News

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DEP Urges Medical Facilities to Take Proper Precautions with X-Ray Equipment to Avoid Health Hazards

From the PA Dept of Environmental Protection:

Environmental Protection Secretary John Hanger today encouraged medical facilities to eliminate potential radiological hazards by reviewing and evaluating their practices and properly calibrating medical diagnostic or therapeutic X-ray devices.

In addition, Hanger reminded facilities of the requirement to report all medical events that may cause unintended harm to patients.

Recent media reports have highlighted serious medical incidents nationally involving diagnostic computed tomography (CT) and radiation therapy procedures.
Hanger said these incidents underscore the importance of medical professionals verifying proper patient referral and radiation protection protocols throughout all phases of medical treatment.

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Nuclear is not the answer

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

After working on energy, and particularly nuclear power, issues for more than 30 years now, I find it really frustrating to see continued references to nuclear power as a clean and safe source of energy ("Power of Support," Feb. 23 editorial). These myths continue to be propagated by the nuclear industry and bought into by those in the media who know little about nuclear power.

First, as a formal petitioner at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on nuclear plant safety, I can assure you that the NRC oversight of safety at U.S. nuclear plants is seriously lacking, as several General Accounting Office reports have confirmed.

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Now it's time to think green

From the Rutland Herald:

The low point in the debate last week about Vermont Yankee came on Tuesday when an executive from Entergy Corp., owner of the nuclear plant, said that if Vermont extended Yankee's license, the company would sell the state a block of low-cost power for three years. He said it was a gift and had nothing to do with the vote that loomed in the Senate.

The offer exhibited a level of cynicism that doomed for good Yankee's prospects in the Senate, which was scheduled to vote on Yankee's license the next day. Vermont policymakers and utility executives have expressed astonishment at the cluelessness of Entergy executives about Vermont. That the man from Entergy would offer a bribe, with the effrontery to say it wasn't a bribe, demonstrated how far removed from the practice of ordinary honesty Entergy executives have veered.

Another low point occurred when a group of Yankee workers angrily confronted a group of anti-Yankee business people at the Statehouse. It was a low point not because of the workers' anger. Rather, the incident demonstrated that the people hurt the most by Entergy's incompetence and dishonesty may be Entergy's own employees.

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Water Issues Derailing Nuclear Power in Utah

From AlterNet:

Nuclear power has been a hot topic these past few weeks with Vermont’s leaking reactor, Georgia’s plans for new ones (thanks to Obama), and the press’s blind approval of all things nuclear.

And now, Rachel Waldholz from High Country News, writes that Blue Castle Holdings, “a 3-year-old, politically connected startup” is trying to get Utah’s first new nuclear plant since 1987 built in the state.

While there are lots of reasons that nuclear power is a bad idea, residents in Utah are particularly concerned about water. Waldholz writes:

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Vermont Senate Votes to Close Nuclear Plant

From the New York Times:

In an unusual state foray into nuclear regulation, the Vermont Senate voted 26 to 4 Wednesday to block operation of the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant after 2012, citing radioactive leaks, misstatements in testimony by plant officials and other problems.

Unless the chamber reverses itself, it will be the first time in more than 20 years that the public or its representatives has decided to close a reactor.

The vote came just more than a week after President Obama declared a new era of rebirth for the nation’s nuclear industry, announcing federal loan guarantees of $8.3 billion to assure the construction of a twin-reactor plant near Augusta, Ga.

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In Memoriam

From ibrattleboro.com:

After a costly and protracted fight for her life, Entergy Vermont Yankee died today in her Vernon home surrounded by her loving family of control room operators, excavators, legislative lobbyists, NRC inspectors, and media consultants.

Yankee was born in 1968 by unanimous vote of the Central Vermont Public Service Corporation board of directors. Following a family fight at the age of ten, Yankee moved out of her home in Rutland and relocated to Brattleboro in hopes of becoming independent and responsible. Unable to financially support herself, Yankee put herself up for adoption. Custody was awarded to the Entergy family of New Orleans who are notorious for taking in recalcitrant strays.

Because Yankee was brought up in surroundings known for its lack of discipline, her inability to tell the truth resulted in a lifetime of paying fines followed by public apologies. Attempting to remake her image, Yankee’s legal guardians tried to change her name to Nexus in the likely event that if Yankee misbehaved really badly there would be no financial assets for anyone to attach.

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Criticism arises over Public Utility Commission's complaints division's chief

From the Patriot News:

The Public Utility Commission’s recent hiring of a utility insider to be its consumer watchdog has some fearing that she might be more of a utility lapdog.

Alexis Bechtel of Reading, who has 32 years of experience working for gas and cable companies, began working this month as the director of the commission’s bureau of consumer services.

She is only the third director in the bureau’s 33-year history but the first to come out of the utility industry. The two other directors came from state government.

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The Hidden Threat to the Nuclear Renaissance

From the American Prospect:

It's a little misleading to call America's renewed interest in nuclear power a full-blown renaissance. For one thing, the renaissance hasn't happened yet. Even with the perfect storm of global warming, dwindling fossil fuels, and the second Bush presidency, the current zeal for new nuclear power has fed on speculation for the last decade. It will have to do so for a long time to come. Tuesday's news that President Barack Obama agreed to provide $8 billion in federal backing for two reactors in the state of Georgia -- the first nuclear plants cleared for construction in nearly 30 years -- ignored the massive financial, political, and technical hurdles between announcement and production.

However, it is fair to say that the unlikely partnership of Republicans and pro-nuke environmentalists just got a lot stronger. Candidate Obama's nuclear support was often read as political posturing; President Obama's nuclear support comes with hard cash. Viable or not, the nuclear revival now has the backing of the most prominent Democrat in a generation. His 2011 budget proposes to triple federal loan guarantees for new plant construction, essentially forcing taxpayers to shoulder the immense risks that Wall Street learned to shun decades ago. Nuclear power offers all the fiscal risks of a "too big to fail" bank, with the added risk of being too dangerous to fail as well.

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State probes allegations of prior VY leaks

From the Brattleboro Reformer:

If an anonymous phone call received by a member of the Vermont Yankee Vertical Audit Public Oversight Panel is determined to be true, Entergy, which owns and operates the nuclear power plant in Vernon, could find itself in even more hot water than it is in now with the state.

Attorney General William Sorrell and the Vermont Public Service Board are investigating whether Entergy representatives lied under oath or knowingly gave false information during PSB hearings last year about the extent of underground and buried piping at the power plant.

In a phone call to Arnie Gundersen on Feb. 14, a person claiming to be a Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant employee said the facility's advanced off-gas system, which is currently under investigation as the possible source of tritiated water that has contaminated ground water under the plant, has had underground pipe leaks in the past.

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Vt. nuclear plant gets closer to licensing defeat

From the Brattleboro Reformer:

A former nuclear engineer told lawmakers Thursday that the Vermont Yankee reactor should be shut down and a whistleblower raised new questions about what plant officials knew when about leaking radioactivity, as chances for the plant's relicensing weakened.

Vermont's troubled nuclear plant -- tied up in controversy over radioactive tritium leaking into groundwater and allegations that it misled regulators about whether it had pipes that carried tritium -- had another tough day at the Statehouse.

It culminated in the Senate Finance Committee's 7-0 vote to send to the floor a bill that would authorize the state Public Service Board to approve the plant's operation past the 2012 expiration of its current license. The committee did so without endorsing the bill, and it is expected to be defeated easily when it comes up for a vote Wednesday.

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