TPP down, and as a result, dragged it fully into the spotlight just as the US headed into a contentious election season.

It wasn’t a coincidence that Donald Trump saw the TPP as a useful stump speech talking point. Widespread suffering caused by previous trade deals laid a strong foundation for skepticism, making President Obama’s devotion to the Wall Street-friendly deal, and Hillary Clinton’s previous support for it, a huge liability for the Democratic party. As more and more people learned about what the TPP really meant for them and their families, it became politically toxic, to the point that no major party candidate for president could openly support it.

This was a sign that the TPP was on its deathbed, but with the threat of a last-minute push during the “lame duck” session after the election, we needed to be sure. So we targeted undecided lawmakers with protests and flew inflatable blimps outside their offices. We harnessed the power of music to draw huge crowds across the country to “Rock Against the TPP” concerts and teach-ins, taking our opposition to the TPP into the cultural mainstream. We tuned out the chorus of voices that told us that corporate power would always prevail in the end. And finally, we claimed our victory.

Now more than ever, it’s crucial that Americans understand how the TPP was really defeated. An organized and educated public can take on concentrated wealth and power and win. With four years of new battles ahead of us, this is a story we must commit to memory, and a lesson we must take to heart.

November 30, 2016 Posted by | politics, politics international, USA | Leave a comment

Thorough inspection of Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant by NRC

Pilgrim nuclear plantNRC Begins “Wide-Ranging” Inspection of Pilgrim Nuclear Plant http://www.powermag.com/nrc-begins-wide-ranging-inspection-of-pilgrim-nuclear-plant/ 11/28/2016 | Thomas Overton The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is beginning a comprehensive three-week inspection of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant in Plymouth, Mass., as a result of the plant’s repeated performance deficiencies, the agency said in a November 28 statement.

The inspection, planned for more than a year, is part of the NRC’s heightened oversight process, begun in September 2015 after the agency moved Pilgrim into the Multiple/Repetitive Degraded Cornerstone Column of its oversight Action Matrix. That action was the result of repeated problems with unplanned shutdowns and owner Entergy’s “continuing weaknesses” in addressing the underlying issues, the NRC said at the time.

This is the third and largest inspection that is taking place as part of the greater oversight of Pilgrim. According to the statement, the inspectors will look particularly at the plant’s human performance and safety culture, “which enables employees to freely and openly raise safety concerns.” They will also look at the plant’s procedures and its corrective action program. Plans call for the inspectors to be on site for three weeks in December and January.

“This inspection represents the most comprehensive element of our increased scrutiny at the Pilgrim nuclear power plant,” said NRC Region I Administrator Dan Dorman. “Our team will work hard to closely examine the adequacy of the plant’s recovery plans, as well as actions that Entergy has taken to address safety performance issues at the facility. Just as importantly, the inspectors will assess whether those activities have yielded tangible and lasting improvements.”

The NRC said it will issue a report on the inspection within 45 days after it concludes early next year, as well as a formal list of corrective actions Entergy will need to take to transition Pilgrim back to normal oversight levels. That list may be long, given that the plant has continued to experience unplanned shutdowns well into 2016 and that the two previous inspections both identified additional green findings (indicating very low safety significance).

Entergy plans to retire Pilgrim by 2019 because of its poor economics.

—Thomas W. Overton, JD is a POWER associate editor (@thomas_overton, @POWERmagazine).

November 30, 2016 Posted by | safety, USA | Leave a comment

It’s a little scary how many nukes are stored near major cities

So How Close Do You Live to a Nuclear Bomb? http://sploid.gizmodo.com/so-how-close-do-you-live-to-a-nuclear-bomb-1789472521  Casey Chan, 29 Nov 16  Hooray. If you live south of the Equator or in any of the countries that light up green in the map above, [on original] you’re good. Keep on living there because you don’t squat next to any nuclear weapons. But if you’re in the countries painted red—like the United States, Germany, Russia, China, India, etc.—you might live closer to a nuclear bomb than you think.

 It’s a little scary how many nukes are stored near major cities. For example, the US stores its nukes in 10 states (in addition to a few bystander countries in Europe). Some of them are within spitting distance of cities like Seattle (18 miles away from a facility), Kansas City (55 miles), Denver (77 miles), and Albuquerque (with just happens to have the biggest facility within its city limits). As for Europe, nukes are scattered everywhere on the continent and cities like London, Venice, Milan, Brussels and Rotterdam are all within 50 miles of a nuclear bomb. Let’s not even get into where Russia puts their nukes.

But what’s even more terrifying is that there are lost nuclear bombs where no one is quite sure exactly where they are. The US and Russia have lost more than 50 bombs, and while some are hopefully at the bottom of the ocean, others have landed undetonated near major cities and have still yet to be found. Yikes.

Watch RealLifeLore plot out the location of nuclear bomb facilities in relation to the world in the video below. [on original]

November 30, 2016 Posted by | USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Pilgrim Nuclear Station – a disturbing example of America’s radioactive trash crisis

stranded“…….the slow and expensive process of transferring some of the older, colder fuel rods—no longer potent enough to efficiently power the reactor, but still hazardous for millennia—into dry casks. The concrete-and-steel canisters, eighteen feet tall and weighing a hundred and eighty tons, have now begun to line up on Pilgrim’s concrete pad, a football field’s length from the Bay. Many in the scientific and activist communities see dry-cask storage as preferable to pools, but the fear among those in Plymouth and surrounding towns is that the casks will become a permanent fixture on the Cape. As John Mahoney, a town selectman in Plymouth, told us, “They’re going to stand on a concrete pad overlooking Massachusetts Bay for centuries, just like those statues on Easter Island.”…

the spent fuel would be moved from plants in thirty states to a handful of regional, aboveground storage facilities—what Kevin Kamps, a waste specialist at the watchdog Beyond Nuclear, has called “parking-lot dumps.” There the waste would sit, on concrete pads similar to the one at Pilgrim, for twenty, forty, maybe even a hundred years, until the federal government finds a more permanent scheme.

radiation-truckDry casks must be hauled on heavy, slow-moving trucks, or on freight trains, which at times pass through densely populated parts of the country. Moving the casks once is arduous and expensive enough, but the D.O.E.’s proposed solution—bringing them to a temporary way station, then to a final resting place—requires doing it at least twice. “Interim storage is, in my mind, a waste of time, money, and resources,” Gregory Jaczko, a physicist and former chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, told us.

terroristIn the meantime, the casks are stacking up, vulnerable not only to the powerful storms and rising seas that come with climate change but also to deliberate attack. A terrorist group could sabotage the plant’s power supply or cooling system, mount a direct assault on its personnel, fire a rocket

PILGRIM’S PROGRESS: INSIDE THE AMERICAN NUCLEAR-WASTE CRISIS, New Yorker, By  and NOVEMBER 25, 2016, “…..Pilgrim is one of the worst-rated nuclear facilities in the United States. Ever since it generated its first kilowatt of electricity, in December of 1972, it has been beset with mechanical failures and lapses in safety. In a single four-week stretch this summer, the plant was offline for a total of fifteen days because of a malfunctioning steam-isolation valve, elevated water levels in the reactor, and other problems. For years, Pilgrim’s detractors have kept steady pressure on Entergy and state officials through local protests, a sit-in at the governor’s office, and legal action. Last October, in a partial victory for activists, the company announced plans to shutter the plant, citing the expense of keeping it running in the face of cheap, abundant natural gas and increasingly competitive “renewable-energy resources.” The reactor is scheduled to go dark on May 31, 2019.

In the past two years, Entergy has started the slow and expensive process of transferring some of the older, colder fuel rods—no longer potent enough to efficiently power the reactor, but still hazardous for millennia—into dry casks. The concrete-and-steel canisters, eighteen feet tall and weighing a hundred and eighty tons, have now begun to line up on Pilgrim’s concrete pad, a football field’s length from the Bay. Many in the scientific and activist communities see dry-cask storage as preferable to pools, but the fear among those in Plymouth and surrounding towns is that the casks will become a permanent fixture on the Cape. As John Mahoney, a town selectman in Plymouth, told us, “They’re going to stand on a concrete pad overlooking Massachusetts Bay for centuries, just like those statues on Easter Island.”…

With waste still piling up at Pilgrim and sixty-some sites across the country, the federal government has been forced to pay the nuclear industry hundreds of millions of dollars each year for breach of contract—money that plant operators are not specifically required to spend on storage. “We are really much, much further behind than we were in 1983,” Arjun Makhijani, a nuclear engineer and the president of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, said……

The Department of Energy, the agency with ultimate responsibility for the nation’s roughly seventy thousand tons of nuclear waste, has a plan—or, at least, a plan for a plan.  This spring and summer, the D.O.E. held forums in cities across the country, including Boston, to discuss a “consent-based siting initiative.” This initiative—not the identification of places to put the waste, per se, but a framework for gaining buy-in from a mistrustful public—could result in any number of storage scenarios. “We’re trying to continue making progress toward the development of what we call an integrated waste-management system,” John Kotek, the acting assistant secretary for the Office of Nuclear Energy, told us.

One option is consolidated interim storage. Under this plan, the spent fuel would be moved from plants in thirty states to a handful of regional, aboveground storage facilities—what Kevin Kamps, a waste specialist at the watchdog Beyond Nuclear, has called “parking-lot dumps.” There the waste would sit, on concrete pads similar to the one at Pilgrim, for twenty, forty, maybe even a hundred years, until the federal government finds a more permanent scheme. The D.O.E. sees this interim plan as a way to relieve communities like Plymouth of their waste burden (and the U.S. government of its payouts to the industry). But critics offer a weighty list of objections, chief among them that removing the waste from one community’s back yard requires putting it in another’s, creating more contaminated sites requiring future cleanup. The D.O.E. expects that some communities will step up and take the waste on anyway, but many people at this summer’s forums accused the agency of using public consent as a substitute for scientific and regulatory rigor.

Once sites are identified, then there’s the problem of transportation. Dry casks must be hauled on heavy, slow-moving trucks, or on freight trains, which at times pass through densely populated parts of the country. Moving the casks once is arduous and expensive enough, but the D.O.E.’s proposed solution—bringing them to a temporary way station, then to a final resting place—requires doing it at least twice. “Interim storage is, in my mind, a waste of time, money, and resources,” Gregory Jaczko, a physicist and former chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, told us. Diane Turco, who retired early from her job as a special-education teacher to devote more time to the Cape Downwinders—she is now the organization’s president—doubts that the government could make the plan happen anyway. “We think it’s just a big show to placate the public,” she said. “We don’t see it going anywhere.” Some local officials and residents, recognizing that progress is liable to be slow, have asked the government to compensate them for serving as a de-facto nuclear dump.

In the meantime, the casks are stacking up, vulnerable not only to the powerful storms and rising seas that come with climate change but also to deliberate attack. A terrorist group could sabotage the plant’s power supply or cooling system, mount a direct assault on its personnel, fire a rocket from the Bay, or launch a suicide attack from the air—not such a difficult proposition, as Rifkin’s helicopter experiment proved. ….

a radioactive sword of Damocles, to a federal government legally obligated to solve America’s ever-growing nuclear-waste crisis. “If we don’t do something,” Allison Macfarlane, the chair of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission from 2012 to 2014, said, “if we don’t have a plan, there’s a one-hundred-per-cent guarantee that this stuff gets into the environment.” ….http://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/pilgrims-progress-inside-the-american-nuclear-waste-crisis

November 28, 2016 Posted by | safety, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

World anxiety at Donald Trump in charge of the nuclear weapons codes

TrumpDonald Trump will soon learn the nuclear codes. What will he do with them?, The Age, 27 Nov 16 

Tim Johnson  “……By all accounts, the nuclear briefings a president-elect receives before inauguration are both complex in detailing procedures for a nuclear launch and awe-inspiring in explaining the physical consequences of selecting a target, launching an attack and girding for the fallout.
“These are the aspects that reportedly left President Kennedy ashen-faced,” said Peter D. Feaver, a security and conflict expert at Duke University, who worked on the National Security Council under the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations.

Those familiar with the nuclear briefings say they demand a sharp focus……..

Mr Trump will learn how a launch order would “send key people to underground bunkers,” Mr Crowley said. “That’s a critical dimension of this. Even for the Strategic Command out in Nebraska, this would send an airborne command up in the air.”

The black satchel operates with a dual key system, and part of the system is for the president to take a card from his pocket to input the correct codes.

“The card itself is critical to begin the process that activates the system,” Mr Panetta said.

While the system is designed with overlapping triggers that ensure that nuclear weapons are not launched by mistake, it is also designed for a president to make a snap decision.

“It’s a very short period of time, measured in minutes,” Mr Feaver said.

After Barack Obama received his nuclear briefings, he laid out a vision of “a world without nuclear weapons.”

“If we believe that the spread of nuclear weapons is inevitable, then in some way we are admitting to ourselves that the use of nuclear weapons is inevitable,” Mr Obama said in Prague in April 2009, promising to make nuclear nonproliferation a top priority.

In theory, no one stands in the way of the commander in chief and a nuclear launch……..

Some voice concern about what they see as Mr Trump’s imprudence.

“He seems to be quite impulsive. He sends off tweets in the middle of the night,” said Ira Helfand, co-president of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, an anti-nuclear advocacy group. “You can’t backtrack a nuclear weapon once it’s been fired.”

During the campaign, Mr Trump offered many points of view, saying limited proliferation was inevitable, nuclear war would be horrific and that the United States should always leave nuclear use as a possibility.

“I don’t think you could predict with confidence where he is going to come down on a question like this,” said Mr Feaver, the Duke University expert……. Whether those proliferation issues are addressed in further briefings for Mr Trump will depend largely on his level of interest, experts said…. http://www.theage.com.au/world/donald-trump-will-soon-learn-the-nuclear-codes-what-will-he-do-with-them-20161126-gsyc1e.html

November 28, 2016 Posted by | politics, USA | Leave a comment

Marshall Islands, ,nuclear bombed decades ago, still afflicted by American bombing today

Bikini-Atoll-bombBikini was just the beginning, bombs still threaten the islanders, New Internationalist DECEMBER 2016  John Pilger visits the Marshall Islands and its bomb survivors, still blighted by US nuclear weapons. “……..The explosion vaporized an entire island, its fall-out spreading over a vast area. There was a ‘miscalculation’, according to the official history; the wind ‘changed suddenly’. These were the first of many lies, as declassified documents and the victims’ testimony have since revealed.

Gene Curbow, a meteorologist assigned to monitor the test site, said, ‘They knew where the radioactive fall-out was going to go. Even on the day of the shot, they still had an opportunity to evacuate people, but [people] were not evacuated; I was not evacuated… The United States needed some guinea pigs to study what the effects of radiation would do.’

The secret of the Marshall Islands was Project 4.1. Official files describe a scientific programme that began as a study of mice and became a study of human beings exposed to the radiation of a nuclear weapon. Most of the women I interviewed had suffered from thyroid cancer; many in their communities did not survive.

The US Navy returned the population of Rongelap atoll, which is downwind of Bikini, even though the food was unsafe to eat and the water unsafe to drink. As a result, reported Greenpeace – which eventually sent a ship to rescue them – ‘a high proportion of their children suffered from genetic effects’.

Archive film refers to them as ‘amenable savages’. A US Atomic Energy Agency official boasts that Rongelap is ‘by far the most contaminated place on earth’, adding, ‘It will be interesting to get a measure of human uptake when people live in a contaminated environment.’

Holding a photograph of herself as a child, with terrible facial burns and most of her hair missing, Nerje Joseph told me, ‘We were bathing at the well. White dust started falling from the sky. I reached to catch the powder. We used it as soap to wash our hair. A few days later, my hair started falling out.’

Lemoyo Abon said, ‘Some people were in agony. Others had diarrhoea. We were terrified. We thought it must be the end of the world.’

Human radiation experiments

As a nine-year-old, Tony de Brum witnessed the Bravo bomb. He became foreign minister of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, an indefatigable voice demanding justice for his people. Clutching the evidence, he stood up at the United Nations in 2005 and said, ‘United States government documents clearly demonstrate that its scientists conducted human radiation experiments with Marshallese citizens. Some of our people were injected with or were coerced to drink fluids laced with radiation. Other experiments involved the resettling of people on islands highly contaminated to study how human beings absorbed radiation from the food and environment.’

The Marshall Islands were, until 1986, a Trust Territory administered by the United States with a legal obligation to ‘protect the inhabitants against the loss of their land and resources’ and to ‘protect their health and well-being’. In 2004, the US Cancer Institute reported to Congress that future Marshallese generations were likely to contract 530 cancers.

The US relinquished direct control of the islands only after the Marshallese had agreed to accept a mere $150 million as compensation for their suffering and to allow the huge US base on Kwajalein atoll, with its ‘mission to combat communist China’ and known as the Ronald Reagan Missile Test Facility.

Commanding the Pacific all the way to Asia and China, the base continues to subject the islanders to the testing of weapons of mass destruction. Missiles are launched at night, or fired into the lagoon from California. Following each ‘shot’, islanders fall sick with a ‘mystery illness’. The Environmental Protection Agency says fish in the bay cannot be eaten; fish was once the staple. The cost of firing one missile is $100 million, or two-thirds of the compensation paid to the islanders……..

In 2014, President Obama announced that the US was ‘creating the world’s largest marine reserve in the Pacific, banning fishing and other commercial activities across pristine sea dotted with coral atolls’.

In fact, as part of Obama’s military build-up in the Pacific, known as the ‘pivot to Asia’, the US has taken control of nine million square miles of ocean – an area double the size of the mainland United States. Under cover of a marine reserve, a ‘marine range complex’ will be run by the Pentagon, with torpedoes, underwater mines and numerous other detonations. Bikini was just the beginning. https://newint.org/features/2016/12/01/bikini-was-just-the-beginning/

November 28, 2016 Posted by | OCEANIA, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Climate change in action – California’s six-year drought has killed 102 Million Trees

Drought Climate Change102 Million Trees Have Died in California’s Drought http://www.enn.com/wildlife/article/50164 California’s six years of drought has left 102 million dead trees across 7.7 million acres of forest in its wake, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) announced following an aerial survey. If that is not horrendous enough, 62 million trees died in the year 2016 alone—an increase of more than 100 percent compared to 2015.

“The scale of die-off in California is unprecedented in our modern history,” Randy Moore, a forester for the U.S. Forest Service, told the Los Angeles Times, adding that trees are dying “at a rate much quicker than we thought.”

“You look across the hillside on a side of the road, and you see a vast landscape of dead trees,” added Adrian Das, a U.S. Geological Survey ecologist whose office is located in Sequoia National Park. “It’s pretty startling.”

Most of the dead trees are located in 10 counties in the southern and central Sierra Nevada region.

“Five consecutive years of severe drought in California, a dramatic rise in bark beetle infestation and warmer temperatures are leading to these historic levels of tree die-off,” the USFS said.

Continue reading at ENN affiliate, Care2

November 28, 2016 Posted by | climate change, USA | Leave a comment

New York Court of Appeals approves right of the state to review Indian Point Nuclear plant’s relicensing

legal actionIn major win for NY Gov. Cuomo, high court rules state can review Indian Point Indian Point nuclear plant, which the government of New York would prefer to close. Photo: Ricky Flores/The Journal Newsrelicensing  http://www.utilitydive.com/news/in-major-win-for-ny-gov-cuomo-high-court-rules-state-can-review-indian-po/431064/  

Dive Brief:

  • The New York Court of Appeals this week determined the state has the right to review Entergy Corp.’s request for a  Coastal Consistency Determination at its Indian Point nuclear plant, a major win for Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D)’s bid to shutter the plant, the Associated Press reports. 
  • The facility is located about 40 miles north of New York City, and Cuomo has said it is impossible to operate safely so closely to themost populous metropolitan area in the country.
  • Entergy has requested a 20-year license renewal from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and had argued the state did not have oversight over the process. Indian Point Units 2 and 3 have been operating since the mid-1970s.
 Dive Insight:

New York’s relationship with its nuclear plants is a strange thing: for three of them, it has allocated billions of dollars to keep running. The fourth, the state has tried for years to close down.

On Monday, Associated Press reports Cuomo’s quest to mothball Indian Point got a major win: The state’s highest court sided with the New York Department of State, allowing it to ensure the Indian Point continues to operate in compliance with the state’s coastal regulations.

Entergy had argued that the state’s concerns over its water permit were a cover for safety concerns, which it said fall to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

In February, Cuomo ordered an investigation of the plant, over concerns it was leaking contaminated water, with monitoring wells showing a spike in radiation. A statement from Cuomo noted the state had already concluded Entergy’s relicensing application is inconsistent with the state’s Coastal Management Program.

“Indian Point is antiquated and does not belong on the Hudson River in close proximity to New York City, where it poses a threat not only to the coastal resources and uses of the river, but to millions of New Yorkers living and working in the surrounding community,” Cuomo said.

November 24, 2016 Posted by | Legal, USA | Leave a comment

Nuclear contractors settle with USA Justice Dept over allegations of improper billing.

legal costsUnited States Settles Lawsuit Against Energy Department Contractors for Knowingly Mischarging Costs on Contract at Nuclear Waste Treatment Plant https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/united-states-settles-lawsuit-against-energy-department-contractors-knowingly-mischarging, 24 Nov 16, 

The Justice Department announced today that Bechtel National Inc., Bechtel Corp., URS Corp. (predecessor in interest to AECOM Global II LLC) and URS Energy and Construction Inc. (now known as AECOM Energy and Construction Inc.) have agreed to pay $125 million to resolve allegations under the False Claims Act that they made false statements and claims to the Department of Energy (DOE) by charging DOE for deficient nuclear quality materials, services, and testing that was provided at the Waste Treatment Plant (WTP) at DOE’s Hanford Site near Richland, Washington.  The settlement also resolves allegations that Bechtel National Inc. and Bechtel Corp. improperly used federal contract funds to pay for a comprehensive, multi-year lobbying campaign of Congress and other federal officials for continued funding at the WTP.  Bechtel Corp. and Bechtel National Inc. are Nevada corporations.  URS Corp. is headquartered in California, and URS Energy & Construction Inc. is headquartered in Colorado.

“The money allocated by Congress for the Waste Treatment Plant is intended to fund the Department of Energy’s important mission to clean up the contaminated Hanford nuclear site, and this mission is undermined if funds are wasted on goods or services that are not nuclear compliant or to further lobbying activities,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “This settlement demonstrates that the Justice Department will work to ensure that public funds are used for the important purposes for which they are intended.”

“The environmental clean-up and restoration of the land that comprises the Hanford Nuclear Reservation is one of the single most important projects in this region,” said U.S. Attorney Michael C. Ormsby of the Eastern District of Washington. “It is imperative that funds allocated for this project be used appropriately and judiciously – the public expects nothing less.  This office and our DOJ and DOE counterparts take allegations of contractor abuse seriously and place a priority on investigating and pursuing enforcement when those allegations could impact the safety and security of our citizens.”

“The DOE Office of Inspector General is committed to ensuring the integrity of Departmental contracts and financial expenditures,” said Acting Inspector General Rickey R. Hass. “We will continue to steadfastly investigate allegations of fraudulent diversion of tax dollars throughout DOE programs and appreciate the support of DOJ attorneys in these matters.”

Between 2002 and the present, DOE has paid billions of dollars to the defendants to design and build the WTP, which will be used to treat dangerous radioactive wastes that are currently stored at DOE’s Hanford Site.  The contract required materials, testing and services to meet certain nuclear quality standards.  The United States alleged that the defendants violated the False Claims Act by charging the government the cost of complying with these standards when they failed to do so.  In particular, the United States alleged that the defendants improperly billed the government for materials and services from vendors that did not meet quality control requirements, for piping and waste vessels that did not meet quality standards and for testing from vendors who did not have compliant quality programs.  The United States also alleged that Bechtel National Inc. and Bechtel Corp. improperly claimed and received government funding for lobbying activities in violation of the Byrd Amendment, and applicable contractual and regulatory requirements, all of which prohibit the use of federal funds for lobbying activities.

The allegations resolved by this settlement were initially brought in a lawsuit filed under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the False Claims Act by Gary Brunson, Donna Busche, and Walter Tamosaitis, who worked on the WTP project.  The False Claims Act permits private parties to sue on behalf of the United States when they believe that a party has submitted false claims for government funds, and to receive a share of any recovery.  The Act also permits the government to intervene in such a lawsuit, as it did in part in this case.  The whistleblowers’ reward has not yet been determined.

This matter was handled by the Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Washington, the DOE Office of the Inspector General and the FBI.

The claims asserted against defendants are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability.  The case is United States ex rel. Brunson, Busche, and Tamosaitis v. Bechtel National, Inc., Bechtel Corp., URS Corp., and URS Energy & Construction, Inc., Case No. 2:13-cv-05013-EFS (E.D. Wash.).

November 24, 2016 Posted by | Legal, Reference, secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA | Leave a comment