Beyond Nuclear International

The even madder plan to build a new nuclear plant on the beach

The case against Sizewell C

By Linda Pentz Gunter

In December 2018 we ran an article — The mad plan to store nuclear waste on the beach — which has become one of our most read stories. Now, as the climate crisis worsens, here comes a possibly even madder plan — a new nuclear power plant on a beach with a shifting coastline famous for erosion.

In the spring of 2013 — at least what is usually billed as spring — Paul Gunter and I represented Beyond Nuclear at meetings and talks around the proposed Sizewell C reactor on the UK east coast. An abnormally frigid wind from the Siberian mountains was blowing in off the North Sea — on whose coastline the Sizewell reactors sit. We strode along those unforgiving Suffolk sands dressed as if re-enacting an Ernest Shackleton expedition. Our “sightseeing” venture to the nuclear site allowed us to approach surprisingly close to the two shuttered and Soviet-looking Sizewell A reactors and their neighboring and still operating Sizewell B reactor — the UK’s only commercialized pressurized water reactor. There was an apparently invisible border — like a sort of Maginot line — marking where the nuclear property began, but not a security soul in site.

Sizewell sign

A boundary marker, but no actual fence, at the Sizewell nuclear power plant. (Photo: Linda Pentz Gunter)

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Women of Three Mile Island tell their story

Documentary tells the silenced story of the women who lived through the nuclear accident

The following is excerpted from Heidi Hutner’s website — Accidents Can Happen.

After her mother’s death, Professor Heidi Hutner discovered an unknown chapter in her mother’s life, something that seemed contrary to the woman she thought she knew. Hutner’s mother had been part of Women Strike for Peace. This group’s efforts actually led to the ratification of the Limited Test Ban Treaty – and the end of atmospheric bomb testing by the U.S., U.S.S.R, and U.K. in 1963.

As an eco-feminist professor of sustainability studies, Hutner wondered why had she never heard this story. What other significant women’s nuclear tales had been buried? And at what cost? Hutner felt driven to find out.

At Three Mile Island, almost forty years after the disaster of March 28th, 1979, Hutner stumbles upon Linda, Joyce, Beth, Paula — ordinary housewives who lived five miles from the nuclear plant at the time of the meltdown. The women “knew nothing about nuclear power,” they told Hutner. They “trusted” the power plant owners and their government “to protect” them.

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Residents around TMI exposed to far more radiation than officials claimed

Researchers under gag order couldn’t investigate true health impacts after Three Mile Island nuclear disaster

By Cindy Folkers

Residents around Three Mile Island were exposed to much more radiation from the nuclear disaster than was claimed by officials, a fact that was kept from researchers and the public for years.

ChildAloft

Residents at the time had questions about health risks but the fund established to pay for public health research related to the disaster was under a research gag order issued by a court. (Photo: Child Aloft by Robert Del Tredici)

After the Three Mile Island reactor core melted and radioactivity was released to the surrounding population, researchers were not allowed to investigate health impacts of higher doses because the TMI Public Health Fund, established to pay for public health research related to the disaster, was under a research gag order issued by a court. If a researcher wanted to conduct a study using money from this Fund, they had to obey two main parameters set forth by Federal Judge Sylvia Rambo, who was in charge of the Fund.*

  1. Those studying the health impact of Three Mile Island radiation emissions were prohibited from assessing “worst case estimates” of radiation releases unless such estimates would lead to a conclusion of insignificant amount of harm — that being “less than 0.01 health effects”. 
  2. If a researcher wanted to claim more harm or investigate a worst-case scenario, an expert selected by nuclear industry insurers would have to “concur on the nature and scope of the [dosimetry] projects.”

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Too cheap to meter now needs a bailout?

Forty years since the nuclear accident, Three Mile Island needs to close

By Eric Epstein

It wasn’t that long ago when Pennsylvania legislators proclaimed that the market was best suited to determine what energy technologies should move Pennsylvania forward.

And it wasn’t that long ago that nuclear power generators, after receiving $9 billion from ratepayers, embraced the marketplace and deregulation.

Now two nuclear corporations, Illinois-based Exelon Energy and Ohio-based First Energy no longer believe in the Pennsylvania marketplace. These corporations want to charge consumers a nuclear tax, and ship the profits to Illinois and Ohio. Not the good neighbor policy most of us had in mind.

Remember Three Mile Island?

Three Mile Island Unit 1, the current bailout candidate, became operational in 1974. Like most nuclear plants, it  was behind schedule and over budget. Unit-2 came on line in 1978, and was also behind schedule and over budget. Hostage ratepayers paid $1.1 billion in 1970s dollars to build Three Mile Island.

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Why didn’t the US “ground” its Fukushimas?

Ralph Nader calls out FAA “tombstone mentality” and it’s the same story at NRC

By Linda Pentz Gunter

Ralph Nader* the country’s leading consumer advocate, hit the nail on the head last Wednesday when he labeled the United States Federal Aviation Adminstration’s (FAA) hesitance to ground the Boeing 737 Max 8 an example of “tombstone mentality.” Even after two planes of that model crashed under suspicious circumstances that suggest the aircraft’s automated software systems over-rode manual control by pilots, Boeing insisted there was no problem with the design. The FAA, which Nader called a “patsy”, did nothing until insurmountable pressure forced Boeing’s and the aviation agency’s hands and both the Max 8 and Max 9 models were grounded in the U.S.

Nader is no stranger to this “tombstone mentality,” not only in the airline industry, about which he wrote a book — Collision Course: The Truth About Airline Safety — but in the automobile and nuclear industries, among others. His Critical Mass Energy Project, created in 1974, was the largest nationwide anti-nuclear power movement ever created in the US.

Why was there a delay in grounding the Boeing 737 Max 8s? Even if, after exhaustive investigation, no fault is found with the plane itself, shouldn’t even the possibility of doubt mandate precaution? Was it Boeing’s major role in the U.S. military industrial complex, including nuclear weapons, that shielded them from risking reputation and profit? 

According to Nader, Boeing has some 3,000 orders for the new plane from around the world. There is a lot at stake for the company. But, Nader told Democracy Now!, “Boeing is not going to get away with this, because this is not some old DC-9 about to be phased out. This is their future strategic plan. And they better own up.”

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Cracks in a nuclear reactor are never good. 370 is downright alarming

Note: since this story was first published, EDF has announced it will restart Hunterston B reactor 4 on April 30 and Hunterston B reactor on June 29, later than previously planned.

Clouds of radioactive contamination could fall out over Scottish cities

By Pete Roche

Residents living near one of Scotland’s two remaining operating nuclear power stations have been alarmed by proposals to re-start two reactors closed since March and October last year, both of which are showing a growing number of cracks in their graphite cores. 

The reactors — at Hunterston B nuclear power station in Ayrshire, Scotland, about 35 miles from Glasgow — were shut down last year so the cracks could be inspected. But in November 2018, the investigative news site, The Ferret, revealed that more than 350 cracks had been discovered. The cracking issue has been known about since at least 2006 when cracks in the graphite bricks started to appear as a result of neutron bombardment during fission over many years.

Fairlie talk on Hunterston

Dr. Ian Fairlie briefing the Scottish Parliament. (Photo: Rob Edwards/Twitter)

“Experts have warned that the cracks could lead to a “catastrophic accident” releasing clouds of radioactive contamination over Glasgow and Edinburgh,”  wrote Rob Edwards on The Ferret news site. “But Hunterston’s operator, EDF Energy, insisted that the reactor was safe – and is bidding to relax safety standards so that it can be restarted.” 

EDF insists that Reactor 4 will return at the end of March 2019 and Reactor 3 will be back online at the end of April, but these dates will depend on gaining permission from the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR), which is by no means certain.

Graphite moderator cracks cannot be repaired: if their number exceeds a certain limit, the reactor must be closed.

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