Beyond Nuclear Bulletin


March 20, 2009 

Top Stories

TMI Accident 30th Commemorative, March 28, 2009

Background: It will be 30 years ago on March 28 since the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant had a radioactive accident near Harrisburg, PA.There were no sirens in place to warn communities around the melting reactor. Instead, the warning came with early morning sightings of an iridescent cloud billowing out of the cooling tower, people downwind experiencing a metallic taste, sunburn-like symptoms and loss of hair. Birds fell in large numbers from the trees and the insects fell silent. X-ray film became mysteriously fogged in a local dentist's office vault. After two terrifying days, tens of thousands of area residents had spontaneously evacuated before then-Governor Thornburg advised pregnant women and young children within five miles of the reactor to leave the area.


Today, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the industry will claim there was no significant release of radiation at TMI and nobody got sick or died.They say nuclear power is even safer with the lessons learned by a more mature industry and through strenuous regulation.


Our View: Aging reactors, like brand new ones, carry the most risk of breaking down but with a potentially far greater release of radiation. Contrary to claims, NRC and the industry are very busy unlearning the lessons of the 1979 accident. NRC only requires one nuclear power plant of the 65 nationwide reactor sites to maintain reliable public notification siren systems in federally mandated emergency preparedness zones. The NRC has refused to providepotassium iodide to protect children's thyroids from radioactive iodine within the 20-mile zone as legislated by Congress in 2003. The NRC and the industry still pay more attention to protecting company financial interests than to emergency preparedness.

What You Can Do: Visit the website of the Three Mile Island ALERT and watch for details of their commemorative event with nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill epidemiologist Dr. Steven Wing. They will speak in Harrisburg, PA on Thursday, March 26 about how much radioactivity got out during the accident and the radiation dose consequences.

Watch the Live Webcast of the United States Senate Environment and Public Works subcommittee hearing on "Three Mile Island-Looking Back on Thirty Years of Lessons Learned," at 10:30 AM EST, March 24, 2009 and see for yourself how some in Congress are dangerously promoting more nuclear power through revisionist history of the TMI accident.


Beyond Nuclear Helps Lead Environmental Coalition Against Fermi 3

On March 9, Beyond Nuclear, along with Citizens for Alternatives to Chemical Contamination, Citizens Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario, Don't Waste Michigan, and Sierra Club, filed over a dozen intervention contentions with NRC against Detroit Edison's Fermi 3 new reactor proposal on the shore of Lake Erie in southeast Michigan. See the contentions filed here. Read the media release here. See the media coverage here. And view Beyond Nuclear's Feb. 9 environmental scoping comments to NRC -- signed onto by hundreds of groups in Michigan and across the Great Lakes -- here.


Global economic woes are dampening nuclear power expansion in the US

Bold industry predictions that more than a dozen new U.S. reactors would be operational by 2020 have had to be lowered to between four and eight due to the dire global economic downturn. Both scenarios assume the reactors can be brought online on time and within budget. Critics point to huge cost overruns during the first wave of nuclear power construction-as well as to the current new European reactor under construction in Finland-as reason to mistrust the industry's estimate of five to 12 billion dollars to build a single new reactor. Read the article here .


The French Nuclear Medusa

Brits won't see jobs and profits from new French reactors

Areva has informed the British government that close to one third of the construction work for 10 proposed new reactors in Britain will be performed inFrance and not available to British contractors. This is compounded by a recent ultimatum from lectricit de France (EDF) that it will not go forward with four reactor construction projects unless Britain reduces its wind power targets. EDF bought British Energy - former operator of Britain's existing reactors - late last year.

According to a report in The Times (UK), Areva, which is 85 percent French government-owned, "will make key components for the stations in Franceand leave British companies to compete with suppliers from the rest of the world for the remaining lower-value work." Areva is proposing to deliver its EPR reactor to Britain, the same design currently years behind schedule and vastly over-budget in Finland.

EDF claimed that efforts in Britain to achieve 35% renewable energy-generated electricity are "not only unrealistic but also damaging to alternative schemes such as nuclear plants," according to an article in The Guardian.



Beyond Nuclear aims to educate and activate the public about the connections between nuclear power and nuclear weapons and the need to abandon both to safeguard our future. Beyond Nuclear advocates for an energy future that is sustainable, benign and democratic. Beyond Nuclear staff can be reached at: 301.270.2209. Or view our Web site at: