Nuclear -   32
Nuclear -   32
www.DukeEmployees.com - Duke Energy Employee Advocate
Nuclear - Page 18
chosen by the team on the ground." - al Qaida senior operative, CNN
Nuclear Terrorists ConcernsAssociated Press – March 27, 2002
BOSTON (AP) - Security at the nation's nuclear plants is so poor that terrorists might now be secretly working at reactors, a Massachusetts congressman alleges in a new report on homeland security.
U.S. Rep. Edward Markey, D-Malden, said the nation's 86 most sensitive nuclear facilities fail to screen workers for terrorist ties, and does not know how many foreign nationals work at plants. He warned of ``troubling black holes in homeland security.''
``Terrorists may now be employed at nuclear reactors in the United States just as terrorists enrolled in flight schools in the U.S.,'' Markey said in his report, entitled ``Security Gap: A Hard Look at Soft Spots in Our Civilian Nuclear Reactor Security.''
Markey, a proponent of federalizing nuclear plant safety, said the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has not sufficiently improved security after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
``The NRC is in the dark about what nuclear reactor licensees are doing to ensure the reactors are safe from attack,'' Markey told the Boston Herald.
NRC spokeswoman Diane Screnci declined to discuss the report's details, saying that ``we don't normally comment on press releases from members of Congress.''
She told The Boston Globe that security staff at nuclear plants are fingerprinted, and that minimum staffing levels at plants are included in security plans filed with the NRC.
The NRC fails to check workers for possible terrorist ties, Markey claimed.
``As long as they have no criminal record in this country, Al Qaeda operatives are not required to pass any security check intended to find and expose terrorist links,'' he said.
Every job applicant does undergo extensive criminal, psychological and employment history checks, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute. But NRC data shows that foreign job applicants are not screened for crimes committed overseas, Markey said.
Terrorists could infiltrate plants, Markey said, the way they did flight schools before Sept. 11.
``The threat is no longer theoretical,'' he said.
National Guard troops were deployed to many nuclear plants after Sept. 11.
Dave Lochbaum, a nuclear safety engineer with the Union of Concerned Scientists, said existing NRC-required background checks are ``somewhat limited.''
``I've worked in over 20 plants in the 17 years I was in the industry. Had I wanted to sabotage the plant, it wouldn't have been that difficult to do so,'' he said.
Markey is a founder and co-chairman of the Bipartisan Task Force on Nonproliferation.
An Honest SpokespersonEmployee Advocate – DukeEmployees.com – March 21, 2002
The Newsday Indian Point article, below, details some of the recent difficulties of the nuclear plant. It is not offered to take glee in troubles of another company’s nuclear plant. On the contrary, we want to give credit to their spokesperson for giving an honest answer to a question about the plant problems.
“Jim Steets, a spokesman for plant owner Entergy Nuclear Operations Inc., did not dispute critics who call it the country's worst-run nuclear plant. ‘If you want to put it that way, it's hard to argue against it,’ Steets said.”
A spokesperson gave an honest answer – amazing! That is something that does not happen very often in the world of corporate boondoggles.
The typical spokesperson is indoctrinated in accentuating the positive, providing happy talk, observing political correctness, placing the desired corporate spin on matters, and flatly denying any suggestion of anything other than corporate perfection. By the time their answer passes through all of the filters, it may not resemble the truth very much.
But here is a spokesperson who simply admitted the problems. He did not whine and grovel; he simply admitted the facts. To do otherwise would have made him seem foolish. The typical spokesperson does not mind seeming foolish or untruthful. They see their job as one of denying any problems, regardless of how obvious they are.
The Indian Point spokesperson has established instant creditability by admitting the obvious truth. There is no need for reporters to press him further.
He could have denied the truth and offered a song and dance. He could have said “Management is working hard to correct the perception of problems and improvement processes have been put in place. Management is working hard to ‘tell our story.’ We have purchased full page ads in many newspapers to ‘get our message out.’ Our Success 2002 plan will certainly be outstanding and quell any doubts in the minds of the public.”
Then everyone would have known that he was not to be believed.
Indian Point Nuclear PlantNewsday – March 20, 2002
(3/8/02) - Washington - The Indian Point 2 nuclear power plant in Westchester, which local residents have been fighting since Sept. 11 to close, was given the lowest performance rating in the country by federal regulators.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, in its annual review released this week, found "ongoing substantive" problems with plant operations, and will continue the increased monitoring it started last year.
Indian Point 2 was the only one of the nation's 103 nuclear power plants ranked in the second-lowest of five categories that rate overall plant performance - a position it has held for more than a year.
"It is staying there because the underlying weaknesses associated with it are still present and haven't been fully corrected," said Peter Eselgroth, the NRC branch chief responsible for Indian Point 2. He added, "The plant's continued to operate safely."
Jim Steets, a spokesman for plant owner Entergy Nuclear Operations Inc., did not dispute critics who call it the country's worst-run nuclear plant. "If you want to put it that way, it's hard to argue against it," Steets said.
But Steets and others like Eselgroth say Entergy inherited vast problems when it bought the plant on Sept. 6 from Con Ed, the owner since its opening in 1974. "You're talking about changing culture and teaching people to be comfortable raising issues and have a questioning attitude, and that just takes a little time," Steets said. He cited extensive operator training and a voluntary 10-day plant shutdown in October for equipment improvements.
The latest NRC review could increase pressure from citizens groups and local officials in New York and Westchester to close both Indian Point 2 and Indian Point 3, a nuclear plant in the same complex on the Hudson River 25 miles north of Manhattan. The proximity to the city has sparked fears about a potential terrorist attack and about an evacuation plan that some say would leave people jammed in traffic.
"Terrorism is not the only risk people have by living near Indian Point," said Mark Jacobs, a founder of the anti-nuclear Westchester Citizens Awareness Network. He said Entergy has not improved operations and is "doing a bad job."
Indian Point 3, owned by Entergy since November 2000, was among 73 nuclear plants given the NRC's highest ranking, indicating no substantial problems. That group includes Millstone 2 and Millstone 3, north of Montauk on the Long Island Sound in Connecticut, which Long Island nuclear activists oppose.
The NRC began stepped-up monitoring of Indian Point 2 late last year after four of the plant's seven operating teams failed an annual test that simulates operating procedures. In the 2001 federal fiscal year ended Sept. 30, the NRC spent 12,819 hours inspecting Indian Point 2, more than double the level at the next-highest plant, according to NRC data obtained by David Lochbaum, a nuclear expert at the Union of Concerned Scientists, an environmental group.
"Even with the new owner and a proper attitude, there's a lot of inertia and a pretty big hole to get out of," Lochbaum said, praising Entergy.
The NRC's recent review of Indian Point 2 from April 1 to Dec. 31 found plant operators failing to correct problems quickly or effectively. "It's been a longstanding problem there," said Eselgroth, the NRC inspector.
Eselgroth said problems involving operators "are not of high safety significance, but they constitute a trend of performance that is undesirable." He said Entergy improved standards, "but the bottom line for us is going to be results, and it's a little early to tell."
More MOXAssociated Press – March 17, 2002
AIKEN, S.C. (AP) - A federal report says two more nuclear plants will need to power their reactors with fuel made from plutonium to satisfy a revised plan for the disposal of the radioactive material.
In a report to Congress on Feb. 15, the National Nuclear Security Administration says six reactors will need to burn the mixed-oxide, or MOX, reactor fuel. Earlier plans called for four plants.
The fuel, which contains surplus plutonium once used in nuclear weapons, would be manufactured in a new plant proposed for the Savannah River Site near Aiken.
So far, Duke Energy is the only utility to commit to using MOX fuel in its nuclear-power plants.
The utility will use MOX fuel in four reactors at the Catawba Nuclear Power Station near York and the McGuire Nuclear Power Station near Huntersville, N.C.
Duke Power also has three reactors at Oconee Station on Lake Keowee, but a company spokesman said they are waiting to hear more about the Department of Energy's plan to make the fuel before considering converting additional reactors to MOX fuel.
A critic of the $3.8 billion program blasted the 62-page document, saying it raises new questions about whether the program is worth the cost.
``This report dodges all the hard questions,'' said Tom Clements, the executive director of the Nuclear Control Institute in Washington. ``It does not further the plutonium disposition program at all; rather, it confuses it.
``This underscores the need for a thorough environmental impact statement, and for a halt of plutonium shipments to Savannah River until it's done.''
The converted fuel also is too risky to use in nuclear power plants, Clements said.
A spokesman from the Energy Department didn't return phone calls from The Augusta (Ga.) Chronicle.
Supporters have said the MOX program would bring 500 long-term jobs to the nuclear-weapons site and help the nation reduce its number of nuclear weapons.
Utilities choosing to use MOX will benefit on their balance sheets, said Mal McKibben, the executive director of Citizens for Nuclear Technology Awareness, an Aiken-based pro-nuclear group.
``The U.S. Department of Energy is footing the bill for this,'' McKibben said ``Financially, it's a pretty good deal for any utility that wants to use the fuel.''
Uncontrolled Cesium RodPublic Citizen – Press Release – March 15, 2002
WASHINGTON, D.C. - A recent incident in Taiwan, in which a 62-pound rod of cesium was pulled from a pile of scrap metal prior to being melted in a steel works furnace, is yet another sign that nuclear materials and waste are being handled improperly and that nuclear regulatory agencies are not safeguarding the public, Public Citizen said today.
Further, the incident should be noted by U.S. government agencies charged with regulating nuclear waste, because they are now attempting to introduce additional radiation sources into consumer products and the environment by permitting radioactive waste to be recycled, Public Citizen said.
Wednesday's Taipei Times reported that the cesium rod, which was highly radioactive, was discovered mixed with non-radioactive metal scraps on a truck at a steel foundry that operates a melting furnace. Taiwan officials said they didn't know where the rod came from.
Had the rod been melted in the foundry's furnace, there would have been an extremely hazardous radioactive emission, creating an immediate health hazard and seriously polluting the environment. The cesium rod emitted more than 270 times the radiation per hour than recommended by the International Commission on Radiation Protection.
Similar incidents in the United States have not always had such a fortunate ending. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reported that at least 26 accidental meltings of radioactive material have occurred in the United States since 1983. This number accounts for more than half of the 49 accidental meltings worldwide that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had tallied as of 1998.
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is notified of approximately 200 lost or stolen radioactive sources each year. While some radioactive materials are found in or near scrap yards, metal foundries, factories or recycling facilities, others are handled unknowingly by non-nuclear workers or even sold in stores. In the United States in the past six months:
"The government should heed the warnings provided by these incidents and the Taiwan episode," said David Ritter, policy analyst with Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program. "This ought to make them change their minds about the very bad idea of putting radioactive materials on the common market."
These incidents include only accidents and thefts, however. Authorities are simultaneously sanctioning the intentional releases of radioactive wastes from nuclear facilities operated by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and its contractors, or licensed by the NRC. This is done on a case-by-case basis. The wastes are released without restriction and can be dumped in a municipal landfill, incinerated, sold or donated "as is," or even recycled into a plethora of everyday consumer products and industrial materials.
Now, the DOE and NRC are pushing nuclear industry-friendly policies to standardize and increase the release and "recycling" of radioactive wastes.
"These agencies are truly captured by the nuclear industry, and the industry is trying to greenwash their latest scheme with terms like 'recycling' and 'beneficial reuse,' " said Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program. "If the 'recycling' practice doesn't lead to major savings or profits for those who make the mess, it's still a handy way for them to evade liability for their waste. But the American public doesn't want to come in contact with nuclear waste. They don't want their kids to ride bicycles made of nuclear waste. We need to ban this practice once and for all."
Ritter noted that people would never opt to buy products made from "recycled" radioactive waste.
"If you were in a store, and could choose between the non-contaminated frying pan or the one with the label that said "slightly radioactive," which one would you pick? If the nuclear industry had to tell us which products their nuclear reactor and weapon waste goes into, we know the practice would stop immediately. Unfortunately, labels aren't required."
Nuclear Threats UnheededAssociated Press – by J. Gomez, D. Linzer – March 14, 2002
U.S. officials received a warning as early as 1995 that Islamic militants were plotting to attack an American nuclear site, but did not pass along the information to the agency that oversees nuclear facilities or to the plants themselves, The Associated Press has learned.
The warning came in police interrogations of convicted terrorist Abdul Hakim Murad and from a computer seized in the Philippines from Ramzi Yousef, mastermind of the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center.
Both men were linked to Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida terrorist network, and are serving life in prison in the United States for plotting to blow up 12 U.S.-bound airliners.
The AP learned of the 1995 warning through secret intelligence documents and interviews with officials in the United States and the Philippines.
According to a secret Philippines report, a letter obtained from Yousef's computer indicated he was "planning to attack any nuclear facilities in the U.S. and unspecified targets in France and Great Britain."
Yousef, who ran the al-Qaida cell that targeted the World Trade Center in 1993, discussed the plan with Murad when the two met in October 1994 in Quetta, Pakistan, according to statements Murad made to interrogators.
But Murad, who was arrested in Manila in January 1995, said he was unaware of the specifics of the plan to attack nuclear facilities.
Rodolfo Mendoza, a former police official in Manila who was among those who supervised Murad's interrogations, said the details on the nuclear threat were immediately shared with U.S. authorities.
"During a debriefing session, Murad told us about this planned attack on an unspecified nuclear facility. We passed on that information from Murad to them (U.S. officials)," Mendoza said.
Murad also told investigators that he and other Middle Eastern students took pilot training at U.S. flight schools in the early 1990s and that he had proposed a suicide mission in which he would fly a jetliner into a federal building.
That information, provided six years before the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, also was shared with FBI agents in Manila. An FBI agent who accompanied Murad back to the United States for trial, testified in 1996 that Murad spoke about plans for a nuclear attack.
Victor Dricks, spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said the government agency charged with overseeing the country's 104 nuclear facilities had not heard of such a warning during 1995.
"We did not know of any credible threat against any specific facility that we would take seriously enough to take some action on," he said.
Carl Crawford, manager of nuclear communications at Energy Nuclear, which operates nine reactors in the South and the Northeast, said that in 1995 the company "never received any formal communications from the NRC or any other federal law enforcement agency regarding such threats. We never received any request to go on high alert."
In January, the NRC alerted nuclear power plants that the government had received a tip from an al-Qaida operative that terrorists might be planning a suicide attack on a power reactor.
An FBI official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said at the time that the NRC had acted on old information that had been deemed not credible. But the NRC communication said the agency decided to issue the alert after an FBI agent in Washington state contacted a nuclear power plant about the threat.
The NRC ordered the nation's nuclear plants operating in 31 states to their highest alert level after Sept. 11 and at least seven states are using National Guard troops to help secure reactors.
The Federal Aviation Administration banned private planes from flying within 11 miles of nuclear plants and the U.S. Coast Guard is patrolling the Great Lakes to keep ships away from plants on the coastline. Some lakes with power plants on their shores have been closed to recreational activities altogether, although officials have said that at least portions of the lakes will be reopened soon.
Exelon Nuclear, which owns 10 plants, closed three Illinois cooling lakes after the attacks. A spokeswoman said the plants were reevaluating security, including how close boaters could get to the facilities.
In France, surface-to-air missiles were positioned near a major nuclear reprocessing plant and a military base for nuclear submarines six weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks. Radar systems capable of scouting out airplanes flying at low altitudes were stationed there as well.
Officials have declined to say what France was doing to protect its 20 nuclear power plants from terrorist attacks. France gets more than three-fourths of its power from nuclear energy.
Hungary also has placed surface-to-air rockets near the country's only nuclear power plant, about 60 miles south of the capital, Budapest.
Taxpayers to Back Nuclear InsurancePress Release – Public Citizen – March 8, 2002
WASHINGTON, D.C. - A flawed Senate energy bill became significantly worse Thursday when senators added language to reauthorize a taxpayer-backed insurance scheme for a new generation of nuclear power plants, Public Citizen said today.
An amendment sponsored by Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) to reauthorize the Price-Anderson Act passed 78-21. Originally approved in 1957, when commercial nuclear power was new, the Price-Anderson Act was supposed to be temporary. Recognizing that insurance companies wouldn't cover nuclear power, the government agreed to craft an artificial insurance scheme that would allow the nuclear power industry to exist. The idea was that over time, nuclear energy would prove its safety record and the insurance industry would agree to cover nuclear plants.
But 45 years later, the insurance industry still refuses to take a chance on nuclear power.
Under Price-Anderson, the nuclear power industry is required to collectively come up with $9.4 billion to cover financial claims that would arise from a nuclear catastrophe. But $9.4 billion amounts to only a fraction of the devastating economic cost that would befall a community or a region in the event of a nuclear catastrophe. As long ago as 1982, a study conducted for the government by Sandia National Laboratories estimated the financial consequences of a nuclear accident might be as high as $314 billion.
"Insurance companies know a sucker bet when they see one, and that's how they've always viewed nuclear power plants," said Wenonah Hauther, director of Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program. "They won't touch it. Sadly, the Senate isn't as cautious."
Congress has extended and modified the Price-Anderson Act repeatedly, most recently in 1987. Today's nuclear power plants would continue to be covered by Price-Anderson even if the act expired as scheduled this summer. The only reason to reauthorize the law is to promote the construction of new nuclear power plants - plants that, according to the Bush administration, need direct government subsidies for development.
"Basically, the public's financial protection in the case of a nuclear accident is backed by nothing more than the continued stability of energy conglomerates," Hauter said. "And from Pacific Gas & Electric's bankruptcy to the shattered retirement savings of Enron employees, energy conglomerates have shown themselves to be anything but stable."
During Thursday's Senate debate, supporters of the Voinovich amendment wrongly justified their vote by claiming that nuclear power is "clean." Yet the nation has no workable long-term solution for handling the existing tens of thousands of tons of deadly nuclear waste. The Bush administration's designation of Yucca Mountain in Nevada as the nuclear waste dump sparked bipartisan opposition, underscoring that a flawed solution like Yucca Mountain is far from being a genuine, scientifically sound solution. By voting to reauthorize Price-Anderson, senators voted to generate even more deadly radioactive waste.
Prior to passage of the Voinovich amendment, Public Citizen was among a coalition of 15 taxpayer, consumer and environmental organizations urging passage of an alternative amendment sponsored by Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev. That amendment would have reformed Price-Anderson to demand more accountability on the part of operators of existing plants and would not have extended the act to new plants. Reid withdrew that amendment while urging defeat of the Voinovich amendment.
In November, the U.S. House of Representatives also reauthorized the Price-Anderson Act. If the massive Senate energy bill currently under consideration passes, Senate and House versions of Price-Anderson reauthorization could be melded together in a conference committee.
Public Citizen last month urged defeat of the energy measure. Although the bill contains positive provisions dealing with fuel economy standards, renewable energy and conservation, it also mirrors many of the misguided, corporate-dominated promotions and giveaways to nuclear and fossil fuels embraced by the Bush-Cheney energy plan and passed by the House last summer.
"The bill was already severely flawed," Hauter said. "The decision to extend government-sanctioned coddling of nuclear power makes it worse. Positive provisions of the bill such as those that would promote conservation, renewable energy and increased fuel economy should be stripped from the energy legislation and considered on their own merits. But taken all in all, the bill deserves to die."
Theft of Radioactive ToolsPress Release – Public Citizen – February 26, 2002
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The recent theft of radioactive tools from a Utah facility underscores the dangers of the federal government's plan to allow radioactive materials to be released into general commerce and recycled into household goods, Public Citizen said today.
Envirocare of Utah, a nuclear waste facility licensed by the state of Utah, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has failed to maintain control of an undetermined number of radioactive tools, according to a Feb. 21 article in The Salt Lake Tribune. Envirocare operates the nation's only commercial mixed waste (radioactive and hazardous) facility, a 640-acre landfill located about 80 miles west of Salt Lake City. It is used by commercial nuclear industries and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to store radioactive waste.
Officials believe the tools were shipped to Envirocare from nuclear facilities and likely became radioactive by coming into close proximity with radioactive materials. Not only did a former Envirocare contractor employee steal radioactive tools from the facility, but the same individual sold them to at least one store, a Tooele County pawn shop. At least one third party has purchased the "hot" tools, unaware of their radioactivity. It is not known how many tools are missing, how many people are involved in the thefts, who bought the tools or where the tools have been distributed. Utah officials are now trying to round up the tools.
The incident illustrates the porous nature of nuclear waste facilities and underscores the dangers associated with the government's policy on radioactive release and recycling, said Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program.
"It's disturbing that even after Sept. 11 and the subsequent tightening of nuclear security, we have radioactive materials getting into the general environment," Hauter said. "Unfortunately, our own government wants to standardize and expand practices that would allow a proliferation of radioactive waste. It would be shipped to facilities throughout the country and released widely. Even with controls, it likely would end up where it shouldn't be."
Now, DOE weapons facilities and commercial nuclear facilities licensed by the NRC - including reactors - may release radioactive materials on a case-by-case basis. The materials can be sent to unlicensed community landfills, incinerators and facilities that recycle the materials and sell it to manufacturers that make consumer goods. The government has been unable to say just how much metal has been released and recycled.
Even more materials may be released in the future. The government - under heavy pressure from the nuclear industry - is considering allowing the "unrestricted release" of potentially radioactive metals from DOE nuclear sites. This would allow large quantities of radioactive scrap metal to be dumped into municipal landfills or recycled into everyday household products and industrial materials.
The Utah Division of Radiation Control has offered a mixed message. A division representative told the newspaper that officials don't believe the radioactive tools pose a "significant" health threat but they should be collected and disposed of.
"I doubt that the state would issue the equivalent of an all-points-bulletin on the tools if they posed no threat," said David Ritter, policy analyst at Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program. "It seems contradictory for Utah officials to be desperately rounding up radioactive tools while the federal government is hatching a plan that could put radioactive goods on shelves throughout the country."
Public Citizen urges anyone within 100 miles of the Envirocare facility who has purchased used hand tools since December 1999 to take those tools to the Tooele Health Department for inspection.
Public Citizen is also raising questions about a potential conflict of interest involving Lynda L. Brothers, a lawyer who is counsel to Envirocare's board of directors. Brothers also serves on the National Academy of Sciences Research Council committee that is studying the release and recycling issue for the NRC. The Web site of Brothers' law firm, Sonnenschein, Nath & Rosenthal, boasts that the firm's activities include "counseling on the avoidance or minimization of environmental liability."
The National Academies' Research Council is supposed to provide independent advice to the government.
"Brothers' connections certainly seem to strain the notions of independence, objectivity and credibility on this issue," Ritter said. "Even if Envirocare stands to gain nothing from recycling, it doesn't appear that the Research Council has chosen an independent committee member. With this person on the committee, how can the NRC hope to live up to its stated mission?"
Not-In-My-Backyard WarWall Street Journal – by John J. Fialka - February 20, 2002
(2/19/02) - WASHINGTON -- Nevada has a message for its adversaries in the nation's longest and most expensive Not-In-My-Backyard War: It's not over yet.
On Friday, after President Bush ended 20 years of preliminary government study by officially deciding to dispose of some 70,000 tons of nuclear waste under Yucca Mountain, Nev., the state's politicians and citizen groups vowed to mount a national campaign to reverse the decision. They plan to raise the specter of the potential terrorism threat posed by the waste's shipment around the country from nuclear-power plants that have disposal contracts with the Energy Department.
"We will fight on Capitol Hill. We will fight it in the heartland . . . . We will fight it before the nation's courts," said Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, whose city sits 90 miles southeast of Yucca Mountain and who has the backing of his city's deep-pockets gambling industry.
After his Churchillian statement, the mayor gave a preview of the scare campaign to come. "All it takes is one terrorist" with an antitank missile, he asserted, to penetrate a truck carrying nuclear waste. "This is the stuff of our worst nightmares."
Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham discounts such threats. At a news conference here, he noted that the U.S. and European countries have been moving nuclear waste for 30 years without serious incident.
Currently, spent nuclear-fuel assemblies, which contain highly radioactive and long-lived wastes, are stored under water in ponds designed as temporary storage sites located near the reactors that used the assemblies. There are 103 such sites in the U.S., many of them near major cities.
Noting that the study of the Yucca site's geology and other characteristics has cost more than $4 billion and taken "five times longer than it took to build Hoover Dam," Mr. Abraham said the Yucca Mountain decision was based on "sound science" and national-security needs. The site also is needed to store wastes from the nation's nuclear-weapons and nuclear-submarine programs and to keep U.S. agreements for disposing of Russian nuclear wastes in order to keep them out of unfriendly hands, he noted.
The next step will be a licensing review by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, whose approval of the site is also needed. After that, the Nevada legislature has a right to veto the decision, which is likely. Congress then will have the option of overriding the veto, which also is likely since most states want to get rid of their nuclear wastes.
Meanwhile, there will be court fights. Mr. Goodman, the Las Vegas mayor who is a Democrat, recently asked the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to intervene in the matter because it will cause "immediate and irreparable harm" to the city and county of Las Vegas. He also promised to sue President Bush.
According to the Energy Department, if there were no further legal road blocks, the facility could open by 2010. According to the agency, it will be able to safely store wastes in underground storage rooms for 10,000 years.
Refusing Nuclear WasteNew York Times – by Kenny Guinn - February 17, 2002
(2/16/02) - CARSON CITY, Nev.
Yesterday, Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham finally forwarded to the White House his plan for high-level nuclear waste disposal: Put it all in Yucca Mountain, a volcanic ridge 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas. President Bush took just a few hours to send the plan on to Congress with his blessing. But like Sisyphus pushing his rock up the mountain only to have it crash back down, time and again, the Department of Energy can send its Yucca Mountain plan wherever it likes — and the plan will crash again. Why am I so sure? The Energy Department tends not to complete its more grandiose projects, even when they were based on sound science and common sense. This project is based on neither.
When Congress ordered the Energy Department to study Yucca Mountain, it required that the site must be geologically sound: the stability of the repository would come from the geology of the site, providing a rock- solid backup to manmade waste containers.
Today, after $7 billion and almost 20 years of study, the Energy Department's own contractor, Bechtel/ SAIC, as well as the General Accounting Office, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Advisory Committee on Nuclear Waste, and the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board have each concluded that additional studies need to be performed. Those studies must be completed before Yucca Mountain could ever be seriously considered for permanent nuclear waste disposal.
The Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board, which Congress created specifically to look at storage problems, said last month that the "technical basis" for the Energy Department's performance estimates "is weak to moderate." Last month the acting head of the Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management, who has been working on the Yucca Mountain plan, seemed to agree, saying, "We think we have sufficient science for the step that we are at." That's the problem. The Energy Department has all along acted as though "the science" would always catch up with the politics, but the science is supposed to be the foundation upon which a decision to move forward is made. The Department of Energy has it backward — decision first, science later.
The secretary of energy has also tried to link his Yucca Mountain recommendation to national security. This is an absurd invention of the nuclear industry and an opportunistic use of the tragedies of Sept. 11. Spent fuel will have to be stored at reactor sites across America for 50 years or more as it waits to be safely shipped, because even if the Yucca Mountain repository is approved and built, it will not be ready to receive most of the waste for decades. And should Yucca Mountain get up and running, much of the fuel will remain above ground for perhaps 100 years if the Energy Department sticks with its current plans for very gradual insertion of fuel into subterranean caverns.
Meanwhile more nuclear waste will be produced around the country and continually sent out for hauling to Nevada, creating, in essence, a network of nuclear vulnerability throughout the nation, with one very big terrorist target 100 miles from one of the nation's fastest-growing cities. This is not a recipe for increased national security.
Today nuclear power plants are building inexpensive and safe dry storage facilities of their own, at their plant sites, for their spent fuel. They will continue to do this whether or not Yucca Mountain proceeds. I was hopeful that President Bush would keep his promise to Nevada not to push the project forward absent a sound scientific basis. The president has let that opportunity go. Nevada will now pursue every means available to ensure that the laws of science and the nation ultimately prevail.
I have, under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1987, 60 days in which to veto the recommendation. I will do so. The House and Senate leaders will then have 90 days to decide whether to override the veto by majority votes of each chamber. If the 90 days of consecutive session pass, then the veto stands.
Nevada did not pick this fight, but we are determined to win it.
Kenny Guinn is the governor of Nevada.
Duke DenialEmployee Advocate – DukeEmployees.com – February 16, 2002
This site is no friend to terrorist. No nuclear information is revealed here that is not widely known and freely available elsewhere.
Duke has been denying for some time that nuclear power plants are a target for terrorist. We have been saying for some time that nuclear power plants are a prime target for terrorist.
Duke has been offering some thin arguments to dispel any notion that a nuclear power plant could possibly be a target of terrorism. Of course, no argument is ever too thin, too weak, or too implausible for Duke to reject – if it suits their purpose.
The argument has been used that nuclear plants are too well built to be harmed by an air attack. It has even been implied that an air attack could be repelled. The most ludicrous statement was made by a Duke spokesperson: "I think a terrorist would be an idiot if they targeted a nuclear plant. Hitting it with an airplane doesn't have a high likelihood you'll have any consequences." (Beam me up, Scottie.)
The fact remains that nuclear power plants are prime terrorist targets, and there is little that Duke can do about it - short of shutting down the plants. Oops – Duke did not want to go there! Why else would they have floated all of their paper-thin arguments? Alternately, the airline industry could be shut down. Uh, oh, that's another economically unappealing solution.
You see, once the terrorist vulnerability is admitted, it is only natural for someone to ask how the vulnerability can be eliminated. No, no, no, Duke does not want to talk about this at all! They want to talk about EBIT and “deal flow.” They want about “gross margin” and “extrinsic value” – anything except nuclear terrorism!
But alas, one can only ignore the elephant in the room for so long. But Duke still does not want to give the public an honest assessment. They cannot bear to say: “Yes, nuclear plants are a tempting terrorist target and the only foolproof solution would be to shut them down.”
Even if nuclear plants were equipped to repel an air attack, densely populated areas invite disaster to the public.
Expect the dancing to continue. Even though, on Valentine’s Day, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission ordered tighter security measure at nuclear plants, according to Greenville Online. The measures will not prevent the real threat. Everyone knows what the real threat is: a 767 jetliner smacking into a nuclear reactor. Can you picture a Duke spokesperson sputtering “Why, we never expected that!”
Don’t totally depend upon tighter airport security to thwart all possible hijackings. Since the attacks in September, a suicide bomber was allowed to board a plane. He was subdued while he was trying to ignite his shoe bomb.
A passenger reported that he had been flying around with a loaded handgun in his carry-on luggage. One passenger crashed partially through the cabin door of an airliner, before being subdued. So, do not rule out another hijacking as a complete impossibility!
Some interesting facts were mentioned at the Nuclear Insecurity Conference, held in Charlotte, North Carolina, according to The Charlotte Observer. One topic was: "Nuclear Power and Duke Power in the Post-9/11 World." It was brought up that President Bush disclosed in his State of the Union address that "diagrams of American nuclear power plants" have been found among the items left by terrorists in Afghanistan. CNN reported on a NRC advisory that "an al Qaida senior operative ... stated there would be a second airline attack in the U.S. The attack was already planned and three individuals were on the ground in the states recruiting non-Arabs to take part in the attack. The plan is to fly a commercial aircraft into a nuclear power plant to be chosen by the team on the ground."
Does the threat need to be spelled out any more than this? The elephant in the room is painted florescent orange; he is wearing flashing neon signs; he is stomping his foot; he is trumpeting! All the while, Duke management sits and sips tea and pretends not to notice.
Is Duke ready for al-Qaida?The Charlotte Observer – February 16, 2002
From a speech by Paul Leventhal, president of the Nuclear Control Institute, a nuclear nonproliferation group, at a conference on "Nuclear Power and Duke Power in the Post-9/11 World" in Charlotte Saturday:
When President Bush disclosed in his State of the Union address that "diagrams of American nuclear power plants" have been found among the items left by terrorists in Afghanistan, he was sending a clear message to the American people that in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the 103 power reactors in this country are also potential targets for attack.
Only two days later..., CNN disclosed that the operators of each of these plants had received an advisory from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission [NRC] that "an al Qaida senior operative ... stated there would be a second airline attack in the U.S. The attack was already planned and three individuals were on the ground in the states recruiting non-Arabs to take part in the attack. The plan is to fly a commercial aircraft into a nuclear power plant to be chosen by the team on the ground."
...A spokesman for the Office of Homeland Security at the White House [said], "That information is uncorroborated," but added that even if the threat could be discounted, "the continuing threat (to nuclear power plants) is still real."
These are chilling words for all Americans. But here in Charlotte, where the cooling towers of four nuclear power reactors are within sight of the city's bank towers and within a short boat ride of thousands of homes along Lake Wylie and Lake Norman, the danger is all the more immediate....
NRC ... regulations exempt operators from having to protect nuclear power plants against an "enemy of the United States" ... on the obvious assumption that the federal government will be available, if needed. Before 9/11, such a need was strictly hypothetical; today it is an imperative.
Yet Homeland Security Chief Tom Ridge ... brushed off a question on "Meet the Press" about the need for a federal security force for nuclear power plants. The role of the federal government, he said, was to set a standard of security, and "those who own the nuclear power plants have to provide it."
Unfortunately, neither the ... Office of Homeland Security nor the NRC has taken protective measures commensurate with the threat or with the unthinkable consequences of a successful attack on a nuclear power plant.
U.S. nuclear power plants need immediate military protection -- the placement of National Guard troops or other military forces in sufficient numbers to provide a visible show of force and a credible deterrent against attack from the land, air or water. Anti-aircraft weapons -- manned by the military, not the industry, under strict rules of engagement and command and control -- are also needed as a last resort measure in the event fighter interceptors cannot catch up with a jumbo jet headed for a suicidal hit on a plant.
The immediate danger is underscored by the fact that prior to Sept. 11, nearly half of the nuclear plants tested in NRC-supervised security exercises have failed to repel mock terrorist attacks -- indeed, seven out of 11 plants failed exercises run since the beginning of 2000.
Editor's note: The NRC says security teams at Duke Power's McGuire and Catawba nuclear plants successfully defended their facilities during terrorism exercises in 1995 and 1997.
Tougher nuclear security orderedGreenville Online – by James T. Hammond – February 16, 2002
(2/14/02) - COLUMBIA -- The Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Thursday ordered new security measures for the nation's nuclear plants in response to the post-Sept. 11 "high-level threat environment."
New security measures include additional personnel access controls, enhanced requirements for guard forces, increased stand-off distances for searches of vehicles approaching nuclear facilities, and improved coordination with local, state, and federal authorities, the NRC said.
The NRC said some of the requirements "formalize a series of security measures that NRC licensees had taken in response to advisories issued by the NRC in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks."
Asked to elaborate about specific measures at specific plants, such as Duke Energy's Oconee Nuclear Station on Lake Keowee, NRC spokesman Victor Dricks declined comment.
Duke spokesman Tim Pettit said there likely would be increased security measures at Duke's plants, but he said security measures would not be obvious to the public, and perhaps not even to employees.
He said specific changes in security would not be revealed to the public. But the NRC orders "formalize" security measures put into place since Sept. 11, Pettit said.
"Since Sept. 11, we've been in a heightened state of security. We continue to operate in that heightened state of security today. Since those events, we have worked very closely with the federal, state and local law enforcement agencies and the intelligence community to ensure we are taking the appropriate actions to protect these plants," Pettit said.
Gov. Jim Hodges said his office has been in communication with the NRC since Sept. 11 about the security of South Carolina's five nuclear power reactors, but he referred questions about Thursday's NRC actions to his homeland security advisor, retired Army Gen. Steve Siegfried.
Siegfried said the latest NRC orders are part of an ongoing review of the security needs of the plants, a process he called "a journey, not a destination."
Asked if he knew about specific measures to be taken by nuclear plants in South Carolina, Siegfried said, "If I knew, I wouldn't tell you. I'm not going to utter one word that a terrorist can use."
Following the Sept. 11 attacks, the NRC advised all 104 U.S. nuclear power plants and other key nuclear facilities to go to the highest level of security.
Still, nuclear safety activists and some members of Congress have urged the Bush administration to impose stricter security at the plants. They fear the plants, even with thick concrete walls, could be vulnerable to high-speed airliner strikes like the deadly ones on Sept. 11.
When asked if any of the new measures were designed to protect against air attacks, neither Duke nor NRC officials would comment.
"Security against sabotage has long been an important part of NRC's regulatory activities and licensee's responsibilities. Nuclear power plants are among the most formidable structures in existence, and they are guarded by well-trained and well-armed security forces," the NRC said in a statement.