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Exelon settles over tritium violations

From the Coal City Courant:

A $1 million agreement between Exelon, the Illinois Attorney General and the State's Attorneys of Will, Ogle and Grundy Counties has officially resolved the environmental consequences of radioactive tritium leaks into the groundwater beneath the Braidwood, Byron and Dresden nuclear power plants. Just about half of that is already earmarked for environmental projects in and around the areas of the affected plants.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan made the announcement late last week, stating that Exelon will pay more than $1 million to resolve three separate civil complaints that she and the State's Attorneys filed jointly, including civil penalties totaling $628,000 and $548,000 to fund several Supplemental Environmental Projects in and around the communities where the power plants are located.

"It is imperative that Illinois' nuclear power plants are operated in a manner that does not endanger public health or the environment," Madigan said. "I appreciate the involvement and assistance of State's Attorneys Glasgow, Roe and Sobol in reaching these successful settlements. Through these actions, we are working to ensure that proper clean up has occurred and to put in place protections to prevent tritium leaks in the future."

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Nuclear plants need real security

From CNN:

Several weeks ago, President Obama announced that $8 billion in government-loan guarantees would be made available to Southern Co. to begin construction of two nuclear reactors in Georgia.

If built, it would be the first nuclear power plant constructed in the United States in almost 30 years. More importantly, this would be the first of what is expected to be many such projects initiated in coming years.

I am a big believer in the necessity for energy independence. I accept that we will all have to make some compromises in achieving that goal. I am willing to consider that nuclear power may have to be one piece of the plan we put together for how to break ourselves free from our dependence on foreign oil.

I would submit, however, that before we start building reactors we need to address another urgent matter. We need to make current reactors secure.

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State agency lambastes Entergy Corp. in letter

From the Vermont Times Argus:

The controversy over the buried and underground pipes at the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant will not go away.

In a sharply-worded letter, the Department of Public Service has criticized Entergy Nuclear's failure to fully disclose the status of its underground pipe system, saying that Entergy still hasn't given the state full information about the underground network, and said its response to date was "flawed and indefensible."

Entergy has not been "sufficiently responsive" to the state, according to a letter sent to Entergy by Sarah Hofmann, director of public advocacy for the department, and Jon Cotter, special counsel hired to aid Hofmann on Yankee's relicensing.

"From a practical perspective, petitioners' response is plain insufficient," Hofmann and Cotter wrote, adding that Entergy had "improperly narrowed the reach" of Act 189, the law passed by the Legislature in 2008, calling for an independent audit of key systems at the troubled plant.

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Terrorism suspect worked at TMI

From the Patriot News:

Terrorism suspect Sharif Mobley apparently raised no red flags when he worked as a temporary laborer at Three Mile Island and five other nuclear plants between 2002 and 2008, said Neil Sheehan, a spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Sheehan said that the FBI was investigating but that he was "not aware of any security-related concerns or incidents."

As a laborer, Mobley, 26, would not have had access to any sensitive or security-related areas or to radioactive materials, Sheehan said. His job would have been mostly menial tasks.

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Agency needs new plan after Yucca decision

From the Las Vegas Review-Journal:

The agency will need to determine what environmental and safety issues might come into play if thousands of tons of radioactive spent fuel needs to be kept in steel and concrete containers at reactor sites across the country for extended periods, NRC official Jack Davis said at an agency conference.

Speaking with reporters earlier this week, NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko said nuclear fuel can be stored safely for long periods, and the NRC will "work to see what that time frame is really like -- 100 years, 200 years, 400," according to the New York Times.

NRC staff has indicated that waste-containing canisters can remain robust for another 50-60 years. On Wednesday, Davis, who heads a high-level waste technical review team, said the prospect of keeping highly radioactive material contained for longer periods raises a new set of issues the agency will need to tackle.

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FBI, nuclear agency investigate terrorism suspect

From CNN:

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is working with the FBI to determine whether a New Jersey man suspected of being an al Qaeda member had access to any sensitive areas of the nuclear plants where he once worked, a commission spokeswoman said Friday.

The FBI is investigating Sharif Mobley, a 26-year-old from Buena, New Jersey, said Rich Wolf, a spokesman at the agency's Baltimore, Maryland, office. He wouldn't comment further.

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Al Qaeda Suspect Worked at 5 U.S. Nuclear Plants

From Fox News:

Before he was rounded up in a sweep of suspected Al Qaeda terrorists in Yemen, Sharif Mobley was a laborer at five nuclear plant complexes in Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Authorities are investigating whether he might have had any access to sensitive information that would have been useful to terrorists.

Edwin Lyman, a senior staff scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, a watchdog of the nuclear power industry, said the case raises questions about security at the nation's nuclear power plants — even though Mobley has not been linked to any wrongdoing at any of them.

Some of the information used to give temporary workers like Mobley clearance comes from other nuclear power companies and is sometimes incomplete, Lyman said.

"The real question is: Was there information that the NRC or utilities could have seen that would have led to his disqualification?" Lyman asked.

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House Democrat asks GAO to investigate nuclear licensing process

From The Hill:

Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) is asking the Government Accountability Office to review the permitting process for nuclear plants as others in his party appear poised to offer lucrative incentives to revive the industry. Among his questions is whether the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has adequately weighed the risks earthquakes and severe weather may pose to nuclear power plants.

Markey, who co-sponsored climate change legislation that passed the House last June, notes that nuclear power generation, “has been offered by some as one answer to the escalating crisis of global warming as the operation of nuclear power plants results in lower carbon dioxide output than burring carbon-based fossil fuels.”

Markey has a number of concerns about nuclear power, despite its low emissions. A “catastrophic accident” poses a greater safety risk than “many orders of magnitude more severe than any other type of power plant,” the letter states.

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Don't buy Obama's greenwashing of nuclear power

From the Guardian:

On February 16, while President Obama was in Maryland announcing an $8.3bn taxpayer-backed loan guarantee for Southern Company to build two new nuclear reactors in Georgia, inspectors at the Vermont Yankee reactor were finding dangerously high levels of tritium, a radioactive cancer-causing chemical, in the groundwater near the plant.

The next week, the Vermont state Senate voted overwhelmingly to shut down Vermont Yankee when its current license expires in 2012.

Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas (R) called the timing of the nuclear loan guarantee announcement and the Vermont Senate's decision "ironic." More than just some coincidence, though, the Vermont Yankee situation demonstrates that from the mining of uranium ore to the storage of radioactive waste, nuclear reactors remain as dirty, risky, and as costly as they ever were. If President Obama's recent enthusiasm for nuclear reactors has led you to believe otherwise, you've bought in to the administration's greenwashing of nuclear.

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Leaky Nuclear Plants Versus States Rights

From the Epoch Times:

The people of Georgia may soon be neighbors to the first two new U.S. nuclear plants approved in decades, thanks to billions in loan guarantees just proposed by the Obama administration. But discontent in state legislatures is signaling that those new nuclear plants may not be warmly welcomed in every neighborhood.

Around the country, a problem-plagued nuclear industry is being met by public mistrust. Just last month, the Vermont senate voted 26–4 to block a license extension for Vermont Yankee, the state’s only nuclear power plant, when it reaches the end of its original 40-year license in 2012.

Also in February, West Virginia defeated a bill to repeal that state’s ban on new nuclear construction. And in Arizona, a bill to classify nuclear power as renewable energy was withdrawn.

The source of distrust is a fleet of 104 nuclear plants that isn’t aging well. Vermont Yankee and its owner Entergy Corporation, for example, seemed a shoe-in for a 20-year license renewal in 2012 until one of the plant’s cooling towers collapsed. Then radioactive tritium was discovered leaking into local groundwater from buried pipes that cannot be inspected (after Entergy claimed under oath that no such pipes existed).

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