Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Remembering Three Mile Island - March 28, 1979

Martha Cooper — AP photo


In 1979, roughly 25,000 people lived within five miles of the giant cooling towers that became symbols of the nation's worst commercial nuclear accident

Washington Post Gallery of Photos of that day 

From the NRC here is a link providing information and chronology of events of the Three Mile Island Meltdown

CURRENT STATUS: Today, the TMI‑2 reactor is permanently shut down and defueled, with the reactor coolant system drained, the radioactive water decontaminated and evaporated, radioactive waste shipped off‑site to an appropriate disposal site, reactor fuel and core debris shipped off‑site to a Department of Energy facility, and the remainder of the site being monitored. In 2001, FirstEnergy acquired TMI-2 from GPU. FirstEnergy has contracted the monitoring of TMI-2 to Exelon, the current owner and operator of TMI-1. The companies plan to keep the TMI-2 facility in long‑term, monitored storage until the operating license for the TMI‑1 plant expires, at which time both plants will be decommissioned.   

"Atoms for Peace" - 1953 Sales Pitch

In the 1950's as we were trying to find an acceptable way to transition from "bombs" to "business" within the nuclear energy community, President Eisenhower made his historic "Atoms for Peace" speech in 1954 to the United Nations.  And so it began...

As the words were tumbling off the tongue of the President work was already underway to bring America its first commercial nuclear power plant and with it a slogan still uttered today: 'Electricity too cheap to meter'.

And so with the swipe of a pen on paper the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 was created along with the AEC's ability to license private companies to use nuclear materials and build and operate power plants.

In July of 1955 a one-hour demonstration had the 1,350 person community of Arco, Idaho becoming the first U.S. town to be powered by nuclear energy. The power was supplied from the National Reactor Testing Station's Borax-III reactor. The AEC tested five types of experimental reactors. The Borax-III was an early prototype of a boiling water reactor (BWR), a type of reactor which still produces electricity for utilities today. (Source: Radiochemistry Society, Nuclear Age Timeline - The 1950's)

By 1957 the first U.S. large-scale nuclear power plant begins operation in Shippingport, Pennsylvania, followed two years later with the first self-sustaining nuclear reaction at the Dresden-1 Nuclear Power Station in Illinois. Dresden-1 was also the first U.S. nuclear power plant built entirely without government funding. A rarity in today's world where billions of dollars of government subsidies and loan guarantees go to large multinational nuclear energy companies.

While the Atoms for Peace rhetoric was shifting away from bomb building, an ever cautious eye was kept on appropriate military uses of nuclear power. The Navy was first with its development of a nuclear-powered fleet; submarines and surface ships. The Air Force made an attempt to build its own nuclear fleet of long-range bombers, but the planes never got off the ground.

In 1947 the AEC inherited from the Manhattan District two children of the Chicago Metallurgical Laboratory, the Oak Ridge and Argonne facilities. The AEC decided to designate these facilities as national laboratories rather than atomic energy laboratories. Perhaps the first move to create a more pristine image for atomic research that the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) is known for.

The nation's first and only nuclear-powered civilian ship, Savannah, with the help of ORNL scientists made sure the vessel's reactor shielding was shipshape. The laboratory's first particle accelerators, its first computers developed to make the complex radiation and shielding calculations, were just two of many developments to come out of ORNL.

And you know you've done a thorough and complete job of selling safe nuclear power when a toy company like AC Gilbert can offer up to your child his very own Atomic Energy Lab.

Yes, in 1951 for a mere $50 ($460 in today's dollar) your child can have a sample of Uranium-238, a Geiger counter, cloud chamber, Spinthariscope and a couple of other items used for educational experiments with radiation. To be fair to AC Gilbert they were not the only company offering up atomic energy sets but they were certainly the most elaborate and complete.

So I have to admit with sixty plus years of selling the public that nuclear power is safe, cheap and abundant and with a mere handful of nasty accidents in its history - it is going to take something more than child's play to convince an unwilling public that this is an industry that needs to be phased out sooner than later.

We need to be reminded of Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima. We need to be reminded that the 104 nuclear reactors in the United States are aging - there will be more frequent cracks in critical tubing, leaking and rusting connections. We need to be reminded that spent fuel is stacking up waiting, and I hope patiently, to be carted away to a safe and permanent disposal facility. We need to be reminded that 'cheap' isn't really cheap at all - nuclear power plants could not afford to be built at all without assistance of taxpayer dollars.

Taxpayers scream and holler about dollars being spent on a healthcare plan for Americans but barely a whisper about dollars spent of nuclear facilities.  Why is that?  You tell me.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Mad Men - Fan Control TV Style

Will the act of Season Interruptus be the downfall for Mad Men? The long-awaited new season will finally get kicked off this Sunday on AMC's two-hour special season premier.

I have to admit I was a big fan of the show in past seasons so we shall see if old habits die hard. But I'm not part of the camp that wants to see Donald Draper redeem himself. I've always been a fan of the 'bad boy' so occasional musings by This Donald over a bottle of scotch now and again, that's OK, but don't go too far Don and turn yourself into a saint. Like that would happen.

The series is set in a 1960's time period and draws its strength from that, so it almost has its own built-in ending - the passage of time.

But I am looking forward to seeing what everyone has been up to while the curtains were drawn.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Memo To: Pastor Dennis Terry

Rick Santorum In his introduction of Rick Santorum, Pastor Dennis Terry spoke these words, "I don't care what the liberals say, I don't care what the naysayers say, this nation was founded as a Christian nation...There is only one God and his name is Jesus. I'm tired of people telling me that I can't say those words.. Listen to me, If you don't love America, If you don't like the way we do things I have one thing to say - GET OUT. We don't worship Buddha, we don't worship Mohammad, we don't worship Allah, we worship God, we worship God's son Jesus Christ."

Oh, excuse me old man, you are telling me to "GET OUT", I think not. This nation was founded on the belief in the freedom of religion. Which means you can believe in God, in Jesus, in Buddha, in Mohammad in Allah or what ever. You can even believe NOT to believe. And if you don't like that Pastor Terry then let me suggest -  YOU GET OUT.

We haven't had a really good holy war in eons - maybe the time is right. It certainly seems that as far as Rich Santorum's camp is concerned this election is all about GOD, the right-wing God, the Jesus Christ God, the God of all God's God. And what about all the rest of us? Well I guess we are just chump-change.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Happy Birthday Vermont Yankee - BIG 40 !!!

Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station

The Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station is located just five miles south of Brattleboro, Vermont. She will turn forty on this Wednesday, March 21, 2012. She's fit as a fiddle having gotten her original operating license dated 3/21/1972 renewed last year for another twenty years - so she's good to go until March 21, 2032 when we can all gather around her Boiling Water Reactor and wish her a Happy 60th Birthday!

I'm assuming that Entergy Nuclear Operations, Inc. will be serving up the usual and obligatory ice cream and cake BUT are we all invited? And if I do make the event, what does one get a forty year old lady these days? I'm mean given her illustrious reactor type - she's a General Electric Type 4 BWR with a Mark 1 containment. (See Note 1)

Maybe just some pretty flowers and a box of candy to cheer her up. I'm sure she has taken a peek at what's been written about her lately. I mean if you look at her historical documents you can see clearly she was build to operate forty years and not sixty. So we can't even get away with a "wink" and a humorous Hallmark card telling her she'd reached MIDDLE AGE.

I hear she has mentioned she would like a new condenser ($200 million) and some safety back-fits ($100 million) - nips and tucks on this girlfriend doesn't come cheap. I'm sticking with giving her flowers and candy and if she doesn't like it, well.................she can just have a tizzy-fit and melt down.

Note 1 - This plant is very similar to Japan's Fukushima Daiichi Unit 1, which at the time of its explosion was operating only one month past its 40th birthday.

For a full story see  Arnie Gundersen: 40 years is not middle age for nuke plants

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Radioactive Waste - Don't Turn Away From the Problem

It may be easier to live your life ignoring the big problems facing you, but so much of our future depends on the actions we take TODAY. Get yourself informed and take action, LIFE isn't just a carnival ride.

Radioactive Waste
No safe, permanent solution has yet been found anywhere in the world for the nuclear waste problem. In the U.S., the only identified and flawed high-level radioactive waste deep repository site at Yucca Mountain, Nevada has been canceled. Beyond Nuclear advocates for an end to the production of nuclear waste and for securing the existing reactor waste in hardened on-site storage. ~ From Beyond Nuclear

About Beyond Nuclear

Click on above link to read about the people on the Beyond Nuclear Team

"Beyond Nuclear aims to educate and activate the public about the connections between nuclear power and nuclear weapons and the need to abandon both to safeguard our future. Beyond Nuclear advocates for an energy future that is sustainable, benign and democratic. The Beyond Nuclear team works with diverse partners and allies to provide the public, government officials, and the media with the critical information necessary to move humanity toward a world beyond nuclear."

Thursday, March 15, 2012

A Different Red Army - "We Are Chaminade"

This morning I had the honor to attend the Chaminade College Preparatory School Induction Ceremony for the David J. Rielley Chapter of the National Junior Honor Society and the Marie Brinkman Chapter of the National Honor Society.

This great good fortune befell upon me because my grandson, Nicko, a seventh grader at Chaminade was being inducted into the National Junior Honor Society. But I think really it was I that was being re-inducted back into the Human Society.

There is nothing more uplifting than gazing upon a group of fresh-faced, tie and coated young men that have the future before them and suddenly realize we may actually have a future that's worth living in. A young man, Matt Gauvain, was selected as Student Exemplar and gave an excellent speech. He talked about what it takes to be a member of this select group and I was struck by several things he said.

He said, "Every school is established with the goal of educating young people to become more knowledgeable and better thinkers. It takes work and dedication to be called a scholar. We must challenge ourselves and strive for excellence, even when we just don't want to anymore."

...challenge ourselves and strive for excellence...even when we just don't want to anymore... out of the mouths of babes.

Matt went on to say, "If we have a strong character, are respected, give respect to other, are kind, and make it our goal to become the best person possible, all of these other qualities will fall into place. Character is not something static, but is instead quite dynamic, changing with each experience we have and each person we learn from."

I totally agree, today's experience reinforced in me that indeed when the time comes to turn over the reins, our future looks like it will be in good hands. Congratulations to all of the inductees and especially to my grandson, I am very proud of you.

Matt's speech can be found in its entirety at Chaminade Student Exemplar Speech March 15, 2012

Saturday, March 10, 2012

In Memory of Fukushima

Survey Says...

A Post-Fukushima survey shows less of an interest in nuclear power:

“The nuclear industry has spent millions on polls telling the public how much the public longs for nuclear power. Such polls never ask real world questions linking new reactors to rate increases or to accident risk. Fukushima has made the links to risk much clearer in the public mind. This poll makes the consequences of that linkage clear.”  ~ Peter Bradford, former member of the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission, former chair of the New York and Maine utility regulatory commissions, and currently adjunct professor at Vermont Law School on “Nuclear Power and Public Policy

"After Fukushima, most Americans (77%) would support the United States Government making a “a shift of federal loan-guarantee support for energy away from nuclear reactors” in favor of wind and solar power."

"The survey also showed nearly six in 10 Americans (57 percent) are less supportive of expanding nuclear power in the United States than they were before the Japanese reactor crisis, a nearly identical finding to the 58 percent who responded the same way when asked the same question one year ago. This contrasts sharply with pre-Fukushima surveys by Gallup and other organizations showing a 60 percent support level for nuclear power.  More than three out of four Americans (77 percent) say they are now more supportive than they were a year ago “to using clean renewable energy resources – such as wind and solar – and increased energy efficiency as an alternative to more nuclear power in the United States.”.

Pollster Graham Hueber, senior researcher, ORC International ~

“I would summarize these findings as follows: We see here a lasting chill in how the public perceives nuclear power. The passage of one year since the Fukushima nuclear reactor crisis in Japan has neither dimmed concerns in the U.S. about nuclear power nor has it made Americans more inclined to support an expanded federal focus on promoting more nuclear reactors in the U.S.”

These findings are based on a telephone survey conducted by ORC International among a national probability sample of 1,032 adults comprising 518 men and 514 women 18 years of age and older, living in private households in the continental United States. Interviewing for this survey was completed during the period February 23-26, 2012. The margin of error is plus or minus three percentage at the full sample size. 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Words Dropped Like Rose Petals Down the Aisle . . .

But Without Any of the Charm.

Just a few of the nicer things Rush has said over the past few years.

"Look, let me put it to you this way: the NFL all too often looks like a game between the Bloods and the Crips without any weapons. There, I said it." --Rush Limbaugh, Jan. 19, 2007

"Feminism was established so as to allow unattractive women easier access to the mainstream of society." --Rush Limbaugh

"She sounds like a screeching ex-wife." --Rush Limbaugh, on Sen. Hillary Clinton 

"I'm a huge supporter of women. What I'm not is a supporter of liberalism. Feminism is what I oppose. Feminism has led women astray. I love the women's movement — especially when walking behind it." --Rush Limbaugh, responding to criticism that he is sexist and defending his selection as one of the judges at the 2010 Miss America Pageant, "Fox News' Fox & Friends," February 3, 2010

It doesn't look like Michelle Obama follows her own nutritionary dietary advice. And then we hear that she's out eating ribs at 1500 calories a serving with 141 grams of fat ... No, I'm trying to say that our first lady does not project the image of women that you might see on the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue or of a woman Alex Rodriguez might date every six months or what have you." –Rush Limbaugh, Feb. 21, 2011

There's so much more, but frankly I'm feeling a bit nauseous.

International Women's Day - Sharing

Today the women of Missouri plan to protest at the State Capitol the issue with Rush Limbaugh being in the Missouri Hall of Fame and his bronze bust being placed in the Hall of Honor. More on this as the story develops.

My friend, Ian,  posted this on his blog The Cahokian today, I wanted to share it with you  my readers today.. Thanks Ian for the words of support.

* * *

International Women's Day, 2012

In getting used to the idea that women's rights to control their own bodies, including the right to have abortions, would remain a social battleground, I can't say I ever really expected the field of battle would actually shift backwards. But so it has done, and now it seems that even women's right to contraception is under attack. At the extreme end may be the putrid neanderthal spokesasshole Rush Limbaugh and his verbal assault on Ms. Susan Fluke, suggesting she was a "slut and prostitute" and out to get the government to support her licentious lifestyle, but at the other end are all manner of politicians including both Republicans and Democrats who think that it's high time that society controls women's genital organs. Apparently the small government types have problems with regulation of pollution and corruption but no problem at all with regulation of women's bodies. That they yearn for a time when women were nothing but baby machines says so much about their general worldviews.

I counter this 1950s style assault on women with a classic propaganda image from the other 1950s, the era of Soviet/Chinese solidarity against the American-led Cold War. Against a field of multilingual banners labelled "Peace," a Chinese and Russian woman gaze determinedly and resolutely against all odds. One boldly grasps a red banner, and yet almost tenderly they grasp hands between them. While certainly representing a different shade of stereotype, these women know that even peace is something that might require a battle to defend. And there remains so very very much to defend.

Happy International Working Women's Day. Stand shoulder to shoulder with your sisters.


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Facing Reality But Still Striving Toward Change

The title of this painting by Karen Kilimnik is “Chloe (from Blood on Satan’s Claw).” 
It is an oil on canvas work from 1996 that was shown in an exhibit called
 at the Neuberger Museum of Art.

Since the Fukushima Disaster on March 11th of 2011 I have been on a quest to discover as much information as I could digest on the subject of nuclear energy. Deep in my heart what I really wanted was a magic wand that I could wave that would make all the nuclear reactors in the world go away. But the reality is that can’t be done.

So I set out in pursuit of knowledge and to find a way to share this knowledge with everyday people with the hope they too would be moved to action.

There are so many facets to nuclear power; it seemed by concentrating on one element, spent fuel, I could focus more clearly on a possible solution.

In the United States we have 104 commercial nuclear reactors. Because of actions taken by our government over the past thirty years there is no permanent long-term disposal facility for the spent fuel being generated by these 104 reactors. Instead of one or two disposal sites we now live with 104 storage facilities, most of which are Spent Fuel Pools.

Spent Fuel Pools were designed as the first stop for spent fuel rods when removed from a reactor’s core. It was the Spent Fuel Pool which would serve to cool the rods for a time period of three to five years. Then when the rods were cool enough they could be moved to Dry Cask Storage and then on to a permanent disposal facility.

One of my concerns with the process of reracking the rods in the Spent Fuel Pools to allow for more storage capacity was the worry that eventually these rods would become so crowded they could reach criticality and set off nuclear fission. In my search for answers, I have been assured by two different industry sources that criticality would not occur due to reracking because:  a) Fuel racks which are more closely spaced contain neutron-absorbing material which precludes criticality. The water in the pool is also borated which absorbs neutrons. b) When pools can no longer be re-racked the spent fuel will be placed in Dry Cask Storage.

There is one caution that should be noted here, these Spent Fuel Pools must be actively cooled. That is to say if electrical power is lost for an extended period of time, the decay heat of the fission products of the spent fuel eventually will cause the water in the pool to evaporate and the fuel to melt, which would release significant amounts of radioactivity in the immediate vicinity of the reactor plant.

So I guess the experts and I agree on one thing, eventually the spent fuel will need to be moved to Dry Cask Storage. And so with that little fact in hand I am able to walk out of my door each day with the assurance that the nuclear power operators will make this move at precisely the correct time.

Another reality for the foreseeable future is the Department of Energy (DOE) doesn’t really have a plan to move ahead with a permanent disposal site. Some, but not all of the recommendations that came out of the Blue Ribbon Commission On America’s Nuclear Future – Report to the Secretary of Energy in January of 2012 were:
  •     Prompt efforts to develop one or more geologic disposal facilities.
  •     Prompt efforts to develop one or more consolidated storage facilities.
  •    Prompt efforts to prepare for the eventual large-scale transport of spent nuclear fuel and      high-level waste to consolidated storage and disposal facilities when such facilities become available.
Again as a reminder here is the definition of terms used in the above items: “Disposal” is understood to mean permanent disposal; and “storage” is understood to mean storage for an interim period prior to disposal or other disposition.

The Blue Ribbon Commission did not define the word prompt however when stating “prompt efforts to”.  I tend to think of quick, rapid, and punctual and without delay when I hear that word, so I might assume the BRC had similar meanings in mind when they made their recommendations.  The problem is that even if the wheels were in motion this very minute with everyone on board and all systems were go, it could take at least ten to thirty years before a disposal site could be selected and made ready. So to toss in a quote from Lewis Carroll, “The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.”
So each day I get up and find myself facing REALITY along with advancing age, but for right now I don’t intend to give in to either one.  I will continue to strive on with the hope that maybe, just maybe I have prompted at least one other person to take up the quest to gain some knowledge on this complex subject. And armed with that knowledge you will go forward without fear of being bullied by the big and powerful and demand that safety should and will never be compromised in the use of nuclear energy. That profits do not come before assuring a safe community and environment and demand that the NRC work to assure that safety standards are met and violations on any level are enforced.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Super Tuesday - Plus 9 Days

Who is it in the press that calls on me?
I hear a tongue shriller than all the music
Cry "Caesar!" Speak, Caesar is turn'd to hear.
Beware the ides of March.
What man is that?
A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March.

Julius Caesar Act 1, scene 2, 15–19

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Living on Borrowed Time

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) says that the role of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) should be that of "The Cop on the Nuclear Beat".

They have just published their report The NRC and Nuclear Power Plant Safety in 2011 - Living on Borrowed Time.

For those of you who like to read please take the time to read this report Here is the link for the full report -

It is a fair report, pointing out when the NRC does it job and being critical when it does not do the job it was set up to do. I found it easy to read and at times even riveting in their explanation of how events unfolded during the fifteen near-misses at U.S. nuclear plants in 2011.

You can be for nuclear power or against it, but I don't see how anyone can not want the very best safety procedures in place, as we continue to use this powerful and on occasion, very dangerous source of energy.

As the Union of Concerned Scientists state in the summary of the report:
  • The NRC simply is not doing its job when it tolerates widespread and longstanding violations of federal safety regulations.
  • And Congress simply is not doing its job when it allows the NRC to force Americans to face higher risks unnecessarily. Chernobyl and Fukushima are vivid reminders of what happens when safety requirements are not met.
  • The NRC simply must aggressively enforce its safety regulations. Anything less is unacceptable.