Pro Nukes & Anti Nukes heat up their messages: will it make a difference?
October 21, 2011 § Leave a comment
Published on OpEdNews
By Abby Luby
America is taking to the streets. The month-long “Occupy Wall Street” is seen as a highly charged beacon of free speech and activism, a force that has roused protesters from their comfy cyber soap boxes out to public parks and sidewalks.
The anti-nuclear movement is no exception.
Over the last few weeks, mass rallies across the United Stateshave protested the dangers of nuclear power, a cry still echoing from the devastating destruction of the Fukushimaplants in Japanlast March. The urgent message from anti-nuclear forces here: “it can happen here.”
Under the umbrella of “A National Day of Action for America’s Nuclear Free Future,” protesters took to the streets in New York City, St. Petersburg, Fort Lauderdale and Fort Meyers in Florida, San Clemente and San Diego, California, Atlanta, Michigan, Ohio, Asbury Park, New Jersey, Raleigh, North Carolina and Virginia.
These protests were fueled not only by the harrowing and cataclysmic events still unfolding at Fukushima, but by recent e arthquakes, hurricanes, floods and tornadoes here in the United States – events that the nuclear industry’s oversight agency, theNuclear Regulatory Commission considers “unlikely” to affect the safety of nuclear power plants in this country. www.nrc.gov. The NRC is unwavering in their federal conscripts, wearing their own brand of blinders tailored to forge ahead, re-licensing aging plants and building new ones, regardless of overt warning signs of possible dangers.
A story on iwatchnews in September http://www.iwatchnews.org (Nuclear miscalculation: “Why regulators miss power plant threats from quakes and storms,” by Susan Q. Stranahan), reported that the NRC considers aFukushima type quake and tsunami a rare event in this country. The feds stolidly held to this adage while Americans lived through a quake inVirginia that shut down that state’s North Anna Power Station in August and caused the radioactive spent fuel storage casks to move unexpectedly, a tornado that ripped up the South and brought down transmission towers at the Browns Ferry power plant inAtlanta. And when Hurricane Irene ravaged the East Coast, a Maryland reactor was forced to shut down after loosened metal siding blustered up and sliced into the transformer’s high power lines.
That the NRC says they are processing all this information and initiating studies on the effects of these “unlikely” events adds incrementally to the frustrations of the anti-nuclear movement which is determined to rid the country of old and poorly designed nuclear power plants. Their voices are heard not only on the street, but in courtrooms and in the legal catacombs of administration procedural hearings. Here inNew YorkState, the battle over whether the NRC will re-license the 40-year old Indian Point Nuclear Power Plants, 24 miles fromNew York City, has become the longest and highly contested application in the agency’s history. Entergy, the plant’s owner, filed for a new operating license in 2007 to keep their twin reactors on the banks of theHudson Riverrunning until 2033 and 2035. Their licenses expire in 2013 and 2015. The re-licensing process usually takes four to five years, but a litany of contentions may take Entergy’s application past their expiration dates.
Governor Andrew Cuomo reiterated his campaign promise to shutter Indian Point in a chat last month on his new virtual chat blog, http://www.citizenconnects.com/. He said the power from Indian Point could be replaced, according to The Daily News. http://personals.nydailynews.com/blogs/dailypolitics/2011/09/cuomo-replacement-indian-point-power-can-be-found. Prior to Cuomo’s chat, in July,New YorkState won a major victory after a groundbreaking decision by the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board ruled in favor of a petition served by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. The AG argued the NRC’s environmental review violated the law by not requiring Entergy to complete severe accident mitigation analysis. This means the NRC must require Entergy to upgrade their accident impact plans unless the utility company can prove a compelling reason to refuse.
In 2010, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation denied Entergy a Water Quality Certification, which is required by law to operate the power plants. Because heated water is spewed out from Indian Point’s once-through cooling system and into the Hudson River, killing billions of fish yearly, the DEC wants Entergy to upgrade their cooling system. Although Entergy is appealing the DEC decision, the NRC says the case has no impact on Indian Point’s re-licensing application. When Patricia Kurkul, Regional Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for the National Marine Fisheries Service, asked the NRC if the uncertainty of the water quality issue would impact Entergy’s re-licensing application, the NRC told her that “Notwithstanding the uncertain outcome of New York’s Section 401 Water Quality adjudication, the NRC is required to move forward with its review of the LRA (license renewal application) as submitted by Entergy (http://pbadupws.nrc.gov/docs/ML1125/ML11259A018.pdf).
Traversing from court to court is a case initiated by former New York State Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, who is challenging the NRC’s common practice of “exemptions.” Five years ago the NRC exempted Indian Point from fire safety requirements that allow a minimal amount of fire insulation that protects electric cables needed to shut down the reactor and prevent a meltdown. The current insulation lasts only 27 minutes while the legal requirement for insulation to protect the cables is one hour. Brodsky claims the NRC secretly granted an exemption to Entergy, a power not within their jurisdiction according to the Atomic Energy Act. http://www.scribd.com/doc/65796345/Brodsky-v-NRC-Submission-Summary. Currently the case is in the Second Circuit of Appeals inNew York. It was previously argued before Justice Sotomayor before she became a Supreme Court Justice and then in the United States Southern District Court in New York where Judge Loretta Preska decided in favor of the NRC, issuing her decision six days before the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe in Japan.
To counter the anti-nuke movement, a multi-billion dollar utility company like Entergy is able to enlist an army of high paid lawyers for the courtroom battles while waging expensive media campaigns. To ratchet up their corporate image, Entergy’s new advertisements features Rudy Giuliani. Entergy clearly believes the persona of the former New York City Mayor and presidential hopeful is synonymous with “safety” and “security,” which means we will see Guiliani’s face plastered on TV ads and in newspapers.http://blogs.wsj.com/metropolis/2011/10/06/giuliani-endorses-nuclear-plant-in-new-ads/
Although Entergy has always claimed that since the 9-11 attacks, Indian Point was impenetrable, they now (incongruously) need heavier weapons to protect the plant. In April Entergy requested permission from the NRC to acquire heavier weapons to be used by “the security personnel at the Indian Point site.” The NRC wants to know if they turn down Entergy, what the impact would be on their current protection capabilitieshttp://pbadupws.nrc.gov/docs/ML1127/ML112700219.pdf. . Entergy has not yet replied, but why the request now? Is Indian Point now more vulnerable than in 2001?
It’s hard to know if the government, the nuclear power industry or the anti-nuclear groups are having any kind of impact on the future of nuclear power. In a New York Times article by Stephanie Cooke [After Fukushima, Does Nuclear Power Have a Future?]http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/11/business/energy-environment/after-fukushima-does-nuclear-power-have-a-future.html?_r=1&emc=tnt&tntemail1=y, she claims that the Japanese government has reversed their pro-nuclear policy and is now moving to phase out their reactors. Cooke also writes that of the 30 new reactors planned to be built in theUnited States, the list has dwindled to four, even with President Obama’s strong endorsement for large subsidies for newly built plants. Also, the World Nuclear Association predicts a decline in the number of operating reactors in theUnited States andFrance in the next 20 years.
What does it all mean?
Increasingly, we see the strengthening of liaisons between industry and government, corporate wealth and political campaigns, bonds that seem to weaken federal oversight to protect the public. Will the voice of dissenters and activists who reach a critical mass ultimately make a difference?