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Nuclear -     1 - Duke Energy Employee Advocate

Nuclear - Page 30

"The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of
thinking, and thus we drift toward unparalleled catastrophe." - Albert Einstein

Without Nuclear Regulations

Employee Advocate – – April 11, 2004

Executives thought that energy regulations were too bothersome and lobbied for deregulation legislation. What a disaster that turned out to be. If energy executives could find a way to weasel out of nuclear regulations, just imagine the possibilities! Knight Ridder published a report on a 1957 nuclear accident in Russia. It gives some insight as to what can happen with little or no nuclear regulations.

The explosion occurred at a secret atomic city. The city was so secret that it had no name and did not appear on any maps. A quarter-million people were contaminated. The Russian government responded as secretive governments typically do, with a cover-up.

1,500 ethnic Tatar farmers and children were sent in to clean up the radioactive debris. Many died early on, of radiation sickness.

Only now are some of the surviving “young liquidators” winning settlements in Russian courts. Three Karabolka residents won judgments of $8 a month. They also won an annual stay at a Russian spa.

Glasha Ismagilova is now 57, but once was an 11-year-old “young liquidator.” She said "Our hands were bleeding. Everybody was vomiting. My vomit was very green. The doctor looked at it and said I had eaten too many peas, and he sent me back to work. But of course I hadn't eaten any peas at all."

From the late 1940’s, until recently, radioactive waste was dumped into the water. With a secretive government and no regulations, nuclear waste can be dumped anywhere! With regulations, nuclear waste is not dumped directly into the water. It is placed in containers that will leak and stored in a mountain, to eventually seep into the groundwater.

It is charged that Russian families were evacuated, but the children of ethnic Tatar and Bashkir families were left behind to clean up the deadly waste. This could give new meaning to the term “ethnic cleansing.”

Glasha Ismagilova thought that she was going on a field trip with her forth-grade class 47 years ago. She was so excited about it that she borrowed a sundress from he mother. The “field trip” was to clean up radioactive waste.

She said "We were treated like laboratory rabbits. This was a horrible crime by the state. What kind of monsters would assign children to do such work?"

NRC Employees Worried About Safety

Radioactive Cleanup Investigations

Employee Advocate – – April 11, 2004

The Associated Press reported that cleanup procedures at Hanford nuclear site are under investigation by state and federal officials. It is alleged that the health of workers is secondary to a speedy cleanup, pushed by the Bush administration.

Over 90 employees have been treated for chemical exposure, over a two year period. Cancer from the exposures could by as high as 1.6 in 10, according to a 1997 draft report by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

Tim Jarvis, private consultant, said "The report shows that exposure to tank vapors is extremely hazardous and will most likely lead to fatal cancers in the workers if exposure is continued."

Nettlesome, Seething Nuclear Malcontents

DOE Nuclear Blackmail

Employee Advocate – – April 9, 2004

The Department of Energy (DOE) is playing more nuclear games with the environment, according to the Associated Press. When this administration plays games, the citizens always lose. The latest DOE nuclear game will cost the citizens of South Carolina $350 million or a more polluted state.

The Bush administration wants radioactive waste cleaned up fast and on the cheap. A nuclear cleanup plan has been rejected in court, but the DOE is attempting to force South Carolina to accept it anyway. If the state refuses, DOE is threatening to withhold $350 million in funds to dispose of radioactive waste from the production of bombs. A half-dozen states are fighting the Bush administration over the issue.

Sen. Larry Craig said "I will not allow DOE to hold this work hostage or to hold this budget hostage."

What is the quickest and cheapest way to make radioactive waste disappear? Simply rename it! Presto! It’s gone!

The DOE plans to wave its magic wand and “high-level” radioactive waste will instantly become “low level” waste. DOE plans to simply cover the renamed waste with concrete and leave it where it is.

In 2003, a federal judge in Idaho ruled the DOE plan to reclassify the waste is illegal. Congress has stipulated that all Cold War plutonium production waste must be buried in a central facility. That brings up the Yucca Mountain site, which has a host of potential problems.

Sen. Patty Murray has repeated the word “blackmail” to describe the heavy-handed approach by the DOE. She said "They didn't get their way in court, so now they want the law changed. Everyone is for accelerated cleanup as long as it's done in a way that protects workers' safety and we don't cut corners."

Nuclear Waste Lawsuit

A One Day Run at Davis-Besse

Public Citizen – Press Release – March 19, 2004

Davis-Besse Nuclear Plant Shutdown - One Day After Restart - Shows Flaws in Regulatory System

Statement of Wenonah Hauter, Director, Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program

Barely 24 hours after the FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company restarted the Davis-Besse nuclear plant, it is being shut down again due to the failure of two types of valves, one of which could allow radioactive steam to be released into the air. Two of these valves at Davis-Besse were found to be inoperable as the reactor was being restarted.

While it is appropriate that the plant is being shut down after this discovery, it is troubling that these problems were not identified previously by either FirstEnergy engineers or U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) plant inspectors, especially since the valves were likely malfunctioning before the plant's February 2002 shutdown (otherwise, they wouldn't have malfunctioned so quickly) and apparently were not adequately tested during pre-startup exercises of the plant late last year and early this year. Worse, a list of problems that the NRC had with Davis-Besse - a list that had not been fully addressed at the time that the NRC approved the restart of the plant - did not even include the malfunction of the valves that caused this recent shutdown.

FirstEnergy, in downplaying this event, claims it expected to "find some issues along the way." It is important to note the original cause for shutdown two years ago, the massive corrosion and deterioration of the reactor's vessel head, was itself a problem found "along the way" as the plant was being refueled and inspected for other problems. According to NRC officials, Davis-Besse has the disturbing distinction of being the site for the second and third worst American nuclear incidents after the Three Mile Island partial meltdown in 1979. (The corrosion was the second; coolant problems in 1985 led to the third.)

It appears that Davis-Besse is, at best, a mediocre plant that still poses dangers to the surrounding region. This continuing saga highlights what happens when regulators act as promoters of the industry they are supposed to oversee. It is apparent that the NRC is captured by the nuclear industry - Davis-Besse is a glaring example of this inherent conflict. What other dangers await discovery at the nation's 102 other nuclear reactors - reactors that have not been the focus of increased industry and regulatory scrutiny for the past two years, as Davis-Besse has? It is astounding that even though Davis-Besse was under a magnifier, officials still missed problems. Again, we call for the NRC to keep Davis-Besse shut down and to penalize FirstEnergy appropriately by revoking its license to operate it.

Read the article linked below for more eye-openers about FirstEnergy:

Bush Couldn’t Save Kenny-Boy Either

DOE's Disregard for Workers' Health

Public Citizen – Press Release – March 13, 2004

Yucca Mountain: Another Example of Department of Energy's Disregard for Workers' Health

Statement by Wenonah Hauter, Director of Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program

The class action lawsuit filed today by current and former workers at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Yucca Mountain site in Nevada is a chance to bring some accountability to an agency that has been sorely lacking it. Estimates are that more than 1,200 employees have been exposed to potentially dangerous amounts of silica dust while working at the site. Inhalation of silica dust can lead to silicosis, a potentially fatal lung disease. Three people have been diagnosed, and one of those has died from the disease.

The DOE admitted in a February 2004 letter to U.S. Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) that it was "aware of the potential for the silica to become airborne during mining operations, which commenced in 1992, and tunnel boring operations, which started in 1994," yet it did not provide adequate respiratory protection and enforcement until 1996. In October 2002, a former industrial hygienist with the construction company that built the tunnel testified in a separate lawsuit that a supervisor ordered her to falsify data on the toxic dust levels so that they were recorded as lower than they actually were.

Unfortunately, this is indicative of a larger pattern by DOE of pushing projects forward regardless of the human costs. Nuclear weapons workers have routinely been exposed to dangerous levels of radiation since the 1940s, and many are still fighting to be fairly compensated. Workers at the Hanford site in Washington state who were exposed to dangerous vapors had their medical records falsified by doctors - under pressure from DOE contractors - to hide that their injuries were work-related, according to a front-page story in The Washington Post on Feb. 25, 2004. The DOE's lack of concern for the health and safety of its workers needs serious scrutiny.

While the DOE has announced that it is implementing a free silicosis testing program for former site workers, obtaining information about the test program is all but impossible. Despite the rather complicated process for obtaining a medical exam, there is no Web site for workers to get information, and the hotline number is not widely distributed. If the agency can't be trusted to safeguard the health of its own workers at Yucca Mountain, how can it be trusted to prioritize the health and safety of the public at large?

More Yucca Mountain Objections

Nettlesome, Seething Nuclear Malcontents

Employee Advocate – – February 28, 2004

Hanford Nuclear Reservation employee Steve Lewis was described as a “seething malcontent” by Blaine Harden in The Washington Post. Seething malcontents usually don’t just materialize at random, for no reason. They are created by very specific unjust acts. Right away, you know there is a story here.

What happened to Mr. Lewis to transform a mild mannered electrician into a seething malcontent? It all started with a visit to the company doctor.

Underground “tank farms” produced plutonium for U. S. warheads during the Cold War. In January 2002, Mr. Lewis was cleaning up such a farm when he was blasted with ammonia vapor. His lungs were burned and his face became red. Within four months, he was suffering headaches, nosebleeds, and was gagging on excessive mucus secretions.

Thus the seething malcontent’s ordeal began. He visited Hanford Nuclear Reservation acting medical director Larry Smick. The symptoms suffered by Mr. Lewis were promptly diagnosed as the result of a preexisting condition. A handwritten note by the doctor stated: "Allergic disease likely making him more sensitive to irritant vapors at work."

A problem with the diagnosis was that Mr. Lewis had never had any allergic reactions. When Mr. Lewis explained to the doctor about the chemical exposure, he was ignored. The doctor would only address allergies.

Mr. Lewis said "Quite honestly, that is when my bubble popped. I could live with injury because these things do happen. I was not an angry employee up until they started trying to convince me that I hadn't been injured."

And so it happened, another “seething malcontent” was created by corporate mendacity.

The plight of Mr. Lewis was not an isolated incident. The Government Accountability Project, a nonprofit watchdog group, discovered a pattern of questionable medical and management practices at Hanford, going back for years.

Tuesday, Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham announced that he has ordered an investigation of the Hanford Environmental Health Foundation. That is the private nonprofit clinic where Larry Smick is the ranking doctor.

Investigations began at the clinic last week into allegations of fraud, supervisory misconduct and falsification of medical records.

The problems trace back to the federal government, according to evidence uncovered through internal e-mails, memorandums, interviews with workers, union officials, and outside experts. A culture of contractor greed has emerged, where it is profitable to falsify reports of work-loss injuries and to concentrate on production bonuses.

In 2002, Alan Hopko, Energy Department official, wrote that contractors "have an incentive to minimize the number of workdays lost" to injuries. "On the other hand, if [contractors] can do the work faster and cheaper because of fewer workdays lost, they can possibly earn additional fee."

Doctor Tim Takaro, who has treated tank farm workers, said that there is "absolutely unequivocal pressure to reduce the number of time-loss injuries at Hanford. Workers are pressured not to complain. For some contractors and some supervisors, there is a cultural pressure not to report injuries."

Mr. Lewis suffered his injuries after the Bush administration started the Hanford "accelerated cleanup."

Over a third of the 177 tanks have been leaking radioactive waste into the groundwater for decades. Is it any wonder that many experts have real concerns about the proposed Yucca Mountain radioactive waste dump?

The principal tank farm contractor is CH2M Hill. To speed up the cleaning, the Energy Department has offered CH2M Hill bonuses of up to $2 million for each tank emptied before 2006.

In the mad rush for bonus money, over 90 CH2M Hill workers have been treated for tank farm exposures in the past two years! The Government Accountability Project provided the documentation.

The Energy Department is clueless as to what could be causing all the vapor injuries. Roy Scheppens, Energy Department tank farm cleanup manager, said "We have not been able to attribute it conclusively to anything. People can become sensitive all of a sudden to vapor."

Jesse H. Roberson, Energy Department assistant secretary for environmental management, said "We are very confident that accelerated cleanup and safety go hand in hand."

There you have it; the Bush administration has given itself a clean bill of health, as it were.

Remember Doctor Larry Smick? He has issued orders that he should personally examine all tank farm workers who claim to be injured on the job. E-mails to his staff prove this.

Dr. Smick diagnosed the illness of Steve Lewis as "not work-related." Mr. Lewis said "That is a blatant lie. I was in there to emphasize to the doctor that I was having symptoms that were work-related."

Doctors in Seattle and Spokane, Washington supported the claim that Mr. Lewis was injured by vapor exposure on the job.

When Dr. Smick was interviewed about his contested diagnosis, the best he could come up with was "It makes medical sense to me…”

Then he admitted company pressure: "The company will call me up and say, 'Why did you make this work-related?' They are mad at me."

But then he denied bowing to company pressure: "We want to do everything we can to alleviate the concern and anxiety of workers. recordability issues can go to hell."

E-mails betrayed Dr. Smick’s bold claim. Several workers were exposed to smoke and vapors in 2001. Nurses and assistants diagnosed the symptoms as "exposure to unknown smell" or "exposure to burning ballast."

Dr. Smick warned his staff that they would "create a monster out there for the contractors and their recordability issues" if diagnoses for vapor exposure were anything other than a "normal exam."

He then sent e-mail to his secretary: "bring me all the charts today that had to do with exposure yesterday and I will make the necessary administrative changes by writing addendum. To the providers -- do I have your permission to make the changes to your charging or would you prefer to do it yourself?"

Clerks said that Dr. Smick instructed them to alter records to show that a worker's injury was not related to work.

Clerk Nancy Morse said "Dr. Smick would call me after the patient had been seen and was ready to walk out the door. He would order me to change it to non-occupational. I would say, 'Why?' He would say, 'Just do it!' "

What happened to Steve Lewis? He became an advocate for worker safety. He spoke out when his employer, CH2M Hill, was rushing to meet the Bush administration’s accelerated cleanup deadline. Mr. Lewis was even referred to as “nettlesome.” Oh no! Now we have a “nettlesome, seething, malcontented employee advocate”!

Last year, Mr. Lewis filed a whistle-blower lawsuit over worker safety. CH2M Hill settled the lawsuit with Lewis and two other electricians for an undisclosed sum.

But all was not well at Hanford. The vapor exposures continued and new nettlesome, seething malcontents were being created. Two of “nettlesome, seething malcontents” were a husband and wife team, Steve and Virginia Wallace. Steve is an instrument technician, and Virginia is a nuclear chemical operator. They were both deeply concerned about safety, so concerned that they took safety classes at Hanford. They became certified instructors in respirator use and handling hazardous material. What they witnessed at the tank farms flew in the face of their training. With the safety record at Hanford, you can see that this couple was on a collision course with management.

The management at CH2M Hill evidently thought that they did not really have to deliver results, as long as they talked a good game. So, they gave safety a lot of lip service, but took no meaningful action to improve conditions.

CH2M Hill President Edward Aromi was giving the safety issue the old corporate spin at a public meeting. When a person hears the same spin, the same denials, the same happy talk, over and over and over, sometimes there is an overpowering urge to set the record straight. And, that is exactly what Steve Wallace did at the public meeting. He stood up and contradicted a cleanup claim made by CH2M Hill President Edward Aromi.

Can you imagine the outrage of the president? After spending time getting his spin just right, one of his own employees exposed him as a liar, in public.

Surely, an example had to be made of Steve Wallace. Things could get out of hand. People could start expecting management to actually do what they say they will do. People could, heaven forbid, start expecting to see an improvement in safety. An example had to be made that would strike fear in the hearts of all employees. It needed to be something that they would talk about for years. Steve Wallace needed to be terminated in the most humiliating way possible.

Steve and Virginia Wallace were both abruptly fired last year. But this was no ordinary firing. Hanford police used no less than sixteen security vehicles to escort the couple off the project!

Hey, you cannot be too careful with people who complain about safety! The feds only used eight security vehicles per person being escorted. The official reason for the dismissals and tactical escort was “timecard irregularities.” Say no more! When you get people who are concerned about safety and using irregular time cards, you have a serious situation on hand. Why were there no helicopters?

The management types were no doubt giving each other high-fives and back slaps. They had given the employees a production that they would certainly talk about for years. No one would dare step out of line now.

The day Steve and Virginia Wallace were terminated, they were unable to contact Randy Knowles, local union chief. As luck would have it, Randy Knowles was in Washington, meeting with officials from the Energy Department and the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board.

Mr. Knowles said "It was bad timing on the company's part and good timing for us."

When Mr. Knowles found out that the couple had been fired, he exposed the whole matter to the federal officials in Washington. Everyone now knew that two safety champions had been dismissed for very thin reasons. Everyone knows that the federal government does things in a big way. But there were still probably some lingering questions as to why it took sixteen security vehicles to remove the couple from the project.

Three days later, a courier delivered two letters to the couple at their home. The president of CH2M Hill, wrote that he was hiring them back because he is "fully committed to creating and maintaining a work place that does not tolerate retaliation or even an appearance of retaliation against those who raise legitimate safety issues."

Apparently the timecards were not “irregular” after all. Management met its objectives, sort of. Employees now have a story that will be told for years to come.

It is amazing how people can suddenly have a change of heart – even company presidents! CH2M Hill has even improved safety conditions, but not enough. As inconceivable as this sounds, CH2M Hill is still fighting the use of respirators!

More Yucca Mountain Objections

Employee Advocate – – February 23, 2004

The Associated Press reported that more experts are concerned about potential leaks at the proposed nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain.

William Barnard is the executive director of The Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board. He said that the board has documented new evidence of potential radioactive leaks. He is still waiting for a response from the Department of Energy. His comments support the Yucca Mountain criticism made by scientist Paul Craig.

Mr. Barnard said "The board always has had concerns about the uncertainty at these high temperatures and now that the data is coming it, it looks like there is a problem. Those concerns date all the way back to the early 1990’s."

No matter how many experts say that Yucca Mountain will not be safe, they cannot be heard over the sound of fluttering corporate lobbying dollars.

´The Canisters Will Leak´

'The Canisters Will Leak'

Employee Advocate – – February 20, 2004

A scientist has resigned from a federal panel of experts on Yucca Mountain and has issued warnings about the proposed nuclear dump, according to the Associated Press. Paul Craig is a physicist and engineering professor at the University of California-Davis. Last month, he quit the panel to warn the public about the dangers of the dump.

Mr. Craig said that the dump is poorly designed and could leak radioactive waste. He said “The science is very clear. If we get high-temperature liquids, the metal would corrode and that would eventually lead to leakage of nuclear waste. Therefore, it is a bad design. And that is very, very bad news for the Department of Energy because they are committed to that design… It would require years of delay and my guess is that is what is going to happen. The bad science is so clear they will be unable to ignore it forever.”

Mr. Craig said that the potential for corrosion was covered in a report by the technical review board. He said that the report is the most important one published since the inception of the panel in 1987. He charges that the report has been largely ignored by Congress and Department of Energy.

Congress has other things to consider than mere reports. The members of Congress are vitally concerned about political contributions and pampering lobbyists. If a report about a dangerous nuclear dump and a large pile of political contributions are on the table, one of the two may get overlooked. A big enough pile of contributions may even completely block out any view of the nuclear dump report!

Mr. Craig said “The report says in ordinary English that under the conditions proposed by the Department of Energy, the canisters will leak. It was signed by every single member of the board so there would be no confusion.”

Energy Department spokesman Allen Benson said “We stand by our work.”

The National Academy of Sciences recommended that the site be safeguarded for 300,000 years. Where will the spokesman be standing then?

The Environmental Protection Agency ignored the 300,000 year recommendation anyway. The EPA is going with 10,000 years, according to Legal Times.

It has taken the government no time at all to almost run Social Security into the ground. Can you imagine the federal government running any program for 10,000 or 300,000 years?

EPA Ignored the Law on Nuclear Dump

Duke's Plutonium Fuel – Press Release – February 20, 2004



Post-9/11 Terrorism Measures Not Applicable to Duke's Plutonium Fuel

NRC Chooses Secrecy Over Security

Yesterday, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced that confidential NRC upgrades to the security requirements for nuclear power plants and plutonium processing facilities, imposed after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, have "nothing to do" with a proposed license amendment that would allow Duke Energy Corporation to use bomb-grade plutonium at the Catawba nuclear power plant. Moreover, the NRC stated that "those orders do not impose immutable requirements, but are subject to change depending on updated assessments of the terrorist threat."

The NRC's announcement came as a shock to Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League ("BREDL"), which seeks a hearing before the NRC on a number of safety and security issues, including the adequacy of Duke's security plan to protect the plutonium that will be used at the site.

Janet Zeller, Executive Director of BREDL, called the decision "outrageous." The post-9/11 security standards are "far from irrelevant," she asserted. "Without understanding the NRC's post-9/11 security requirements, our expert cannot evaluate, in any meaningful way, whether the new security measures Duke proposes are adequate to meet those standards and protect plutonium from theft." Added Anti-Plutonium Campaign Director Lou Zeller, "it also causes us grave concern to learn suddenly that the post-9/11 standards could be dropped or changed at any time."

BREDL's security expert, Dr. Edwin Lyman of the Union of Concerned Scientists, added that Duke Energy is planning to store around 80 kilograms of plutonium, enough for 10-20 nuclear bombs.

BREDL's attorney, Diane Curran, noted that the decision was the result of an attempt by BREDL to gain access to confidential post-9/11 security standards that the NRC has made available only to the nuclear industry. "The NRC is pretending that the events of September 11 are irrelevant, so that it can deny BREDL access to information about the rigor of the post-9/11 upgrades. This decision is a sign that the Commission's greatest motive for the shroud of secrecy that has surrounded its post-9/11 security upgrades is its reluctance to reveal how little it has done to increase the security of nuclear facilities."

MOX Fuel Setback

MOX Fuel Setback

Employee Advocate – – February 10, 2004

The New York Times reported that the plan to use a mixture of weapons grade plutonium and uranium to power U. S. nuclear reactors has been delayed. Some experts think the plan is dead.

Plutonium from Russian and American warheads were to be processed into reactor fuel. A MOX processing plant was slated to be built in South Carolina this July. It has been delayed until May 2005.

The Bush administration wanted American contractors to be protected from almost all liability in Russia. The Russians did not fall for the deal. Now there is a deadlock. Plus there are money problems. The people that dream up all these “great” ideas never seem to know how to finance them.

The ultimate plan was for the government to pay Duke Power to use the reactor fuel, perhaps as early as 2002. Then there was a projected date of 2008.

The Energy Department has already been loading up South Carolina with plutonium at the Savannah River Site.

Some experts oppose the scheme on the grounds of safety.

Duke Power is also affiliated with the group that is to build the processing plant.

Plutonium at Duke Protested

Bush to Eliminate Nuclear Plant Standards

Associated Press – by Nancy Zuckerbrod – January 30, 2004

Plan to let contractors devise new rules

WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration is moving to replace government safety standards at federal nuclear facilities with requirements written by contractors -- after Congress directed it to start fining the contractors for violations.

Long-established government minimum standards at the more than two dozen nuclear weapons plants and research labs around the nation would become unenforceable guidelines under the Energy Department proposal.

Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., an author of the 2002 legislation ordering the fines, accused the administration of distorting Congress' intent with a plan that "will likely decrease worker protection."

John Conway, chairman the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, which oversees safety at the Energy Department, agreed that the proposal would weaken safety standards covering more than 100,000 workers at the facilities. "The way it's written, I don't like it at all," hed (sic) said.

Energy Department officials said they have not made a final decision on the proposal and emphasized that the government would retain the authority to approve or reject the contractor-written safety requirements.

"The department believes the proposed rule seeks to fully protect our workers," Assistant Secretary Beverly Cook said.

The proposal was outlined in a draft regulation put out by the department last month. Cook described it as part of a continuing effort to get contractors to focus on hazards specific to their sites.

The Energy Department can now fine contractors who expose workers to hazardous levels of radiation, but it has no authority to levy fines for failing to protect workers from other industrial dangers, such as exposure to toxic chemicals.

The proposed rule would change that, allowing the department to assess fines against contractors who violate what would be contractor-written safety plans.

"The decision making will be largely in the hands of contractors to decide what protections are appropriate," said Rep. Ted Strickland, D-Ohio. "It's the fox guarding the hen house."

The government often gives contractors financial incentives to complete projects ahead of schedule, and tough safety standards could slow contractors down, said Leon Owens, a worker and past president of the local union at the government's uranium plant in Paducah, Ky.

"I don't feel that a contractor would be as inclined to develop rules that would go the extra length to provide adequate protection for workers," Owens said.

Indian Point Tentative Settlement

Employee Advocate – – January 18, 2004

The Associated Press reported that the Indian Point 3 nuclear plant strike has been tentatively averted. Negotiations continued into Sunday morning.

In typical corporate fashion, the company tried to make things seem more rosy than they actually are. It issued a press release that a settlement had been reached. Manny Tellen, Utility Workers Union of America president, said this was not true. He said “I don't know why the company would announce this. It's not done.”

Indian Point 2 once had a different owner than Indian Point 3, so the plants had different contracts.

Fred Dacimo, Entergy negotiator, stated “Reuniting the work force was our goal from the beginning.”

There is no doubt that Entergy would have preferred to “reunite the work force” with cheap wages and benefits. But with all the negative baggage the company is carrying, it really pushed its luck stalling a settlement this long.

Westchester County Executive Andrew Spano wanted the plant closed if the strike materialized.

Calls for Indian Point to Close

Employee Advocate – – January 18, 2004

The New York Times reported that the Indian Point 3 labor dispute had not been resolved, as of Saturday. As this is written, less than one-hour remains until the contract expires.

Control room operators, maintenance, and other workers are prepared to strike. Entergy Nuclear Northeast plans for managers to run the plant. Some local politicians are calling for the plant to shut down if there is a strike. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) plans to cover the plant 24/7 and always has the authority to close the plant. The plant is located in the worse possible place for a nuclear accident – New York – only 22 miles from Manhattan.

Negotiations broke down Friday over attempts to reduce health benefits.

Manny Hellen is the president of Local 1-2 of the Utility Workers Union of America. He said Entergy “unfortunately has proven to be an arrogant union-busting company that doesn't care about the work force, the community or the safety of Indian Point.”

Entergy is taking a huge risk to save a few pennies on benefits. If anything goes wrong, things will turn ugly fast. The plant already has more that a few outstanding issues. Instead of keeping a low profile, the company insists on inviting nationwide attention.

Some of the Indian Point problems were detailed by A nuclear engineer called Indian Point one of five worst nuclear plants in the United States. He predicted its emergency cooling system “is virtually certain to fail.”

A study by the Los Alamos National Laboratory for the NRC revealed more bad news. The chances of a meltdown was increases by a factor of nearly 100 because the containment sumps are “almost certain” to be blocked with debris during an accident.

David Lochbaum, a nuclear safety engineer, said “The NRC has known about the containment sump problem at Indian Point since September 1996, but currently plans to fix it only by March 2007. The NRC cannot take more than a decade to fix a safety problem that places millions of Americans at undue risk.”

Indian Point 3 reactor would exhaust all of its cooling water in only 14 minutes.

James Lee Witt, former head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), was commissioned by New York Governor George Pataki to study Indian Point's evacuation plan. The 2003 report was not good.

Mr. Witt reported “It is our conclusion that the current radiological response system and capabilities are not adequate to overcome their combined weight and protect the people from an unacceptable dose of radiation in the event of a release from Indian Point, especially if the release is faster or larger than the design basis release.”

Counterpunch reported: “This sobering scenario was followed by news that a review of the company's security record revealed that Entergy, in cahoots with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, faked a test designed to determine whether the plant is vulnerable to a terrorist attack.”

Indian Point Workers May Strike

Yucca Mountain Radiation Release Standards

Public Citizen – Press Release – January 15, 2004

Statement by the plaintiffs in the case against the EPA's radiation release standards for the Yucca Mountain repository:

(1/14/04) - We are convinced that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) radiation release standards for the Yucca Mountain repository will not protect the health of future generations. We are optimistic that the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, which hears oral arguments today in a lawsuit seeking to block the new standards, will come to this conclusion as well.

The EPA arbitrarily gerrymandered the site boundary to meet radiation release standards to compensate for Yucca Mountain's unsuitable geology. Written specifically for Yucca Mountain, the new boundary allows radiation that leaks from the high-level waste to pollute the aquifer and migrate with the groundwater south to a farming community.

An unprecedented 18-kilometer "controlled area," in which people are not supposed to access the water for 10,000 years, is being contested by this lawsuit. Outside this huge sacrifice zone, the groundwater is not supposed to be contaminated above standards set under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

The EPA claims that it would be too expensive to drill wells in this 18-kilometer area, but two drinking water wells already exist in this area, and the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) own research has found that drilling in a similar geographical area in Colorado is economically viable. It is also unreasonable to assume that the government will be able to maintain institutional control over any region for the next 10,000 years to prevent future generations from drilling there.

The site boundary is only about eight miles from Amagosa Valley, an agricultural area where groundwater is used for irrigation. Moreover, the EPA rule arbitrarily limits the regulatory compliance period to 10,000 years, even though studies show that the maximum doses from the repository are likely to occur in 300,000 years or more.

While the Nuclear Waste Policy Act gives the EPA discretion in setting public health standards at the repository, the current EPA rules were written to enable the site to be licensed, not to protect the health of future generations.

We seek to have the EPA's Yucca Mountain rules set aside and sent back to the agency to be made consistent with the standards now in effect for other repositories and adjusted to protect people and the environment for the dangerous lifetime of the waste. Because the financial and public health impacts of the Yucca Mountain project will affect people well into the future, we believe that any decision with respect to licensing Yucca Mountain should be based on prudent analysis and public health standards, not political expediency. If the court sends the rules back to the EPA, the project could be delayed for years, and even permanently abandoned if radiation release limits cannot be met. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) Yucca licensing rules, which depend on EPA's rules, would also have to be redrafted.

At the same time, this court's decision is not the end of the opposition to the Yucca Mountain repository. DOE must still apply and get a construction license from the NRC, and crucial questions about the adequacy of the site remain to be answered. We will remain involved in that process as long as it takes.

Nuclear Waste Legal Battle

Indian Point Workers May Strike

Employee Advocate – – January 14, 2004

Indian Point 3 nuclear power plant’s operations and maintenance workers may strike, according to the New York Times. Members of the Utility Workers Union of America say that salaries and health benefits are problems with a proposed new contract.

Steve Mangione, Local 1-2 spokesman, said “Given the status of the talks, I would say they are on a collision course with a strike. They are miles apart on the key issues and still very far apart on issues that are usually settled by now…. The elected officials should be very concerned that Entergy is playing Russian roulette with public safety. No matter what they say, they cannot guarantee the safe operation or the security of Indian Point.”

A walkout would invite increased Nuclear Regulatory Commission scrutiny of the plant. Neil A. Sheehan, NRC spokesman, said that the NRC inspectors would be on site round-the-clock, in the event of a strike. He said that strikes at nuclear power plants were not common.

That sounds reasonable. Most nuclear plants bend over backwards not to attract undue NRC attention.

Electrical workers struck for 76 days at Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station, last summer. Employees of Indian Point 2 went on strike for nine weeks, in 1983.

Nuclear Waste Legal Battle

Employee Advocate – – January 6, 2004

Marcia Coyle reported in The National Law Journal on the sorry state of spent nuclear fuel disposal. Utilities have filed about 25 lawsuits against the government and want about $50 billion for breach of contract. Who will lose in this case? The American public will lose, as usual.

The utilities have a point. The government did not start picking up spent fuel in 1998, as agreed. Some utilities have been storing nuclear waste in dry casts after their spent fuel storage buildings were full. Nuclear waste is beginning to pile up around the country like cordwood.

Many corporations feel that it is fine to renege on retirement and health care agreements with employees. But let someone not keep an agreement with them and they want $50 billion!

The utilities do not necessarily want a safe solution, if one exists; they want a fast solution. Utilities are hoping the threat of huge legal claims will force the government into making a quick fix. The Yucca Mountain proposal was a flaky idea from the beginning. But big money and big lobbying kept pushing it along.

The people of Nevada have realized that they were sold out for the enrichment of a few. They do not want radioactive waste leaking into their ground water. Would you? The spent fuel will remain deadly for thousands of years.

Joseph R. Egan, counsel to Nevada, said “I've told DOE to find me one scientist who is not on its payroll that will say this is a suitable site. They cannot find one. We have put together 25 world-class experts, including many who have never testified against the nuclear industry, who say it isn't."

Some find it hard to hear the experts over the sound of big money fluttering!

G. W. Bush signed Yucca Mountain repository legislation in 2002. He wants to put his own weapons of mass destruction in Yucca Mountain.

Yucky Yucca Mountain

Yucky Yucca Mountain

Employee Advocate – – December 12, 2003

Kevin Bogardus wrote an informative article about G. W. Bush and nuclear power for He noted that when Bill Clinton vetoed Yucca Mountain Project legislation because of lack of scientific validity, Bush agreed with him.

Bush said “As president, I would not sign legislation that would send nuclear waste to any proposed site unless it's been deemed scientifically safe.”

But on July 23, 2002, G. W. Bush signed final approval for nearly identical legislation!

The major problems of Yucca Mountain have all been glossed over by the Bush administration. Once over 70,000 metric tons of spent fuel have been dumped into Yucca Mountain and it starts seeping into the ground water, it will be too late to rethink this flaky plan.

A Department of Energy employee who raised technical concerns about Yucca Mountain has been transferred to other assignments. As other technical personnel have raised concerns, they have been shipped out.

Apparently, the energy corporations only want a place to dump the deadly waste. Their concern for continuing profits outweighs any safety concerns.

President Carter viewed nuclear power as the energy source of last resort. Mr. Carter has a tad more nuclear expertise than G. W. Bush, he is a nuclear physicist.

As the Bush administration pushed for Yucca Mountain approval, Congressman Joe Barton, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Power, commented on the issue. He said “It undermines public confidence to see the federal government turn a blind eye to its legal obligations.”

Senator Murkowski said “Let's be honest with one another. Every time this legislation comes up, it comes down to one thing: Nobody wants the waste. I have said time and again, if you throw it up in the air, it has to come down somewhere and that somewhere is Nevada. That decision was made some time ago.”

Bill Belke was employed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission at Yucca. He noted that some officials tried to suppress the concerns of workers. He said “I was told to suck it up.”

Let's Hear It All

Licenses Extended for McGuire and Catawba

Employee Advocate – – December 9, 2003

Duke Energy announced that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is extending the operating licenses for McGuire and Catawba nuclear stations. The reactors will be able to operate into the 2040’s.

Oconee Nuclear Station received a 20-year license extension in 2000.

Plutonium at Duke Protested

Employee Advocate – – October 23, 2003

The Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) has protested Duke Energy’s plan to use plutonium fuel, according to The Charlotte Observer. The plan is to test mixed oxide fuel (MOX) at Catawba Nuclear Station in 2005. Full-scale use of MOX fuel would begin in 2008 in the Catawba and McGuire nuclear reactors.

NIRS filed five objections with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). A panel will hear the objections in Charlotte, North Carolina, on December 3 and 4, 2003.

The basis for the objections are:

  • The test plutonium and not been proven to be the same as the surplus weapons grade plutonium to be used.

  • MOX will produce more heat, decay slower, and contain more plutonium that conventional fuel.

  • There is no special disposal plan for the spent MOX fuel.

  • An environmental-impact study should be performed by the NRC, in response to public safety concerns.

The Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League has filed a petition to intervene in the license amendment. Its concern is that MOX is more dangerous in the event of a nuclear accident or terrorists attack.

No NRC Rubberstamp for MOX

Nuclear - Page 29