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Capitol News Illinois | By Jerry Nowicki Andrew Adams
Published December 10, 2023 at 6:00 AM CST

A nuclear reactor

Andrew Adams Capitol News Illinois

While large-scale nuclear facilities like the Byron Generating Station won’t be allowed under a new law signed by Gov. JB Pritzker Friday, smaller-scale modular reactors are authorized under the plan.

Gov. JB Pritzker on Friday signed into law a measure that will allow for the limited development of new nuclear power generation technology in the state.

The measure, House Bill 2473, does not allow new large-scale power generation facilities like the six plants that are already operational in the state, but rather allows for new smaller-scale emergent technology.

Since 1987, the state has had a moratorium on any new nuclear power construction until the federal government designates a long-term disposal site for nuclear waste — something that has never occurred. The new law will take effect on June 1, 2024, but because permitting nuclear energy takes many years at the federal level, the earliest a nuclear project could be brought online in Illinois would be in the 2030s.

HB 2473 creates a regulatory structure for the construction of small modular nuclear reactors, or SMRs. The bill limits the nameplate capacity of such reactors to 300 megawatts, about one-third the size of the smallest of the six existing nuclear power plants in Illinois. It also requires the state to perform a study that will inform rules for regulating SMRs, which must be adopted by the Illinois Emergency Management Agency by January 2026.

The bill’s proponents say it’s a necessary step as Illinois tries to end its reliance on carbon-emitting power sources over the next two decades. But its opponents say it distracts from Illinois’ efforts to deploy 100 percent renewable energy production and is an endorsement of unproven technology.

The bill passed with bipartisan support in the Senate, 44-7, and the House, 98-8, on the final day of the fall veto session last month. The opposition came exclusively from Democrats. Pritzker vetoed an earlier version of the measure but helped usher the compromise through the legislature.

The bill’s sponsors said after its passage that it has the potential to bolster Illinois’ electric grid reliability as the state’s energy mix becomes increasingly reliant on intermittent technologies such as wind and solar.

Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, sponsored the bill in the Senate, while Rep. Lance Yednock, D-Ottawa, was its House sponsor. Rezin noted last month that she is particularly interested in the potential for SMRs to be developed at the sites of former coal plants, avoiding the need to build new transmission lines, although that process could take many years.

David Kraft, an outspoken critic of nuclear energy and head of the Chicago-based advocacy group Nuclear Energy Information Service, testified against the measure at several points during the legislative process.

Kraft said he was concerned about the lack of existing SMR installations and the unproven nature of the technology. While some nuclear reactors of this scale exist in other countries, no commercial SMRs have ever been built in the United States.

Counting Illinois, 11 states currently have some level of nuclear construction bans on the books. Since 2016, five other states have either repealed or weakened their bans. Several of the states that have lifted their bans have done so to pave the way for SMR technology.

But the biggest U.S. player in that industry has seen several recent setbacks.

In November, NuScale Power – the only company with a federally approved SMR design – announced that it was canceling its highly watched “Carbon Free Power Project” in Utah, which would have been the first commercial project with a NuScale reactor. Still, its leaders say the company will continue with its other projects, which are at varying steps of regulation and planning.

Rezin told Capitol News Illinois last month she hopes Illinois’ and other states’ moves to reverse their construction bans will encourage nuclear energy development in the U.S.

Pritzker did not issue a statement but signed the bill along with 15 others that were sent to his desk following November’s fall veto session. That included a measure a that would require the state to purchase exclusively “zero-emission vehicles,” such as electric vehicles, after Jan. 1, 2030.

Senate Bill 1769 excludes law enforcement vehicles and vehicles purchased by the Illinois Department of Transportation as part of a program that provides buses to some mass transit systems.

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government. It is distributed to hundreds of newspapers, radio and TV stations statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, along with major contributions from the Illinois Broadcasters Foundation and Southern Illinois Editorial Association.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.

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Subject: NRC Request for Additional Information re. Susquehanna Relief Request RR-02 (EPID L-2023-LLR-0044)
 
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The State, Columbia, SC
 
 
Westinghouse official who helped SCANA fool the public on nuclear project to plead guilty 
 
By John Monk   Updated December 07, 2023 12:44 PM
 
The last defendant in the six-year-plus financial and nuclear construction scandal involving the now-defunct SCANA utility has agreed to plead guilty. 
 
The defendant, Jeffrey Benjamin, a former top executive at Westington Electric Co., is scheduled to plead guilty next Thursday in federal court in Columbia to the felony charge of “aiding and abetting the failure to keep accurate corporate records” — an action that in turn helped allow SCANA officials to lie to the public and regulators about the perilous state of its ongoing nuclear construction project in Fairfield County, according evidence in the case and documents filed Thursday in U.S. District Court. 
 
A plea deal says that Benjamin will be sentenced to between probation and 12 months in prison. He could also have a financial penalty of up to $100,000.
 
Had Benjamin been found guilty in a trial, the maximum penalty he would have been exposed to is 20 years in prison and a $5 million fine. However, as a first time offender with no criminal history, his sentence would have been much less than the maximum.
 
A statement issued Thursday through Benjamin’s attorney, William Sullivan of Washington, said, “When Mr. Benjamin became aware in late 2016 that SCANA’s securities disclosures were misrepresenting the risk of further construction delays, he regrettably allowed Westinghouse to continue to primarily focus on the potential for the construction schedule being achievable, rather than delivering a clear and specific message emphasizing the likelihood of further delays that would force SCANA to correct its securities disclosures.” 

 NEWS FROM BEYOND NUCLEAR

  For immediate release 

 Contact: Michael J. Keegan, Don't Waste Michigan, (734) 770-1441, mkeeganj@comcast.net 
 Kevin Kamps, Beyond Nuclear, (240) 462-3216, kevin@beyondnuclear.org

 

Environmental Coalition Legally Intervenes Against Palisades Atomic Reactor Restart

“Zombie” Nuke, and “Small” Modular Reactor New Builds, Would Compound Radioactive Risks

Covert, Michigan and Washington, D.C., December 6, 2023--A coalition of environmental groups, including Beyond Nuclear, Don’t Waste Michigan, and Michigan Safe Energy Future, has submitted a petition to intervene, and request for hearing, to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), opposing the unprecedented scheme to restart the permanently closed, more than half-century old Palisades atomic reactor.

The petition and request raised four contentions, namely: (1) a mere paperwork reshuffle, via an NRC exemption to regulations, is unacceptable to permit reactor restart, given the previous owner Entergy’s June 2022 termination of the operating license, as well as the high risks to safety, security, health, and the environment; (2) Holtec has inappropriately and perhaps even illegally expended Decommissioning Trust Fund money, to the tune of many tens of millions of dollars, on the restart scheme and other unapproved non-decommissioning expenses, putting the future radiological cleanup of the contaminated site in serious jeopardy; (3) the license transfer from previous owner Entergy to Holtec is illegitimate and should be nullified, given Holtec’s bait and switch trick, from supposed decommissioning-only, to the reactor restart scheme; (4) Holtec’s attempt to do an end run around National Environmental Policy Act requirements through a so-called categorical exclusion should be rejected by NRC, especially considering the extreme risks to the environment of the restart scheme.

Arnie Gundersen, chief engineer of Fairewinds, prepared an expert declaration on behalf of the environmental coalition, detailing the severe safety risks and exorbitant costs associated with the unprecedented reactor restart scheme. Gundersen’s expert declaration concluded, in part, that “…the degraded condition of every aspect of this nuclear power plant, the lack of a long-term experienced, skilled staff, and the non-existent QA [Quality Assurance] and management oversight programs flunk every atomic power failsafe feature that are hallmarks of our country’s nuclear safety and licensing process and programs.”

Not only did Palisades have the worst neutron-embrittled reactor pressure vessel in the country when it closed for good on May 20, 2022, it had several additional major safety concerns: steam generators and the reactor vessel closure head, all in need of replacement for two decades; Control Rod Drive Mechanism seal leaks that have plagued Palisades since 1972; and now safety-significant systems, structures, and components, such as the turbine-generator, steam generators, pumps, and valves, that have very likely gone unmaintained for a year and a half, and counting, leading to dangerous degradation.

Mark Z. Jacobson, environmental engineer and Stanford University professor, also prepared an expert declaration on the renewable, efficiency, and storage electricity alternatives to nuclear power in the contexts of supply reliability and climate mitigation.

Kevin Kamps, radioactive waste specialist at Beyond Nuclear, also prepared an expert declaration, dissecting the nearly $4.5 billion, and counting, of federal and state bailouts Holtec is seeking for the reactor restart scheme, as well as the $7.4 billion in additional U.S. Department of Energy loan guarantees associated with its SMR new build plans.

“Holtec’s reckless nuclear plans at Palisades represent an existential risk to the Great Lakes on par with Enbridge’s oil pipeline shenanigans at the Straits of Mackinac,” said Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear. “Incredibly enough, the public is being forced to pay for this high-risk game of radioactive Russian roulette on the Lake Michigan shoreline, to the tune of nearly $12 billion and counting,” Kamps added.

"The opportunity costs are astronomical,” said Michael Keegan, co-chair of Don't Waste Michigan. "Substantially greater quantities of clean, safe, secure renewable energy coupled with efficiency and storage should be purchased far cheaper than spending an absurd $16 million for each of 280 restored jobs at the zombie reactor,” Keegan added.

“The Palisades reactor restart would resume generating 20 metric tons of highly radioactive irradiated nuclear fuel annually for decades to come. The proposed SMRs would generate two to 30 times the amount of high-level radioactive waste, per unit of electricity produced, as do current reactors,” said Bette Pierman of Michigan Safe Energy Future-Shoreline Chapter, a Benton Harbor resident. “Holtec’s high-risk plan to barge high-level radioactive waste on Lake Michigan from Palisades to Muskegon could prove catastrophic if a single container sinks, whether due to accident or attack,” Pierman added.

“A year after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe began, the Japanese Parliament published an independent root cause investigation report, unique in its history. The root cause, it concluded, was collusion between the company, the regulatory agency, and government officials, which left the nuclear power plant catastrophically vulnerable to the natural disasters that struck on March 11, 2011,” said Kamps. “Such collusion exists in spades at Palisades, and it wouldn’t necessarily take a natural disaster to unleash catastrophe. The breakdown phase risks at the zombie reactor, co-located with the break-in phase risks at the SMR new builds, could lead to domino-effect multiple reactor meltdowns at Palisades,” Kamps added.

Yesterday’s legal filing deadline fell on the same day that Holtec served up another bait and switch with an announcement to build yet to be design-certified SMR-300s instead of previously announced SMR-160s. The newly proposed Small Modular Reactors, of 300 Megawatts-electric each, would supposedly be built by 2030.

Attorneys Terry Lodge of Toledo, Ohio, and Wally Taylor of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, serve as the environmental coalition’s legal counsel. To establish legal standing, the intervention was made on behalf of members and supporters of the environmental groups, most of whom live within two miles or less of the Palisades nuclear power plant.

-30-
Beyond Nuclear is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit membership organization. Beyond Nuclear aims to educate and activate the public about the connections between nuclear power and nuclear weapons and the need to abolish both to safeguard our future. Beyond Nuclear advocates for an energy future that is sustainable, benign and democratic. The Beyond Nuclear team works with diverse partners and allies to provide the public, government officials, and the media with the critical information necessary to move humanity toward a world beyond nuclear. Beyond Nuclear: 7304 Carroll Avenue, #182, Takoma Park, MD 20912. Info@beyondnuclear.orgwww.beyondnuclear.org.

Hello Community!

We hope you are all staying warm and enjoying good company this season. Many of us are feeling how rough things are on the planet right now, but we are keeping to heart what Grandmother Jessie Collins, our eldest, reminds us: "think globally, act locally." CRAFT is here in Southeastern Michigan to protect Lake Erie from the nuclear threat of Fermi 2 and we want to thank everyone who's been stepping up to support us, the waters, and all our relations.

For those of you keeping up with the Permit to Pollute saga, we want to extend another HUGE thank you to everyone who showed up to the public hearing this past Tuesday. Over 50 allies spoke up to oppose DTE's Permit to Pollute (number MI0037028) at the hearing hosted by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE). This hearing came at the behest of 200+ signees onto our public letter back in October.

But, even with all of this public support for our health and waters, they are still trying to sneak this rogue permit by. As Grandmother Jessie pointed out at the hearing, the permit was showing up as approved even a month before this meeting. They are still accepting written comments through tonight, December 1st, at Midnight EST - let's show them the people are still watching! If you couldn't attend the hearing and want to stand for Lake Erie, click below to submit a written comment.

Submit Written Comments

You can copy and paste this as your comment if you want:

Fermi 2 is polluting Lake Erie with dangerously heated, toxic wastewater, and I call on EGLE to redraft Fermi 2’s permit to protect our waters and our health.

We need:

• Thermal limits for Fermi 2, in alignment with EPA recommendations

• Regulation of radionuclide discharges to protect our drinking water

• Fermi 2 to immediately stop discharging banned chemicals into Lake Erie

• EGLE must issue a new and approved permit with these protections

Thank you for calling this hearing - please take this chance to protect our communities.

You can watch the public hearing and hear the amazing public comments at the link below. Comments begin at 53 minutes in:

Recording of the Public Hearing

And now, a few highlights from this month's newsletter:

  • We've included a brief report on the public hearing with EGLE. The team of 6 panelists they sent to speak with us was entirely underwhelming and uninformed as they knew very little about Fermi 2, its shutdowns and accidents, even coming from the permit writer herself. Check out the links above to make a last-minute comment before midnight and to watch the hearing online.
  • Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer has signed into law several clean energy bills aiming to make the state carbon neutral by 2050. One in particular is Senate bill 271 requiring Michigan to get 100% of its electricity from clean sources by 2040. The problem is that their definition of "clean" includes nuclear and natural gas. Nuclear is absolutely NOT a clean industry, read on to learn why...
  • The National Radioactive Waste Coalition has written a succinct list breaking down why the nuclear fuel cycle is a dirty reality from cradle to coffin. Beginning with mining and milling of uranium, to ore enrichment, the fabrication of fuel for power plants, and the storage of radioactive waste, nuclear is NOT a clean energy solution. Check out the insert to learn more about this process.

Read about these topics and more in the Newsletter that our own Grandmother Jessie very thoughtfully researches and curates every month for our benefit.

CRAFT December 2023 Newsletter & Insert

Thank you all so much, here is to a safe and just energy future.

Peace and Safety,

The CRAFT Team

Donate to Support

Citizen's Resistance At Fermi Two (CRAFT) is an Indigenous-led, grassroots, organization, committed to an accessible, fair, and just energy future for all! CRAFT originally formed after the Christmas Day 1993 incident at the Fermi2 nuclear reactor that dumped 1.5 million gallons of untreated toxic, radioactive water into Lake Erie. We will continue to push for the closing of Fermi2, and for a safer world powered by renewables.

 The Diablo Canyon Syndrome 

A History of Nuclear Negligence - Dan Hirsch

 
 
 
 
READ IN APP
 

An EON Video Report by James Heddle and Mary Beth Brangan

Déjà vu All Over Again & Again -
What More Do You Need to Know to Shutdown Diablo Now?

Daniel Hirsch lays out the long, sad history of PG&E and NRC nuclear negligence and incompetence at Diablo Canyon in this excerpted testimony before Senator Barbara Boxer's Committee on Environment and Public Works, Dec. 3, 2014.

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Hirsch heads CommitteeToBridgeTheGap.org and is a lecturer on nuclear policy at the University of California in Santa Cruz. His testimony shows that from Humboldt Bay to Bodega Head to Diablo Canyon PG&E has consistently chosen nuclear sites on earthquake faults and the NRC has consistently failed to enforce its own seismic safety standards.

Lest We Forget

This is a video and transcript of Hirsch’s testimony in a December 3, 2014 meeting of the U.S. Senate Environment & Public Works Committee, chaired by then California Senator Barbara Boxer re: Seismic Safety at Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant.

Panelists included Hirsch, Dr. Sam Blakeslee, a geophysicist, former Republican California state senator, and former California Seismic Safety Commission member, and Anthony Pietrangelo of the National  Energy Institute (NEI), a nuclear power advocacy group. 

Dr. Blakeslee’s testimony is here

The full historic hearing can be viewed here


   

EON Graphic


The Boxer Legacy

During her decades of service in the U.S. Congress – first as a California Representative from 1983 to 1993, then as Senator from 1993-2017 – Democrat Barbara Boxer was an indomitable and consistent advocate for sane, safe, responsible state and national nuclear policy. 

Hirsch’s historically detailed testimony in this hearing reveals the classic textbook example of PG&E’s and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s longstanding private-public partnership in the perpetual project of corporate regulatory capture. 

In a rational society, the patterns, events and conditions Hirsch describes should have been enough to cause the immediate shuttering of Diablo Canyon in 2014.

Their urgency is even starker today as attempts are being made to extend Diablo 2 aged, dangerously embrittled reactors’ operation for 20 more years beyond their scheduled shutdown dates in 2024 and 2025. 

Administration of Diablo’s operation has been stuck on stupid for a long time. 

It’s high time to hit the Off Switch.

Transcript

Senator Boxer:           I'm just thrilled with this panel…. Dan Hirsch is someone I've worked with... is the word forever apt here? Honestly, I don't know how far back it goes, but I think it was before I was in the United States Senate. We're talking decades of... And I just think he is tremendous. He's a lecturer, University of California Santa Cruz, and that doesn't begin to describe his contribution to safety from toxics and the rest. I'm very happy you're here. I'm very grateful to you for sticking around because I know this has been a long wait, but as you could tell from the first panel, these issues are matters of life and death and that's why we took the time we took and I didn't want to rush your panel. I have a lot of time here, so we'll go back and forth. So Mr. Hirsch, do you want to please begin and we'll give you six minutes….

Dan Hirsch:    I have a written statement…

Senator Boxer:           We will put in the record.

Dan Hirsch:    Thank you. Chairman Boxer, thank you so much for the invitation to appear here today. The Japanese parliamentary investigation into the Fukushima tragedy concluded that it was caused by a too cozy relationship between the reactor operator and its regulator that allowed the nuclear plant to be built to withstand only an earthquake and tsunami far smaller than actually occurred. These problems plague the American nuclear regulatory system as well. My testimony will focus on an examination of one case study, Diablo Canyon, that suggests the Fukushima lessons have not been learned here. This is particularly important in light of the extraordinary new seismic discoveries near the site and the inadequate response to them by the NRC. Unless the underlying dysfunctional nature of nuclear regulation in this country rapidly undergoes sweeping reform. A Fukushima-type disaster or worse can occur here perhaps on the California coast. Diablo was designed and permitted based on the claim that there were no active earthquake faults within 30 kilometers of the site.

            We now know, however, that there are at least four large active faults nearby, all capable of more ground motion than the plant was originally designed for. Each time there was a new belated seismic discovery at Diablo, however, the commission gave PG&E a pass. Rules were relaxed, safety margins reduced, public hearings denied. The most recent discoveries of increased seismic risk have met the same fate. At the construction permit hearings in 1970, the intervener asked for a few hours to present evidence of nearby faults. PG&E and the commission staff objected and the NRC refused to permit the matter to be heard. One board member-

Senator Boxer:           Say that one more time. That last point.

Dan Hirsch:    In 1970, interveners wanted a few hours to be able to present evidence of undiscovered faults. Both PG&E and the commission staff objected. The licensing board refused to permit the testimony. Tom Pigford, a member of committee of the board dissented saying, "Shouldn't we find out before we pour concrete if there are earthquake faults?"

Senator Boxer:           Thank you.

Dan Hirsch:    He lost and they went ahead and poured the concrete and almost immediately was revealed that there was an offshore fault, the Hosgri fault, much larger than the plant was designed for. But instead of withdrawing the permit or requiring a full upgrade to deal with the new fault, the NRC waived the normal requirements of the license and granted an exception for the Hosgri. Only minimal retrofits were required but it didn't end then. Within days of granting the operating license, NRC. Egg on his face had to rescind it because it turned out that PG&E had used the wrong blueprints for putting in the retrofits. Mirror image blueprints, placing the retrofits in the wrong places. They had to do it all over again, leading to a cost moving from $320 million to over $5 billion. The cost over end largely passed on to the rate payer.

            But, we were sure, don't worry, we're sure there can't be any more faults out there. And then a few years later, the second and the third nearby faults were discovered, the Los Osos and San Luis Bay faults. Again, we were told, don't worry, there can't be any more surprises. And then in 2008, the US geologic survey found the fourth fault that wasn't supposed to exist, the shoreline fault, coming within 600 meters of the plant. PG&E and NRC said, "Don't worry. The three recently identified faults were well within the license limits," but then something absolutely remarkable happened. Dr. Michael Peck, the senior resident inspector for NRC at Diablo actually went and checked the license and what he discovered was that all three of those faults, according to PG&E itself, had ground motions greater than the plant license allowed.

            He said that it should be shut down until the problem was fixed. So PG&E proposed instead of fixing the plant, to amend the license to remove the provisions they were violating. But even that didn't work because they couldn't meet the criteria for license amendment. So they withdrew it, and that should have been the end of the matter. The plant should have been shut down until it was retrofitted. But instead, NRC allowed PG&E to in essence, amend the license without amending the license, all to avoid a public hearing. And then Peck took the gutsy step of filing the dissenting professional opinion, which this September as expected, the NRC rejected. But here's where the story gets most troubling with developments essentially not reported to the public until today. On the very same day, NRC issued to the news media its denial of Dr. Peck's dissent, PG&E released an 1800 page study required by the state of the seismic situation near the facility and they discovered that the Shoreline fault which they hadn't even known about until a few years earlier, was twice as long as they previously thought. That a number of the faults are now estimated to produce larger magnitude earthquakes than they had thought just a few years ago. And that again, all of these are estimated to produce ground motions in excess, it was permitted in the license for all faults except the Hans Cree. It's deja vu all over again. Repeat of the problem we've seen year after year. And unless we fix these problems, regulated entities pressing for weakening of safety requirements and of regulators viewing themselves more as allies of the industry rather than protectors of public safety, we will not have learned the lessons of Fukushima. And a Fukushima type disaster is just waiting to happen here. All it takes, just as that Fukushima, is an earthquake larger than the plant was designed to withstand. It could happen tomorrow.

Senator Boxer:           Thank you for your testimony. It's quite riveting and you tell it in most straightforward way, and that's what I know about you and what I've always admired. You just give us the facts and you let us understand the drama just by giving us the facts. And this is dramatic testimony and I'm very grateful. Can you please confirm to your knowledge, because you may not know this but I'm asking you, can you confirm that NRC has thus far always accepted estimates of how strong an earthquake might occur at Diablo Canyon that use questionable science to minimize the risk Mr. Hirsch?

Dan Hirsch:    That's been the pattern over and over again. When the Hosgri was discovered belatedly, 80% of the plant was already constructed. And so, rather than require them to upgrade it to the shaking that you could get from that earthquake, they allowed them to use a bunch of fudge factors.

Senator Boxer:           Uh-huh.

Dan Hirsch:    Four different fudge factors so that they could in the end do almost no retrofitting. Commissioners Galinsky and Bradford on the commission at the time, dissented vigorously and said that this was carving out to the essential safety margins that were needed. What's intriguing is that after the Hosgri was done and they created an exception for it, they're now using even less protective assumptions now that these new faults have been discovered. And that's why I was struck by the difference between the first panel and this panel. I wasn't even sure which planet I was on. I was getting all these assurances.

Senator Boxer:           Well, welcome to my world, Dan.

Regulatory Capture as The Norm

Dan Hirsch:    Yeah. All these assurances that [they] were on top of it. But what I see by looking at the historic record, is that the NRC has been wrong every single time on Diablo and never seems to get embarrassed. Every time they claim there's no additional fault, there's a new one. Every time there's a new fault, they say it can't produce more shaking and then it turns out that it does. And what I'm most worried about is that you can't make the earthquake go away by changing the input assumptions on a piece of paper. Nature isn't going to cooperate with the fiction. That's what happened at Fukushima. The regulator allowed them to build the reactor for a fictional earthquake and tsunami.

Senator Boxer:           Right.

Dan Hirsch:    Much less than could occur. And that's what's happening at Diablo and at many other plants around the country.

Senator Boxer:           Right. I would say when you say you thought you're on another planet, if you took this question outside of this room and we just went up to a person on the street in any town near a nuclear power plant, not near nuclear power plant, and you said, "Do you think we should be building nuclear power plant near earthquake faults?" They would start laughing and say, "You mean to say you guys allow that?" I mean that is the biggest no-brainer known to mankind.

PG&E’s Rap Sheet

Dan Hirsch:    And Senator Boxer, look at the record in California for PG&E alone, they built a plant at Humboldt Bay which now has had to be shut down because of the discovery of an earthquake fault that they had claimed wasn't active. They wanted to build one at Bodega Head and they actually dug the foundation for it. A huge hole called hole in the head by the locals and someone, seismologists crawled into it on a weekend and found a fault in the hole, right where the reactor was going to go. So that's why there's no reactor at Bodega Head. So then they turned their attention down to Diablo.

Senator Boxer:           Right. You just can't manipulate like that. This is shocking. This is, in my view, unethical. This is dangerous and I just hope that what comes out of this today via the media who I hope will hear this point, is that we have new information about these earthquake faults and an inspector came in from the NRC and said, "PG&E is not operating Diablo Canyon in compliance with its license requirements because of these faults." And he said, "The reactor should be shut down until PG&E comes back into compliance." So I want to ask the three of you a yes or a no and hope you'll be able to do that. Do you think that NRDC's... I'm sorry, NRC's decision to allow PG&E to study its seismic vulnerabilities for as many as four more years before any safety upgrades are required can substitute for NRC's responsibility to ensure that licensees comply with the terms of their operating license? In other words, it's a long question. They say you've got four more years before you have to make any upgrades as opposed to ensuring that they make them sooner, would you say now or four years?

Dan Hirsch:    Now. The earthquake may not wait four years.

Senator Boxer:           Good point.

Getting Beyond ‘Paralysis by Analysis’

Dr. Sam Blakeslee:     We are very familiar with paralysis by analysis and the threat now is unequivocally so great as a result of these new studies, that action is required immediately.

Senator Boxer:           Sir?

Anthony Pietrangelo of the National  Energy Institute (NEI):                      

Licensees should allow it to be continued to operate because there are measures in place to deal with beyond design basis, external hazards like seismic or flooding or rain or hurricanes. That was the response to Fukushima that the industry, as ordered by the NRC in 2012, implemented.

Senator Boxer:           Do you agree with that?

Dan Hirsch:    May I respond to that?

Senator Boxer:           Yes, please.

Dan Hirsch:    I sat through the licensing hearings for Diablo many years ago where the issue of the functioning of the emergency plan in an earthquake was raised. The intervener said that the freeway, the only way in and out is highway one and the one-on-one and the overpasses, could easily come down to an earthquake and you have to have a functioning emergency plan according to the law. And the NRC ruled, and I was stunned. I've never quite seen something with so much logic, it's been twisted into such a pretzel. The NRC ruled that they didn't need to have an emergency plan that would function after an earthquake because it was not credible, their term, that there would ever be an earthquake and a nuclear accident Diablo simultaneously. Well, no one that was ever talking about them being two separate events. We're talking about an earthquake that causes an accident and then people can't get out.

            And so, to say that there are good systems for dealing with this, if there's a "beyond design basis event," which means something occurs that they didn't design for, really begs the question that is the whole problem. Fukushima wasn't designed for the earthquake that could occur.

Senator Boxer:           Mr. Hirsch, your written testimony describes numerous instances in which the NRC used irregular licensing and other processes to find a way to allow Diablo to be built and operated. Could you once again just summarize that? In other words, there's been a parade of these things over the years and I know and you've done it but if you could summarize all the, if you will, errors in judgment the NRC has made leading up to this point?

The NRC Rap Sheet

Dan Hirsch:    One of the best ways of telling whether the five commissioners who testified here earlier today really have it under control is to empirically look at the track record of how well the NRC has done. So let's look at that record for Diablo. They built it claiming there were no earthquake faults that were active within 30 kilometers. They said you only have to design the facility for a ground motion of 0.4 g. Then the Hosgri was discovered and they said, you don't have to use the normal assumptions for the Hosgri. We will let you use four different fudge factors that take the estimated ground motion from 1.15 g, which is what USGS said would be the normal figure, and reduced it down to something less than 0.6. They used pencils and erasers to try to lower the estimated ground motion rather than deal with the ground motion that was there.

            But then they made an actual finding, the licensing board, that is highly unlikely that there are any more faults that we haven't discovered. And we're absolutely certain that the Hosgri fault is not connected to the San Simeon fault and that there's high quality assurance of how the plant is being built. And then the day that the utility people were flying back from Washington with their operating license, it was discovered that they had put the retrofits in all the wrong places. And then they said there can't be-

Mis-Retrofits

Senator Boxer:           Explain what you mean by that, they put them in all the wrong places? Mean, physically and-

Dan Hirsch:    The two units at...

Senator Boxer:           Yeah.

Dan Hirsch:    Diablo units one [and] unit two.

Senator Boxer:           Yeah.

Dan Hirsch:    And they were built to mirror image blueprints of each other. So when they got into going into one unit to put the retrofits in, they used the wrong set of blueprints. The ones that were the mirror image of the unit they were putting it in. So the pipe snubbers and the whip restraints were put in the wrong places and they had to go back and do it all over again. Complete breakdown in quality assurance. But they said, "Don't worry, we're fine now. There can't be any more faults." Then they found the San Luis Bay and Los Osos were active and they said, "Don't worry, those can't cause more ground motion than in the license. They can't cause more than the 0.4 g." But then Dr. Peck went and actually looked at PG&E's estimates and they were estimating those three new faults, shoreline, Los Osos and San Luis were producing from 0.6 to 0.7 g. Anyone knows that's a lot higher than 0.4. They were way over the level.

            So now they're doing, as Dr. Blakeslee indicates, it's the same thing. They're sharpening the pencils again and they're saying, let's change the assumptions and let's reduce the safety margins further and drive our estimate of the ground motion down further rather than upgrade the plant. And look in real terms, you either fix the problem or you try to use your pencil to make it pretend to go away but nature doesn't let things disappear. It was a 9.0 quake at Fukushima. The plant wasn't built for it. There was a massive tsunami. It wasn't built for it. And let me make one last point here. The chart that you showed so effectively of the 12 recommendations that haven't been carried out.

Senator Boxer:           Yeah.

Dan Hirsch:    Those are tiny steps they were supposed to take to deal with Fukushima. The baby steps, and they haven't done them.

Senator Boxer:           Right.

Dan Hirsch:    What they haven't done are, even thought about the big steps. Reactor containment in this country are not required to be designed to withstand a meltdown accident. The evacuation plan isn't required to work in the case of an event that requires it. You don't have to have offsite power that will stay in place long enough to keep the fuel cooled over the long periods as we saw at Fukushima. The big problems they aren't even thinking about and the small problems they're not fixing. And they're just hoping that we get lucky. And that's the problem with earthquakes, it's just tossing dice.

Senator Boxer:           Right.

Dan Hirsch:    When will one of those faults move? It's not up to the NRC.

Senator Boxer:           Right.

Hiroshima Times 1000

Dan Hirsch:    It's not up to the Nuclear Energy Institute or PG&E. Nature's going to decide when that fault moves. And the question is the plant going to be ready for it? And right now, it's not. One more point back there a thousand times the long-life radioactivity of the Hiroshima bomb in each of those reactors.

Senator Boxer:           Say that again.

Dan Hirsch:    1000 times, the long-life radioactivity of the Hiroshima bomb is in each of the diablo reactors and 10 times that in the spent fuel pools. And the only way it stays in place is if the cooling isn't lost. And an earthquake, as we've seen at Fukushima, can destroy the cooling. And it's not just the 500,000 people within the immediate area, you could wipe out for practical purposes, a substantial portion of our state. That radioactivity has to stay inside those domes and the only way that happens is if the reactors are built to withstand the worst thing that can happen.

Anthony Pietrangelo (NEI):     Can I correct Mr. Hirsch for a moment? I mean that-

Senator Boxer:           Let me just finish and yes you can, sir. You can have your time to give your perspective on it but please finish. And while you're at it, Mr Hirsch, do you happen to know how many of the rods were permitted for those pools and whether were over those rods as it was designed-

Dan Hirsch:    Again the problem: they built the pools to handle only a few fuel rods, and then they kept re-racking and re-racking, making them more and more compact. So the National Academy of Sciences has indicated that under some loss of coolant events, you could not only have the fuel in the pools lose their cooling but they could catch fire because the zirconium cladding tends to burn when it gets hot in the presence of air. It doesn't happen for every accident sequence but can happen for some. And that, as I say, there's 10 times more long-lived radioactivity in the pools than there are in the reactors. You have to prevent there being an event that the systems can't withstand.

Regulatory Fictions

            I have seen for decades of watching the NRC, that they basically, at industry urging, create regulatory fictions. One example, Governor Brown, when he was governor the first time in California, was an intervener in the Diablo proceeding. And his experts said that you needed to have a security plan that could protect against 12 attackers. PG&E and NRC said, "Absolutely impossible. There'll never be an attack involving more than three people in the United States." 9/11 was 19. So over and over again, they've been wrong and the reason is because it's cheaper to pretend that a smaller threat can exist.

Senator Boxer:           Well, it's all follow the money. And 500,000 people, one of them sitting in front of me who's living in a circumstance where if I don't do my job and NRC doesn't do its job, there could be a terrible situation. Now, if you're conservative, you want to do the conservative thing. And it seems to me a pretty straightforward thing. You either suspend operation until you've retrofitted the plant in the right way and fix it and start it up or that's it. Those are the two options. You can either fix up the plant or you can suspend operation. So it seems to me that what the NRC has apparently done which is to give them four years, and what they're doing to change science which we're used to around here, give people's views of scientists and climate they change, they pronounce what they want about it. But I don't, I listen to the scientists and I am very suspicious when you tell me that they have changed their analysis of how much the plant will shake just to, by happenstance, meet the levels that are allowed in the license.

            This is scary, and I don't want to overstate what I feel because I don't want to impugn people but I do want to say, there's a lot at stake here. I've gone through some horrific things in California including an explosion of a pipeline where people died and it turned out they weren't inspections, they weren't upgrades. I've gone through a traumatic experience with San Onofre where they made an upgrade, but it was faulty. And there but for the grace of God, that place is shut down and it's clear to me what the options are. I just want to say to all three of you, you've been terrific, all of you. I think the fact that there was a little give and take, that way, this way, is always good. And I think that what for me, is the critical piece here is the safety of that little daughter.

            And yeah, that's it. That's why I'm here. I'm not here for any other reason. There's no other reason I'm here. And I will continue to push hard on this but I also want to say to the two of my constituents, how important your work is back home. What you did to get the information about the new earthquake and Governor Schwarzenegger, then signing that, congratulations. What if we didn't know about it? I mean, you can only be as good as the information that you have. So I want to thank all three of you. This has been a really long day for us here to get to this but I think when it comes to the safety of 500,000 people, if we have to do this again, although I must admit I won't have this anymore and won't Mr. Petrangelo be excited when this gavel goes over to my buddy Jim Inhofe who sees things a bit differently.

But you know what, I still have a role, a voice, and we'll still continue to work together.

Thank you very much. We stand adjourned.

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James Heddle and Mary Beth Brangan are co-founders of EON – the Ecological Options  Network.  The EON production SOS – The San Onofry Syndrome: Nuclear Power’s Legacy received it’s World Premier at the Awareness Film Festival in Los Angeles, CA October 10, 2023, where it won the Grand Jury Award for feature documentary.  SOS was co-directed by Heddle, Brangan and Morgan Peterson, who also served as editor. SanOnofreSyndrome.com

Hi y'all,

A glimpse behind the scenes in Georgia. This isn't all of the story. One particularly wicked aspect is that the PSC staff which is supposed to advocate for the public and balance against Georgia Power's self-interest filed a stipulated agreement at the same time as Georgia Power filed for $7.56 billion in cost overruns for Vogtle 4. To add to the pain, several public interest groups also signed on to the stipulation. It is absolutely unprecedented for a stipulated agreement to be formed before any public hearings or presentation of evidence. Further, the 180-day hearing process was slashed to 90 days with a vote scheduled for December 19, effectively cutting the Georgia legislature out of the process. We were really blind-sided and unsure how to proceed. Nuclear Watch South and Georgia WAND's Petition to Hold in Abeyance is well timed as PSC elections wend through the courts. The Open Letter process has engaged an ever-widening circle and ads placed around the state is helping build awareness of all of it. PSC reform is sorely needed in Georgia!!!

Wish us well! May Vogtle be the last reactor ever built!

Cheers,
Glenn

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CALL FOR PUBLIC WITNESSES
VOGTLE 4 PRUDENCY HEARINGS ON $7.56 BILLION IN COST OVERRUNS
MONDAY, DECEMBER 4, 9:30AM
GEORGIA PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION
244 WASHINGTON STREET SW, ATLANTA

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Dear Faithful Vogtle Watchers,

Thank you so much to all who endorsed Nuclear Watch South and Georgia WAND's open letter to PSC Chair Jason Shaw and Georgia Power CEO Kim Greene. Please see the sample full-page ad attached.

The letter calls for postponing upcoming hearings (December 4-6) on $7.56 billion in cost overruns for still-unfinished Vogtle 4 until after PSC elections for two expired terms can be held. Just this past Friday, the 11th circuit ruled that Georgia could continue its previous practice of holding statewide elections for district seats. At this time, no elections have been scheduled. News reports say there could be a special election in March. The original plaintiffs who brought the Voting Rights Act of 1965 challenge to Georgia's practice may still file an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court.

Who knows when Vogtle will be finished? Who knows when there will be a PSC election? WHAT'S THE RUSH??

To ramp up the pressure, we placed full-page ads showcasing the Open Letter in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Valdosta Daily Times, Northeast Georgian (Cornelia), Marietta Daily Journal, Athens Banner-Herald and Waynesboro (Burke County) True Citizen. Additionally we have digital banner ads running on ajc.comAthens Banner-Herald, Valdosta Daily Times and a dozen small town papers affiliated with Marietta Daily Journal which are continuing to garner sign-ons. Deep gratitude to special donors who helped make this strong effort possible! And it is not too late to sign the letter! SIGN HERE

Significantly, AJC's stringent fact-checking approval process accepted our assertion that Georgia Power made $17 billion in profit during Vogtle construction years!!

This is the key point to make in your testimony on Monday morning.

LET GEORGIA POWER PAY FOR ITS OWN CONSTRUCTION MISTAKES, DELAYS AND COST OVERRUNS!!

Other points you may want to make can be garnered from the Open Letter such as highlighting that two of the five commissioners' terms expired over one year ago. One of the commissioners, Johnson, is serving out an appointment and has not ever been elected. The other, Echols, is a shameless nuclear advocate gallivanting around the globe trying to get anyone else to join Georgia in building bloated, antiquated and incredibly expensive, dangerous and unneeded nuclear technology.

Vogtle 4 is having to replace a reactor coolant pump and is far from finished. This most recent of delays was announced shortly after Georgia Power filed its rate request which launched this hearing process. The same problem happened in China and it took a year to replace the pump. WHAT'S THE RUSH?

You are a very savvy group and you can name any of the gross errors that were made during 14 years of the Vogtle construction fiasco. You may find inspiration at nonukesyall.org  Scroll down. There's a whole lot there!!! You may wish to sing a couple of verses of Georgia Power Choo Choo :)

You may testify that green, renewable technology is mature and cheap and we never need to use poison power again!! Google Mark Z. Jacobson with Stanford University and study up on NO MIRACLES NEEDED. Let it be known!

We are putting out this call for public witnesses on Monday because we have not yet heard from the PSC on Nuclear Watch South and Georgia WAND's formal Petition to Hold in Abeyance filed in October. Chairman Shaw did respond to our Open Letter dated 11/14/23 prior to Thanksgiving in a zoom meeting with Georgia WAND's Kim Scott, PSC staff attorney Preston Thomas and me. Thomas re-presented his opposition to our Petition and Shaw informed us that the staff would formally docket its response to our Petition before the holidays. I asked whether he was deferring to staff's opinion and he said he was not so we do expect to hear a final decision from him. In the meeting, we presented Chairman Shaw, who has sole discretion to honor our petition, with a precedent from 2017, the year before he was first appointed. In 2017 an instant order by then-chairman Stan Wise radically changed the hearing calendar with one week's notice and AFTER four days of public hearings had gone down. It resulted in a unanimous vote for Vogtle construction to go forward despite the bankruptcy of the main contractor and multiple experts, including PSC staff, saying Vogtle should not be finished. Our Petition to Hold in Abeyance is far less drastic and would provide a remedy to an unfortunate situation instead of 2017's example which was an abomination to public process.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR WITNESS!! THIS MIGHT BE YOUR LAST CHANCE TO STAND UP AGAINST PLANT VOGTLE!!

See you Monday morning, December 4 at 9:30AM unless, of course, WE WIN!! IT COULD HAPPEN!

Keeping the faith!
Glenn

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Glenn Carroll
Coordinator
Nuclear Watch South

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