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Nuclear Monitor: Issue 712

In this issue:

Popular Resistance Stops Site Preparations for NPP in India
'Uranium Is the New Asbestos': Union Ban on Nuclear Work
Uprating Nuclear Reactors Reduces Safety
Turkey: Hard Times Ahead
Banktrack Exposes Nuclear Secrets of Commercial Banks
Sellafield Cancer Statistics Will Remain a Secret
Australian Waste Dump Challenged in Court
NDA Announce Japanese MOX With the Sellafield MOX Plant
Obama Brings Back Space Nuclear Power

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Earth and humans: Can this marriage be saved?

By Marlene Lang

A gush of oil, a trickle of information, orders from the Coast Guard, stern words from the president. Invisible underwater pollution detected by scientists, official industry denial. Bribes and lies and brown birds that should be white.

Does anyone else share the eerie feeling that we are watching the end of the world as we know it?

I make this outlandish and hyperbolic statement not just because of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the spill they can't stop. I say this because of previous oil spills, both reported and unreported, and because of the mysterious exploding wells in northwestern Pennsylvania where underground blasts release natural gas that sets well water aflame.  And because of coal ash beds leaking toxicity into America’s heartland. And one hundred other similar deadly messes.

As the oil flows, we are beholding the frightening power of energy industries to write their own regulations and then pay somebody to let them ignore them.

It’s time to take in the big picture. We can’t keep viewing every disaster as a single event. We must step back and look at the planet and ourselves on the planet and get some marriage counseling.

Humans running the planet: This was only an accident. ONE accident. She's making a mountain out of a molehill.

Planet Earth: But, dear, there have been other accidents. We don't even clean up one disaster before there's another. It's beginning to look like a pattern. It’s wearing on me.

Speaking of other accidents, does anyone remember Three Mile Island? To date, no one knows how much radiation was released before the reactor leak was brought under control. No one can prove that the cancer clusters in the plume in the years following were caused by the 1979 accident. All we have is suspicious statistics.

As my readers know, I keep an eye on the nuclear power industry and I've been called an alarmist for my insistence that it is only a question of when – not if – there will be another nuclear accident. The gulf gush underscored this for me. My prediction is not based on clairvoyance but on the pattern of small accidents and on probabilities over time. And on the fact that the high-level radioactive waste left behind after heavy metals are turned into electricity is piling up outside these plants, waiting for a starring role in the next great environmental disaster. Sorry, but nuclear power is not green and clean. It is radioactive and dangerous.

And I don't mean to pick on nuclear power and oil drilling while unfairly overlooking coal ash sludge. Generating power is dirty business, and yet we drag our proverbial feet on developing solar and wind power on any scale. Why? Oh, that's right, because the energy powers that be are in bed with the policy makers and regulators.

Planet Earth: I know he’s been cheating on me.

Humans running the planet: You can’t prove that. Look at all I’ve done for you, all the green programs in schools. It’s never enough, is it?

Indeed, we can only alter our energy habits so much, so fast. I could almost be seduced by the smooth words touted by the Nuclear Energy Institute: The American lifestyle is non-negotiable.

This rigidity, this stuck-ness in a lifestyle that demands dirty energy and lots of it, is the reason I raise a wild and far-out question like: "Are we witnessing the end of the world as we know it?" Are we going to unplug our laptops and give up our cars? This life we live is entrenched, with very little wiggle room. We know nothing else. We cannot all run off to isolated acreage in the West and build an idyllic off-the-grid life in candlelight. There are too many of us and, beside, we are nature inept.

Planet Earth: I feel like we’re strangers.

Humans running the planet: We are not strangers! We have thoroughly researched where all your energy deposits are.

Great-grandma’s gardening and canning skills have gone the way of the horse-drawn plow. And we can't be sure the earth we'd be tilling is not toxic. We've let corporations battle nature for us, and they are botching the job while we sit, glazed over in the HD glow of our favorite shows.

A lifestyle that is not sustainable is, before our news-viewing eyes, crossing some barely discernable point-of-no-return. The gush they cannot stop in the Gulf of Mexico may represent only the beginning of a long collapse, but unless we negotiate the American lifestyle – yeah, the industrial lifestyle – the collapse will come.

Planet Earth: I feel taken for granted. I’m sorry, but I just can’t sustain you any more.

Humans running the planet: You can’t do this. We need you.

Planet Earth: I know you need me. But you never loved me.

Entergy & Exelon retreat from new builds

From Idaho Samizdat: Nuke Notes:

Two of the nation’s largest nuclear utilities are sounding a retreat from building new nuclear reactors in the near-term. In separate speeches Entergy (NYSE:ETR) CEO J. Wayne Leonard and Exelon (NYSE:EXC) CEO John Rowe said they do not want to take the risk of building new reactors.

They cite the low price of natural gas, the lack of a carbon tax to shift investment from fossil plants, and the risks of building a new reactor using the merchant model in de-regulated states.

Speaking at the Reuters Global Energy Summit held in Houston May 25, Leonard said that Entergy does not want to take the risk of building new reactors which is why it suspended two NRC license applications to build four new reactors in Mississippi and Louisiana.

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Three Mile Island to Send Corrected Evacuation Plan

From WHTM-TV:

A Dauphin County woman picked up a mistake on an important piece of information sent out by Exelon Nuclear.

Sue Fink of Swatara Township got a mailer from Exelon which contained among other things, emergency evacuation routes from Three Mile Island.

Unlike most of us, she just didn't shove it in a drawer or in the garbage. She decided to read through it and noticed that the evacuation route from Conewago Township, Dauphin County was wrong.

"Well I was familiar with the names of roads in York County and grew up in Conewago Township in Dauphin County," she said. "So I realized they were York County roads."

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Statehouse leadership wants Yankee pipes rebuilt above ground

From the Rutland Herald:

The Democratic leaders of the state House and Senate called on the owners of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant to replace its entire underground piping system after the discovery of yet another radioactive leak.

Senate President Peter Shumlin and House Speaker Shap Smith told reporters at a Burlington news conference Wednesday that Entergy, the plant's owner, needs to take drastic steps to stop the ongoing leaks.

Vermont Yankee officials announced over last weekend that another pipe had leaked radioactive substances, including tritium, chromium-51, manganese-54, cobalt-58, cobalt-60, zinc-65, zinc-69, niobium-95, rhodium-105, xenon-131, cesium-137, barium-140 and lanthanum-140.

"We can't continue having a leak of the week," said Shumlin, a resident of Windham County, where the nuclear plant is located. "This is Vermont's biggest environmental disaster in its history. This is our BP disaster."

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Susquehanna: Discrimination Resolution

PPL Susquehanna Station: Letter to Licensee reference the closeout of NRC Resolution of an Allegation of Discrimination

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Atomic Waste Gets 'Temporary' Home

From the Wall Street Journal:

Three months after the U.S. cancelled a plan to build a vast nuclear-waste repository in Nevada, the country's ad hoc atomic-storage policy is becoming clear in places like Wiscasset, Maine.

Wiscasset doesn't even have a nuclear-energy plant anymore. The Maine Yankee facility was shuttered back in 1996 after developing problems too costly to fix, and the reactor was dismantled early this decade. What's left is a bare field of 167 acres cleared and ready for development—except for one thing.

Left behind are 64 enormous steel-and-concrete casks that hold 542 metric tons of radioactive waste. Seventeen feet tall and 150 tons apiece, the casks are protected by razor wire, cameras and a security force.

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Former Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Elected to Pinnacle West Board of Director

From Penwell:

The board of directors of Pinnacle West Capital Corp. said Dale E. Klein has been elected to the Pinnacle West Board of Directors. He also has joined the Board of Pinnacle West’s principal subsidiary, Arizona Public Service Co.

Klein, 62, served as chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission from July 2006 to May 2009, and thereafter as a commissioner until March 30, 2010.

Prior to his service on the NRC, Dr. Klein was assistant to the Secretary of Defense for nuclear, chemical and biological defense programs from November 2001 to July 2006.

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Gov't audits NRC, Yankee

From the Brattleboro Reformer:

Tuesday, June 1 2010 BRATTLEBORO - Following the discovery of a radioactive leak coming from an underground pipe at Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant on Jan. 6, both the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Yankee are being audited.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office is planning a review of the NRC's requirements for and oversight of buried pipes at nuclear power plants.

Yankee is being audited by the NRC to determine if its license renewal application completely and accurately represents the nature and extent of buried piping at the plant in Vernon.

While the GAO's review has not yet begun, the NRC was in Vernon the week of May 24 to conduct its audit. The NRC has 90 days to issue its report.

The NRC's visit to Yankee was scheduled, "In light of the recent developments related to tritium leaks found on the site and potential misinformation given to the state of Vermont by Entergy ..."

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TMI Unit 1 Back On-Line after Maintenance

Exelon Press Release

LONDONDERRY TWP. Pa. (May 31, 2010) – Three Mile Island Unit 1 (TMI-1) began producing carbon-free electricity today at 7:18 a.m. ET when operators connected the plant to the regional power grid. TMI-1 generates 852 megawatts of electricity, enough power for more than 800,000 homes.

The unit was taken offline on May 28 at 11 p.m. ET to perform maintenance on a reactor coolant pump. The maintenance work has been completed.

While the plant was offline, plant personnel took advantage of the opportunity to do additional maintenance to ensure a reliable summer operating run.

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