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San Onofre is Dead & So is Nuclear Power

9:51 am in Uncategorized by solartopia

San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, Units 2 and 3

From his California beach house at San Clemente, Richard Nixon once watched three reactors rise at nearby San Onofre.  As of June 7, 2013, all three are permanently shut.

It’s a monumental victory for grassroots activism.  it marks an epic transition in how we get our energy.

In the thick of the 1970s Arab oil embargo, Nixon said there’d be 1000 such reactors in the US by the year 2000.  As of today, there are 100.  Four have shut here this year.  Citizen activism has put the “nuclear renaissance” into full retreat.

Just two of 54 reactors now operate in Japan, where Fukushima has joined Chernobyl and Three Mile Island in permanently scarring us all.

Germany is shutting its entire fleet and switching to renewables.  France, once the poster child for the global reactor industry, is following suit.  South Korea has just shut three due to fraudulent safety procedures.  Massive demonstrations rage against reactors being built in India.  Only the Koreans, Chinese and Russians remain at all serious about pushing ahead with this tragic technology.

Cheap gas has undercut the short-term market for expensive electricity generated by obsolete coal and nuke burners.  But the vision of Solartopia—a totally green-powered Earth—is now our tangible long-term reality.

With falling prices and soaring efficiency, every moving electron our species consumes will be generated by a solar panel, wind turbine, bio-fueled or geothermal generator, wave machine and their green siblings.

As of early this year, Southern California Edison’s path to a re-start at San Onofre seemed as clear as any to be expected by a traditional atomic tyrannosaur.  But with help from Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Senator-to-be Ed Markey (D-MA), a powerful citizen uprising stopped it dead.

So did the terrifying incompetence and greed that has defined the nuclear industry from the days of Nixon and before.

San Onofre Unit One shut in the 1990s due largely to steam generator problems.  In the early 2000s, Units 2 & 3 needed new steam generators of their own. In the usual grasp for more profits, Edison chose untested, unlicensed new designs.  But they failed.  And the whole world was watching.  In the wake of Fukushima, two more leaky tsunami-zone reactors surrounded by earthquake faults were massively unwelcome.

So a well-organized non-violent core of local, state and national activists and organizations rose up to stop the madness.

At Vermont Yankee, Indian Point, Seabrook, Davis-Besse and dozens of other reactors around the US and world, parallel opposition is escalating.

Make no mistake—this double victory at San Onofre is a falling domino.  Had the public not fought back, those reactors would have been “fixed” at public expense.

Today, they are dead.

Worldwide, there are some 400 to go.  Each of them—including the 100 remaining in the US—could do apocalyptic damage.  We still have our work cut out for us.

But a huge double-step has been taken up the road to Solartopia.  There will be no Fukushimas at San Onofre.  A green-powered Earth is that much closer.  And we have yet another proof that citizen action makes all the difference in our world.

So seize the day and celebrate!

Harvey Wasserman edits www.nukefree.org.  SOLARTOPIA! Our Green-Powered Earth is at www.solartopia.org, along with Harvey Wasserman’s History of the US.    From personal experience he reports that San Luis Obispo, host to the Diablo Canyon nuclear facility, is also in a seismic/tsunami zone, and has a lovely county jail. Read the rest of this entry →

San Onofre at the No Nukes Brink

9:00 pm in Uncategorized by solartopia

San Onofre at the No Nukes Brink

San Onofre Nuke Towers

An update on the continued troubles of San Onofre from Harvey Wasserman.

In January, it seemed the restart of San Onofre Unit 2 would be a corporate cake walk.

With its massive money and clout, Southern California Edison was ready to ram through a license exception for a reactor whose botched $770 million steam generator fix had kept it shut for a year.

But a funny thing has happened on the way to the restart:  a No Nukes groundswell has turned this routine rubber stamping into an epic battle the grassroots just might win.

Indeed, if ever there was a time when individual activism could have a magnified impact, this is it (see www.sanonofresafety.org and www.a4nr.org).

This comes as the nuclear industry is in nearly full retreat.  Two US reactors are already down this year.  Yet another proposed project has just been cancelled in North Carolina.  And powerful grassroots campaigns have pushed numerous operating reactors to the brink of extinction throughout the US, Europe and Japan, where all but two reactors remain shut since Fukushima.

In California, it’s San Onofre that’s perched at the brink.

By all accounts Southern California Edison should have the clout to restart it with ease.   The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has been a notorious rubber stamp for decades.  The California Public Utilities Commission, which decides how much the utilities can gouge from the ratepayers, has long been in Edison’s pocket.  State water quality regulations could force Edison to build cooling towers, a very expensive proposition that would likely lead to a quick retirement.  But Gov. Jerry Brown has been deafeningly silent on the issue.

But San Onofre sits in an earthquake/tsunami zone halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego.  At least 8 million people live within a 50 mile radius, many millions more within 100. The reactors are a stone’s throw from both a major interstate and the high tide line, with a 14-foot flood wall a bare fraction of the height of the tsunami that overwhelmed at Fukushima.

San Onofre Unit One was shut in 1992 by steam generator issues. Edison recently spent some three-quarters of a billion dollars upgrading the steam generators for Units 2 and 3. But the pipes have leaked and failed.  Units 2 and 3 have been shut since January 2012. Edison has now asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for permission to run Unit 2 at 70% power for five months to see how the reactor might do. An NRC panel has termed the idea “experimental.”

Edison is desperate to get the reactor running before summer.  But in the wake of Fukushima, and in the midst of a major boom in solar energy, southern California is rising up to stop that from happening:

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Los Angeles to San Onofre: “Not So Fast!!!”

9:57 am in Uncategorized by solartopia

Los Angeles to San Onofre: “Not So Fast!”

San Onofre Nuke Towers

An update on the continued troubles of San Onofre from Harvey Wasserman.

A unanimous Los Angeles City Council has demanded the Nuclear Regulatory Commission conduct extended investigations before any restart at the San Onofre atomic power plant.

The move reflects a deep-rooted public opposition to resumed operations at reactors perched in a tsunami zone near earthquake faults that threaten all of southern California.

Meanwhile, yet another top-level atomic insider has told ABC News that San Onofre Units 2 and 3 are not safe to operate.

On April 23, LA’s eleven City Council members approved a resolution directing the NRC to “make no decision about restarting either San Onofre unit” until it conducts a “prudent, transparent and precautionary” investigation.  The city wants “ample opportunity” for public comment and confirmation that “mandated repairs, replacements, or other actions” have been completed to guarantee the public safety.

California’s largest city thus joins Del Mar, Encinitas, Irvine, Laguna Beach, Mission Viejo, San Clemente, Santa Monica, Solana Beach, Vista, Berkeley, Fairfax and the San Diego Unified School District board in asking the NRC to take all steps necessary to guarantee the public safety.  Some resolutions include the demand that the NRC make utility officials testify under oath in public before San Onofre might be allowed to go back on line. The sentiment has been echoed by U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) who chairs the Senate committee that oversees the NRC. Boxer has been joined by Representative Ed Markey (D-MA) in questioning whether Southern California Edison knew steam generators being installed at San Onofre were faulty.

The new Mitsubishi generators cost some $770,000,000. But critical tubes began banging together and sprang leaks after less than a year of operations. As many as 17% of the plant’s 19,400 tubes may have been involved.

The reactors were shut in January, 2012. Edison has since billed ratepayers roughly a billion dollars for them, even though they’ve generated no electricity for more than a year. The utility says it needs the reactors’ power for the coming southern California summer, even though the region operated just fine last summer without them.

ABC News has now broadcast warnings from a 25-year insider at San Onofre. “There is something grossly wrong,” the whistleblower told a San Diego TV.  Fearing reprisals, the whistleblower appeared in a carefully disguised appearance.

Edison wants to operate Unit Two for five months on an experimental basis. But there are 8 million people living within a 50-mile radius. “If an accident like this happens, (an) emergency plan is not geared to handle such a public safety devastation,” says ABC’s inside source. “Those things have never been practiced or demonstrated in a drill scenario.”

The Government Accountability Office has recently confirmed the confused state of atomic evacuation planning nationwide, a warning picked up by Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA).

Such warnings echo those of former NRC Chair Gregory Jaczko, who has told the public that none of the 104 reactors currently licensed to operate in the US are safe. The industry, he says, is “just rolling the dice” by continuing to operate these commercial reactors, including San Onofre.

Edison has dismissed Jaczko, the GAO and the whistleblower’s warnings in demanding a June 1 restart. Boxer and Markey want the NRC to refuse approval until public hearings can be heldBut the Commission seems to be rushing ahead with the licensing process.

This unanimous resolution from Los Angeles and so many other southern California communities may have a significant impact. The public is being asked to call Boxer ((202) 224-3553) and Markey ((202) 225-2836) in support of formal hearings to pre-date any licensing.

Putting Edison, Mitsubishi and the reactors’ inside operators under oath, on the stand, in front of the public could help answer some key questions about some very expensive decisions that have put the health, safety and economy of southern California at serious risk.

Despite Edison’s fierce opposition, renewables are spreading rapidly throughout the region. With no real need for San Onofre’s power, activism has never had more a more decisive potential impact.

A radioactive cloud from a restarted San Onofre could completely contaminate San Diego, Los Angeles and the central valley, carrying all the way across the US within four days.

With an NRC decision apparently imminent, Senator Boxer and the city of Los Angeles are right to demand complete transparency and total public access to everything there is to know about this infernal machine.

This power plant is truly on the brink of being shut forever. Let’s make sure that happens. The time is now.

Harvey Wasserman edits www.nukefree.org and is author of SOLARTOPIA! OUR GREEN-POWERED EARTH.

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San Onofre to Boxer, Markey & You: “Drop Dead”

9:59 pm in Uncategorized by solartopia

The bitter battle over two stricken southern California reactors has taken a shocking seismic hit.

San Onofre Nuke Towers

The political battle continues over the San Onofre, CA nuclear power plants.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has ignored critical questions from two powerful members of Congress just as the Government Accountability Office has seriously questioned emergency planning at the San Onofre nuclear plant.

At a cost of some $770 million, Southern California Edison and its partners installed faulty steam generators at San Onofre Units 2 and 3 that have failed and leaked.

Those reactors have been been shut since January, 2012 (similar defects doomed Unit 1 in 1992).

They’ve generated zero electricity, but SCE and its partners have billed ratepayers over a billion dollars for them.

SCE wants San Onofre reopened by June 1. The idea is to experiment with Unit 2 at 70% of full power for five months, despite widespread concerns that the defective generators will fail again.

That would require a license amendment, about which the NRC staff has asked Edison 32 key preliminary questions. But there’s been no official, adjudicated public hearing on Edison’s response.

On April 9, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Representative Ed Markey (D-MA) asked the NRC to keep Unit 2 shut until the safety issues can be fully vetted.

Boxer chairs the powerful Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works, which oversees the NRC. Markey is ranking Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and is the current front-runner to fill John Kerry’s vacated Senate seat.

Their letter to NRC Chair Allison Macfarlane says San Onofre must not re-open without a “comprehensive investigation” and “full opportunity for public participation.” Utility efforts to “shortcut the license amendment process,” they say, “would put public safety at risk.”

SCE’s backdoor dodge “was made despite evidence showing that there could be a significant hazard from the operation of the deficient steam generators.” That, in turn, “would fall far short of the kind of consideration the 8 million people who live within 50 miles of San Onofre deserve.”

Boxer and Markey asked the NRC to respond by 4pm April 10. Instead, the Commission staff publicly issued a “no significant hazard” ruling that would speed the re-licensing process—a precise renunciation of the Boxer/Markey concerns.

Markey, in turn, said the NRC “showed blatant disregard” for public safety.

Boxer said the ruling was “dangerous and premature,” especially since “the damaged plant is located in an area at risk of earthquake and tsunami.”

She added that “It makes absolutely no sense to even consider taking any steps to reopen San Onofre until these investigations look into every aspect of reopening the plant given the failure of tubes that carry radioactive water.”

The Commission has made some preliminary recommendations in response to Fukushima, including a call for new filters, which the industry has resisted. But it’s at least two years away from issuing new regulations based on lessons learned. Former NRC Chair Greg Jaszco has criticized the industry for failing to respond to Fukushima’s warnings. The Commission, he says, is “just rolling the dice” on public safety.

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Showdown at San Onofre

1:18 am in Uncategorized by solartopia

Showdown at San Onofre
By Harvey Wasserman
Two stricken California reactors may soon redefine a global movement aimed at eradicating nuclear power.
They sit in a seismic zone vulnerable to tsunamis.  Faulty steam generators have forced them shut for nearly a year.
A powerful “No Nukes” movement wants them to stay that way.  If they win, the shutdown of America’s 104 licensed reactors will seriously accelerate.
The story of San Onofre Units 2 & 3 is one of atomic idiocy.  Perched on an ocean cliff between Los Angeles and San Diego, the reactors’ owners  cut unconscionable corners in replacing their multi-million-dollar steam generators.  According to Russell Hoffman, one of California’s leading experts on San Onofre, inferior metals and major design failures turned what was meant to be an upgrade into an utter fiasco.
Installed by Mitsubishi, the generators simply did not work.  When they were shut nearly a year ago, tubes were leaking, banging together and overall rendering further operations impossible.
Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric have unofficially thrown in the towel on Unit 3.  But they’re lobbying hard to get at least Unit 2 back up and running.  Their technical problems are so serious that they’ve asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to let them run Unit 2 at 70% capacity.  In essence, they want to “see what happens” without daring to take the reactor to full power.
The NRC has expressed serious doubts.  On December 26 it demanded answers to more than 30 questions about the plant’s technical realities.  There have been assertions that unless San Onofre can be shown as operable at full power, its license should be negated.
San Onofre’s owners are desperate to get at least Unit 2 back on line so they can gouge the ratepayers for their failed expenditures.  If the California Public Utilities Commission refuses the request, there’s no way San Onofre can reopen.
So nuclear opponents can now fight restart both at the federal level and with the state PUC.  The state regulators have opened an in-depth investigation into what’s happened at San Onofre, and the picture is not expected to be pretty.
Economic analyses show the reactors to be uneconomical anyway.  “Experts” warned California would suffer blackouts and brownouts without them, but nothing of the sort has happened.  The only real reason San Onofre’s owners want to get it back up is to charge the ratepayers for their failed repairs.
The fiasco at San Onfre is being replayed at rust bucket reactors throughout the US.  Progress Energy poked some major new holes into the containment at the Crystal River reactor it was allegedly fixing.  Nebraska’s Ft. Calhoun has been flooded.   An earthquake hit Virginia’s reactors with seismic forces that exceeded design specifications.
In Wisconsin, Kewaunee’s owners will shut it for economic reasons.  A new study shows Vermont Yankee, under intense attack from a grassroots citizens’ upheaval, has major economic benefits to gain from shutting down.  Elsewhere around the US, technical and economic pressures have the industry on the brink.
Meanwhile, the conversion to green power in Germany is booming.  When 8 reactors were shut and the conversion to wind, solar and biomass became official policy, “experts” predicated energy shortages and soaring prices.  But the opposite has happened as supply has boomed and prices have dropped.
The same things will happen in California and elsewhere as these radioactive jalopies begin to shut.  The effectiveness of citizen activism in California is now vastly multiplied as these two decrepit reactors become increasingly obsolete, inoperable and economically insupportable.
As Kewaunee shuts, as Crystal River heads toward salvage, as No Nukes citizen action escalates, and as renewables and efficiency soar in performance and plummet in price, a green-powered era is dawning.
But as Fukushima Unit 4‘s spent fuel pool teeters 100 feet in the air, we are reminded that the danger from the failed nuclear power experiment is far from over.
The two reactors at San Onfre linger on atop major earthquake fault lines, just steps away from an ocean that could wash over them as sure as it did at Fukushima.
The California No Nukes movement may indeed be on the brink of a major victory.  But we had better get these reactors buried before disaster strikes yet again.
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Harvey Wasserman is author of SOLARTOPIA!  OUR GREEN-POWERED EARTH and will speak Wednesday evening in Santa Monica (contact:  ilenepr@sbcglobal.net) for the shut-down of San Onofre.

Nuke Power’s Collapse Gets Ever More Dangerous…By HarveyW

8:45 pm in Uncategorized by solartopia

http://www.nukefree.org/editorsblog/nuke-powers-collapse-gets-ever-more-dangerous

 

Harvey Wasserman

Nuke power’s collapse gets ever more dangerous
November 30, 2012

In the wake of this fall’s election, the disintegration of America’s decrepit atomic reactor fleet is fast approaching critical mass. Unless our No Nukes movement can get the worst of them shut soon, Barack Obama may be very lucky to get through his second term without a major reactor disaster.

All 104 licensed US reactors were designed before 1975—a third of a century ago. All but one went on line in the 1980s or earlier.

Plunging natural gas prices (due largely to ecologically disastrous fracking) are dumping even fully-amortized US reactors into deep red ink. Wisconsin’s Kewaunee will close next year because nobody wants to buy it. A reactor at Clinton, Illinois, may join it. Should gas prices stay low, the trickle of shut-downs will turn into a flood.

But more disturbing are the structural problems, made ever-more dangerous by slashed maintenance budgets.

  • San Onofre Units One and Two, near major earthquake faults on the coast between Los Angeles and San Diego, have been shut for more than nine months by core breakdowns in their newly refurbished steam generators. A fix could exceed a half-billion dollars. A bitter public battle now rages over shutting them both.
  • The containment dome at North Florida’s Crystal River was seriously damaged during “repair” efforts that could take $2 billion to correct. It will probably never reopen.
  • NRC inspections of Nebraska’s Fort Calhoun, damaged during recent flooding, have unearthed a wide range of structural problems that could shut it forever, and that may have been illegally covered-up.  According to William Boardman, NRC documents show nearly three dozen reactors to be at risk from dam breaks.
  • Ohio’s Davis-Besse has structural containment cracks that should have forced it down years ago and others have been found at South Carolina’s V.C. Summer reactor pressure vessel.
  • Intense public pressure at Vermont Yankee, at two reactors at New York’s Indian Point, and at New Jersey’s Oyster Creek (damaged in Hurricane Sandy) could bring them all down.

Projected completion of a second unit at Watts Bar, Tennessee, where construction began in the 1960s, has been pushed back to April, 2015. If finished at all, building this reactor may span a half-century.

Two new reactors under preliminary construction in South Carolina have been plagued by delays and cost overruns. Faulty components and concrete have marred two more under construction at Vogtle, Georgia, where builders may soon ask for a new delay on consideration of proposed federal loan guarantees.

This fall’s defeat of the very pro-nuclear Mitt Romney is an industry set-back. The return of Harry Reid (D-NV) as Senate Majority Leader means the failed Yucca Mountain waste dump will stay dead. A number of new Congressionals are notably pro-green, in line with Obama’s strong rhetorical support.

The move toward renewables has been boosted by Germany’s shut-down of eight reactors and huge investments in wind, solar and other renewables, which are exceeding financial and ecological expectations. Despite pro-nuke nay-sayers,Germany’s energy supply of energy has risen while prices have fallen.

The Department of Energy has confirmed that US solar power continues to drop in priceUS employment in the solar industry has surged past 118,000, a rise of more than 13% over last year.

Despite a wide range of financial problems, including uncertainty over renewal of the Production Tax Credit, the green energy industry continues to expand. Along with marijuana, Colorado has now legalized industrial hemp, opening the door for a major bio-fuel that will have strong agricultural support.

At some near-term tipping point, the financial and political clout of the green energy industry will fly past that of atomic power.

But at Fukushima, a spent fuel pool crammed with some 1500 hugely radioactive rods still sits atop a deteriorating shell that could collapse with the inevitable upcoming earthquake. As the Earth hangs in the balance, the pool may or may not be emptied this coming year, depending on the dubious technical and financial capabilities of its owners, who are in a deep fiscal crater.Meanwhile, fish irradiated by the huge quantities of Fukushima emissions are being consumed here in the US.

Overall, the “nuclear renaissance” is in shambles. So is an industry increasingly comprised of rust-bucket fleet of decayed reactors in serious decline.

Solartopians everywhere can celebrate an election that seemed to show some progress toward saving our beleaguered planet.

But our survival still depends on shutting ALL these old reactors before the next Fukushima contaminates us with far more than just radioactive fish.


Harvey Wasserman’s SOLARTOPIA! OUR GREEN-POWERED EARTH is at www.harveywasserman.com, along with HARVEY WASSERMAN’S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES. He edits www.nukefree.org.