Wednesday, August 8, 2007

While Pushing For Nuclear Renaissance, EPRI, NEI, NRC and Nuclear Industry Hide Dangerous Labor Shortages Affecting Reactor Safety

The Nuclear Renaissance-ROTTEN EGGS Waiting To Hatch.
In EPRI's latest propaganda news publication, they had an article about the birth/hatching of the Nuclear Renaissance. If you look beyond the surface of the nuclear industry sales pitch, you quickly recognize the lies and stench that is the fetid reality of a industry that needs to die, plans for its rebirth set aside as the world investigates workable Global Warming solutions. One such lie, or serious issue as the nuclear industry races fool hearted down a pathway to hell, is a severely dangerous and hidden shortage of qualified craftsman. With this shortage, host communities are being put at and even greater risk and danger as these aging apocalyptic behemoths leak, degrade and move towards visiting one or more nuclear Holocausts upon the people of the world. Pick a reactor, Vermont Yankee, Pilgrim, Oyster Creek, Diablo Canyon or Indian Point to name a few...eventually, as the worker shortage deepens, we will see a catastrophic event.
As the nuclear industry races to be competitive while enhancing corporate profits communities are being put at serious and unacceptible risk as aging, crumbling reactors find themselves short of adequate numbers of qualified staff. Ruthless cut backs of personnel coupled with ever shorter outages has seen the loss of many qualified craftsman who, unemployed or under employed have moved on to other jobs in other industry. The shortage is reaching epidemic proportions, and will grow far worse in the next few years as many older employees retire, or seize the opportunity for lucrative positions as consultants as competition for a shrinking qualified work force in the nuclear industry intensifies.
According to the industries own whispered admissions, the shortages are extensive (see page 11), and cover almost every aspect of reactor safety and maintenance. NDE technicians, carpenters, grid personnel, welders, pipe fitters, insulators and people willing to do asbestos abatement are all in short supply. With the aggressive, even unrealistic goals found in the GNEP/Nuclear 2010 iniative documents, this worker shortage will only grow worse at a time when aging reactors being wrongfully relicensed will require ever more man hours to keep them up and running, let alone safe. Already many nuclear reactor licensees are seeing their FAC programs negatively impacted by these qualified worker shortages.
In industry meetings held in posh hotels where executives from DOE, EPRI, NEI, NRC and the nuclear industry are hidden from public scrutiny, management and regulators are scrambling to find ways to stem the arterial bleeding as the worker shortage grows worse with each passing day. Many of the ideas being bandied about are a recipe for disaster. The suggestions of desparate men as they struggle to keep a dying industry alive, breath new life into a decaying radioactive corpse. Without exception, their ideas are aimed at keeping their contaminated money machines up and running, with human health and safety getting nothing more than a cursory glance as safeguards are tossed to the curb with the full knowledge and blessing of the NRC.
How can we as a world even think about a Nuclear Renaissance when the industry cannot take care of the failing reactors they already own? Imagine corporate executives, members of industry groups such as EPRI and NEI sitting around a polished conference table suggesting that fewer safety inspections could ease the worker shortage. Competitors suggesting, even offering to share their work forces, transfering them temporarialy from plant to plant to do the work necessary for a refueling outage, while leaving their home reactors vulnerable and short handed should a serious radioactive incident and/or terrorist attack occur. Suggesting that corners be cut, less insulation, less scafolding as workers and the public are placed at ever increasing risks. To save time, to reduce man hour needs, areas requiring scaffolding for proper inspection simply ignored, or worse traded in for a pipe or similiar valve in a area that is easier, quicker to access. These supposedly honorable men are even willing to eliminate heat treatment of critical repair welds, that are already failing, even under idea conditions.
Perhaps, before Congress continues throwing billions of dollars in pork at the nuclear industry, it is time we citizens of America begin demanding some truthful answers to some hard questions.

Conservative safety measurements have been set aside, replaced with a cost benefit analysis that allows the nuclear industry to avoid, or postpone important inspections and/or repairs as they claim the benefits do not justify the costs. A dangerous trend, Russian Roulette with and accident only a matter of time, David Besse a perfect example of a bullet just dodged.
Regulations meant to protect human health and the environment are routinely set aside with another Generic Finding issued on the part of the NRC as they eliminate yet another safety reguirement or regulation meant to keep host communities safe. When do these dangerous actions and safety sacrifices end? Do we have to experience another Chernobyl for EPRI, NEI, NRC and the IAEA to admit they have sold their souls to the devil of greed? Are they blind to the incestous relationship that has given birth to a nuclear Rosemary's Baby? A line must be drawn in the proverbial sand, we as host communities must say enough is enough. You do not, and cannot man an aging nuclear reactor with a skeleton staff, and this aging management issue has not been addressed in any of the License Renewal Application processes yet...why?
People miss the various ironies and warnings associated with the nuclear industry, miss the cosmic warning signals of a scam perpetrated upon the world. Indian Point's reactor 1, as if in some cruel joke shut down on Halloween (October 31), 1974, yet the horrors of its existence are still haunting our community as radioactive contaminants leak from its spent fuel pool, putting it in violation of its SAFESTOR agreements. How many saw the irony in the IAEA arriving in Japan, starting to inspect the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant on the same day that Hiroshima was bombed? (August 6th)
The Japanese Government, officials of TEPCO are anxious to A) save face, and B) get their reactors back up, and so are prepared to bury the truth under a flourish of FAKE INSPECTIONS, cursory walk throughs by the revered United Nations watchdog, the IAEA. Smiling under their false claims of repentance, knowing a rubber stamped inspection, and a green light to start back up is just around the corner. This suspicion was born out when the IAEA inspection team in Japan said they had time constraints that required them completing the inspection of SEVEN reactors in just one week. 68 known and serious violations, seven reactors built atop a faultline, and the people of Japan, of the world are supposed to believe the IAEA can do a full and complete SAFETY INSPECTION in one week? Who are we kidding?
Much like the truth about the nuclear industry's worker shortage, honesty about the severity of the damage at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant could deliver a knock out blow to the Nuclear Renaissance. Imagine the world wide reaction, the reaction of Wall Street if it was announced that TEPCO's seven reactors had suffered severe damage, could not be restarted because of their position atop and ACTIVE EARTHQUAKE FAULT. Even NEI's desparately sought 100 percent loan guarantees would not save the industry's Nuclear Renaissance if these truths were adequately covered by the major media outlets.
This past week we watched the news story, saw the tragedy of the bridge collapse in Minnesota unfold before our eyes. As we thank God that the catastrophy was not worse than it was, let us not miss out on what should be lessons learned. Failed, inadequate or postponed infrastructures contributed to that bridge collapse. Steel fatigue, concrete embrittlement and other aging issues contributed to the collapse of that bridge, which is about the same age as many of Americans oldest reactors, such as Indian Point. Government and industry took a chance, believe they could postpone necessary repairs, avoid closing down the bridge...they were wrong.
The nuclear industry, EPRI, NEI and the NRC want us to believe they can sacrifice maintenance and eliminate safety inspections, while keeping us safe. They want us to believe that reactors license and designed for a 40 year life span can be operated for another 20 years if the plant owners have an adequate aging management plan in place. What if they are wrong? What if worker shortages, discarded regulations, and eliminated safety margins are setting us up for a nuclear reactor infrastructure failure as steel fatigue, embrittlement and radioactive bombardment of reactor cores see a nuclear plant give up the ghost, just as that bridge in Minnesota gave up its ghost? Is it fair for the nuclear industry and the NRC to dictatorially force such risks on host communities? Is it wise to jeapordize the safety of 21 million people here in New York by relicensing Indian Point?

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Like George W. Bush, Obama Is Nuclear Industry Poodle

George W. Bush sold out to the nuclear industry, became their bitch back in 1996 while he was Governor of Texas. As Senator Barack Obama plays with the idea of being President one day he seems more than willing to borrow a page out of President Bush's play book, and play the part of the nuclear industry's Poodle. In the photographs above, you can see him sucking up to the nuclear abortion monsters from Exelon...course, let's remember that Hillary Clinton wants to play both sides to the middle, flip flopping on all issues nuclear depending on where in America she is speaking. Maybe they both need to come out strongly on the side of closing the failing Indian Point reactors if they want to carry New York in 2008.

EPRI SECRETS-Nuclear Industry Failing Infrastructure, CRM and Wrongful License Renewals

With the score Nuclear Licensees 48, host communities 0, it seemed obvious that the fix was in and the NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission) was intent on bringing forth a Nuclear Renaissance by rubber stamping the License Renewal Applications of every aging, fatigued nuclear reactor in America, against the wishes of the 67 host communities who had agreed to host said reactors for a period of only 40 years. Contention after contention was shot down by the NRC, deemed speculative, or not properly and adequately defended and supported. How could this be, we all know about numerous problems from leaking steam pipes, failing weld joints, and untold numbers of radioactive releases into the environment. Time and again, brilliant legal minds and concerned citizens went down to heartbreak and defeat. The best contentions never raised as the Dark Lords shrewdly placed them out of scope with false claims that those items and issues were routinely in flux and being examined.
It was only when the host community in and around Entergy's trouble plagued Indian Point began preparing their own Petition to Intervene, started looking for the documents necessary to support their contentions that the mist began to clear. The nuclear industry, NRC/DOE and NEI all needed a way to keep aging and other problems out of the public eye, needed a way to investigate known safety issues, while keeping grassroots environmentalists, opposing attorneys, and even state and local governments from getting their hands on damning documents, documents that would support the oppositions contentions. What the key nuclear players wanted, needed desperately, was another good old boy organization that could act as a repository for all these dirty documents, a corporate library where everything would be classified as proprietary, and fees for access would be deliberately price prohibitive to any one but their members. The per copy cost of each document price prohibitive for any one but the likes of Donald Trump or Bill Gates.
Imagine if you will, a impenetrable black tower of Electrical Industry learning and dark sinister secrets, it's reams of reports and studies off limits to all but the chosen few and the minions that serve them. Those allowed access paying handsomely (rumor has it the fee is $2 million a year) for unfettered corporate access. Imagine a dark tower of learning so well connected that the DOE funds research meant to protect NRC licensees interest, the studies and reports generated paid for by tax payer dollars, then secreted away, labeled proprietary and security sensitive and not eligible for export. Such an organization exists, and is known as EPRI (Electric Power Research Institute).
Hidden within the bowels of EPRI's vast document collection are the keys to stopping the wrongful relicensing of aged and failing nuclear reactors. Reports wherein it is admitted that welds are failing, leaks are occurring, and fatigue, corrosion and bacteria are eating away the stainless steel piping systems that are the guts of every reactor in the American Nuclear Fleet.
The NRC revision of the Maintenance Rule 10CFR50.65 (a) (4) implemented and to some great degree embraced Configuration Risk Management (CRM), which works hand in hand with what is known as PRA (Probalistic Risk Assessment) in addressing the risk issues associated with the operation of aged and failing nuclear reactors. Problem is, the entire CRM program allows each reactor site to create and write its own set of criteria, which means there is no industry wide standards that the NRC can enforce. What is interesting in knowing that each plant configuration is unique, is it brings into serious question, the generic relicensing EIS which eliminated (removed from scope) many nuclear plant internals.
Each plant it seems writes/establishes its own criteria in deciding what constitutes acceptable and undesirable levels of risk. One has to understand, that the use of, and the industry embracing of CRM was not about increasing public health and safety, but instead all about justifying configurations that would enable ever shorter refueling outages. It was this fact that saw EPRI, DOE, NEI and the nuclear industry insisting that the NRC adopt CRM when 10CFR50.65 (a) (4) was overhauled in 2000. It is no accident that said overhaul allowed a great deal of room and flexibility for each licensee to create SITE SPECIFIC approaches for CRM that fit into their plant management styles, that allowed companies like Entergy to put profits ahead of public health and safety. Despite what the industry might want you to believe, CRM is nothing more than a means to justify putting off, or ignoring needed repairs of reactor site internals. Too understand how CRM can be manipulated to justify delayed maintenance, one would need to play with a copy of EOOS, ORAM-Sentinel, Safety Monitor, or other simliar software created for this purpose.
Most plants use a four color system to identify their risk zones (green, yellow, orange and red), though some plants only have a three color code system, eliminating orange from the matrix. Even this deviation is alarming, as a four color system allows NRC licensees to provide themselves more wiggle room in pushing back repairs that could greatly impact human health and safety. Even more disturbing, no two plants have identical criteria for moving between the various color coded severity levels. One reactors red could be another reactors orange or yellow. This lack of uniformity is intolerable, and shows that the NRC is not properly enforcing the regulations they are sworn to uphold. Proves conclusively that there are no GENERIC relicensing issues for nuclear reactors, as each plant measures everything including risk in a different fashion, with a sliding scale of severity that is every changing from reactor site to reactor site.
The NRC, nor NEI and the nuclear industry want you, the general public to know this type of information. Instead, they want you to buy into the lie they have used in removing over 60 reactor plant internals from consideration in the license renewal application process, by claiming those internals were evaluated in a generic fashion, as said internals were all but identical from reactor to reactor, and thus did not need to be reconsidered, put in scope for reach license renewal application, as that would be a waste of funds and NRC time and energy. Problem is, the CRM process, and others that GNB has been studying show this to be untrue. Each reactor and their internals are different, as is the way each licensee weighs the risk of failing parts in their reactors.
Entergy's Indian Point, and other reactor sites will try to convince the public that their steam pipes are safe, and properly maintained...yet, EPRI has numerous documents hidden from public view that state otherwise. Even more troublesome, the NRC has full and complete access to these documents which outline failures, and presumably has read them, yet time and again the NRC has refused to order even one full and complete ISA (Independent Safety Assessment) of said steam pipe systems at a nuclear reactor. Leaking Butt Welds, thinning walls, and bacteria problems are not the exception in the nuclear industry, but instead the norm, with CRM being used to push back and delay repairs that are aimed at protecting human health and the environment, up time and electric generating capability superceding public safety as regulations meant to keep us protected are ignored, or set aside.

We have the power and ability to open the doors to the Dark Tower that is the EPRI library, we can force them to give the public access to the documents paid for fully or partially with tax dollars. Write and/or call your elected officials demanding investigations. Contact your Congressmen and Senators in Washington, DC demanding they pass a law that makes all documents, studies and investigations paid for, even partially with tax payer dollars be made publicly available in a central document repository similar to ADAMS. Dangerous, aging reactors are being wrongfully relicensed in the name of a Nuclear Renaissance. The documents that prove just how unsafe they are have been hidden behind the corporate veil of EPRI, and we must pierce their veil, gain access to the documents that prove our contentions.

Riverkeeper’s opposition to the development at Monteverde

August E-Letter from Riverkeeper

Monteverde Success Story
Riverkeeper’s opposition to the development at Monteverde in the Town of Cortlandt has been successful.
Members of an informal coalition consisting of Riverkeeper, Scenic Hudson, Hudson Highlands Trust and Palisades Interstate Park Commission each wrote separately to the Department of Environmental Conservation’s Region 3 Director Willie Janeway, and the Town of Cortlandt, (cc’ing NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Grannis), expressing strong opposition to the developement at Monteverde.
The coalition requested that the DEC act as lead agent in the SEQRA (State Environmental Quality Review Act) review of the large development. The development was to consist of a 39-room hotel (an area of 67,400 square feet including 20 spa treatment rooms) 50 separate hotel villas (each with 2 units and separate car port) and a 286-foot slip marina. The site is on an unusually beautiful and intimate stretch of the Hudson River and would have impacts on important scenic, historic and environmentally sensitive areas.
First, the DEC responded by writing to the Town of Cortlandt instructing it not to proceed as lead agency as the Town had already stated it planned to do. Then, at the next Planning Board meeting, the Town’s Planning Board told the developer it had decided it would not consider the developer's Petition to Rezone (which is needed for the project), and was putting together a resolution of “No Interest” -- further efforts on the plans submitted would be “futile.”

Benny Zable Climbs Monteverde

I picked up Australian anti-nuclear performance artist Benny Zable at the Peekskill train station on Sunday morning. We headed off to the Bear Mountain Powwow in Harriman State Park to deliver a message from Harold One Feather who is attending the Southeast Convergence for Climate Action before coming up North to join the new FUSA USA coalition.

Benny took his peaceful earth flag inside the prayer circle... while I met some wonderful people, like Tchin and Sealy... and discovered the book Indian Tribes of the Hudson's River published by Hope Farm Press & Bookshop in Saugerties, NY.

We got lost a few times on the way there and back... all these tall trees, all these winding roads... but we made it back in time to meet up with an artist/documentary film maker who has asked for anonymity and Heyoka magazine publisher John LeKay at the Peekskill Coffeehouse. Sherwood Martinelli, of Green Nuclear Butterfly, joined us.

The Rock The Reactors poster I had placed in the window earlier in the day had been pulled down, and the flyers I had left by the door were all gone. We suspect friends of Entergy go around Peekskill systematically removing anti-nuclear literature from public view.

We headed off to Indian Point hoping to find an appropriate place for a vigil... a few people in Buchanan saw our short caravan drive towards the plant with bumper stickers clearly stating our point of view. By the time we got to the guard house, they knew we were coming.

What I did not realize, since I had not physically been to the plant since April 2006 when I photographed Betcee May... I try to stay as far away from Indian Point as possible... is they extended the perimeter with brand new barbwire fencing, Guantanamo Bay deja vu, the domes barely visible from the road. There was no place to shoot with a good view in the background, so we decided to look for another vantage point.

Someone suggested this restaurant on the hill which I did not know called Monteverde, meaning green mountain, in the Town of Cortlandt. I couldn't beleive the vista... the eerie sense of pending doom in the valley below, the irrepressible noise of freight trains... and yet... Monteverde is the home of a Yoga and Spa center, which won Best of Westchester award for "Most Transcendental Facial."

The next day I called and asked the receptionist, how does it feel to do yoga on this beautiful lawn, with a nuclear power plant in the background? She said: "People who come here to do yoga really don't want to think about negative environmental issues." So I contacted Yoga and Global Activism to see if perhaps they'd be interested in hosting an event on Monteverde at Oldstone Manor's grounds.

A recent review of the restaurant put it this way: "The carefully positioned trees on the left of the property hide a view of the Indian Point nuclear power plant on this side of the river. The land would be great if Amtrak didn’t run right next to it every few minutes. On the other side of the river there is a freight train line that runs less often, but is usually even louder."

We weren't allowed to enjoy the view for very long... The managing director asked us to leave... so we regrouped at a kayak landing for a wonderful sunset... finished the evening in Peekskill at Ruben's Cafe, Governor Pataki's favorite Mexican restaurant.

But not everybody loves living in Peekskill, as expressed by this, if somewhat funny, rather depressing video on YouTube. Seems there's always an underbelly... Despite this, looking through the official Peekskill website, I see a warm and thriving community, doing its best while living in the constant specter of impending doom. It's interesting to note that I could not find a single mention of Entergy or Indian Point on the website, in either the press releases or the 145 pages of photographs. The elephant is in the room, and yet nobody pays attention to it.

I left Benny in Sherwood's good care and bid everybody farewell... On Monday morning, when Benny called to check in with the EcoFest office in New York, he was told they had received an anonymous threatening phone call... All the caller said, in an intimidating tone, was: "So, EcoFest is involved with Indian Point now, hey?" and hung up.

Nothing like hundreds of Union Workers standing guard around Peekskill and Buchanan making sure nobody gets out of line... Little do they know, their families, their children, their friends, are all suffering the effects of low dose radiation... every new day that goes by, we are all at great risk for allowing Entergy, NRC and the political leaders in the state of New York to take such risk and liberty with the lives of millions, for just the sake of a few electrons more we can easily make up with conservation and Light Emitting Diode bulbs.

Shame on you Hudson Valley, for failing to shut down Indian Point over so many years... It takes a man from Australia to ring your wake up bell? Get it together for Pete sake. Shut that sucker down! Screw the independent safety assessment and the relicensing period. Just demand the plant closed... now, before we're all sorry... The USA is still a democracy... use it before you lose it... what are you waiting for... Isn't that what you all elected John Hall for?