Monday, July 29, 2013

Nuclear Eupemism

In doing some research yesterday I did a double-take at a name change for my favorite local nuclear energy facility. A facility run by Ameren Missouri, formerly Ameren UE. This facility, Callaway Nuclear Power Plant #1 was licensed in October 1984 and is a Pressurized Water Reactor (PWR).

All of a sudden I notice that Ameren Missouri is no longer referring to this facility as a nuclear power plant, it is now called Callaway Energy Center. It has such a pleasant ring to it.

And why the change in name? Well, Ameren gives this explanation [emphasis mine]:

Generation of electricity by solar cells and possibly by wind turbines is under consideration for land surrounding the Ameren Missouri nuclear plant south of Fulton. 
Trina Muniz, an Ameren Missouri spokesperson, said Monday the new name is part of a general corporate policy of continuous reassessment of its overall operations and to more accurately reflect the possible expansion of types of energy generated at its various power plants. For this reason, the Callaway Energy Center is the new name for the nuclear plant operated by Ameren Missouri south of Fulton. The plant had been known as the Callaway Nuclear Power Plant. 
“In October of 2010,” Muniz said, “we changed our name from AmerenUE to Ameren Missouri. Since then we have looked at our overall structure. We are committed to expanding our renewable energy power generation. For this reason we are examining now the possibility of adding more solar and wind generation.”

And you wonder why I have such an innate distrust of this company. I suppose those rods in the spent fuel pools are now called "caca".

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Permanent Storage of Nuclear Waste

Before I get to the nitty-gritty of this issue let’s make sure we all understand the terms being used here.

Permanent:  everlasting, as in forever and ever, i.e. longer than a marriage lasts.

Storage:  place for storing something, in this case safe storage of nuclear waste.

Nuclear Waste:  the lethal by-product of the nuclear age. There is high-level and low-level waste produced in the manufacture of nuclear weapons and in the irradiated fuel from commercial nuclear power reactors. Simple put it is the ‘stuff’ left over when you have produced what you intended to produced. Unlike pie scrapes these leftovers can’t be used again and they are highly toxic.

At one time we had 104 operating nuclear power plants in the United States, now there are 100 in operation. All 104 of these power plants produced nuclear waste, waste that is stored on-site in what is termed “temporary storage’. This spent nuclear waste is stored on-site in spent fuel pools and dry cask storage.

Spent fuel pools were designed as a place where the “hot” used fuel rods could be first put to cool down. The idea was that in three to five years this spent fuel or waste would then be moved to permanent storage where it would remain for the next 1,000 or 2,000 years.

It would be a safe location deep underground with tons of concrete surrounding it. When safe was first talked about it meant a location where the people and the environment would not be in harm’s way from any kind of lethal exposure. Today safe has been broadened to include safe from a terrorist’s access to the spent fuel.

In 1982 the Nuclear Waste Policy Act was passed by Congress, this required the establishment of a repository for nuclear waste, which was to be carried out by the Department of Energy (DOE). To fund this operation fees were assessed on the electricity that companies were generating from their nuclear power facilities and in turn these fees were passed on the ratepayers.

That was thirty-one years ago and we still don’t have a plan in place but we do have spent nuclear fuel piling up. This past April a bipartisan quartet of senators drafted a bill that would change how the U.S. stores nuclear waste.

The draft bill would enable the transfer of spent nuclear fuel currently being held at the commercial nuclear facilities to an intermediate storage site. This might be considered an official ‘pass the buck move’, while states and local governments decide who gets to host the nation’s long-term waste repository.

Host? People this isn’t a party being given where if you are lucky your guests leave by midnight. This is more like when your college age kids decide to move back home on a permanent basis.

Another thing this draft legislation does is create yet another federal agency, this one to manage nuclear waste, taking the job away from the DOE. The problem hasn’t necessarily been with the DOE, the problem is nobody wants to be home to a permanent nuclear waste dump, aka long term storage site for spent nuclear waste.

This condition is known as NIMBY - Not In My Back Yard. It manifests itself in many conditions and is widespread in the nuclear waste business. There is no shortage in corporations that will take on nuclear waste storage; it is a big bucks business, just like the manufacture of arms. But finding a location or locations for a permanent storage site is quite a different matter.

It is literally that political football that keeps getting kicked around in a game that today still has an undefined end time.

Moving nuclear waste to an intermediate storage site doesn’t make much sense, because it will still need to be moved again to a permanent site. The act of moving nuclear waste always entails a degree of risk.

Experts, free from political influence, should tell us the best location for putting this waste to rest. They need to tell us the place where it is safest to humans and to the environment and then this is where it will be stored.

Now if this can’t be accomplished then the next move would be to require that each facility that has and is producing nuclear waste be required to build its own permanent long-term storage site. That way everybody’s back yard gets to play in the game, no favorites.

And finally (and it should seem obvious) we need to stop producing nuclear waste! We just have no place to put what we have now, we can’t keep adding to the pile.

In the appeals court decision the court found that spent nuclear fuel stored on-site “poses a dangerous, long-term health and environmental risk.” It’s a nuclear conundrum.

The clock is ticking, and with every tick we get closer to the alarm going off.  It is time to wake up people; we need to do something, now.

Suggested Further Reading:

(1) Nuclear Information and Resource Service
Yucca Mountain Disposal Site -

(2) Lander County Nevada Yucca Mountain Oversight Program

(4) Senators Float Nuclear Waste Storage Draft Bill -

News Updates:

Missouri - July 26, 2013  Callaway Energy Center out of service after turbine fire Friday night

California - July 25, 2013  Californians Consider a Future Without a Nuclear Plant

Japan - July 24, 2013  Fukushima Continues to Spew It's Darkness

Thursday, July 25, 2013

When Was The Last Time...

When was the last time you were at your doctor's office or getting a medical procedure and you asked how much is this going to cost?

When was the last time you bought a pair of shoes and didn't ask the price?

Think about it people, maybe we should be asking how much is this going to cost?  Healthcare institutions and health insurance companies are not at odds, they are both on the same team. We need to become players in this game and maybe it starts with us asking, "How much does this cost?"

Just because you don't write the check doesn't mean you aren't paying for it.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Foreign Power Drops Bombs on Great Barrier Reef

Four unarmed bombs were dropped on the Great Barrier Reef by a foreign power!

Australian Senator Larissa Waters is quoted as saying, "Have we gone completely mad? Is this how we look after our World Heritage area now? Letting a foreign power drop bombs on it?"

I guess normally this would really be a world-wide incident but in this case the foreign power was the United States and the dropping of the bombs was... errr.... how do I put this?  Hmmm, well because the pilots were low on fuel and could not land with their bomb load, the Navy said.

"The Harriers ... needed to get back to the ship, and so they conducted an emergency jettison,"  said fleet commander William Marks.
Good job this happened in an place with a government as understanding as Australia. Might have been a bit of a "sticky wicket" if it had happened say, over North Korea.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Read Me A Story, Please.

I Had a Mother Who Read to Me
~ with thanks to The Passive Voice

I had a mother who read to me
Sagas of pirates who scoured the sea.
Cutlasses clenched in their yellow teeth;
“Blackbirds” stowed in the hold beneath.
I had a Mother who read me lays
Of ancient and gallant and golden days;
Stories of Marmion and Ivanhoe,
Which every boy has a right to know.
I had a Mother who read me tales
Of Gelert the hound of the hills of Wales,
True to his trust till his tragic death,
Faithfulness lent with his final breath.
I had a Mother who read me the things
That wholesome life to the boy heart brings-
Stories that stir with an upward touch.
Oh, that each mother of boys were such!
You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be –
I had a Mother who read to me.
Strickland Gillilan

Friday, July 19, 2013

Image is Everything

A couple of decades ago Kodak and Andre Aggasi made "Image is Everything" a slogan to live by. In the case of Kodak perhaps it was indeed the image they meant, you know the after product of when you click a camera's shutter to take a photograph. But the unspoken connotation is that it is how one is perceived that is everything.

It is pervasive in our society and has been for a very long time. We don't look into people hearts anymore in an attempt to understand, we look at the image they project. This has in fact become quite an industry; celebrity stylists, image consultants all have become a mainstay of life today.

The cosmetic industry is a billion dollar business that is all about altering our image, add to that how we dress, smell, style our hair... the list goes on and on.

But when one connive's an image they also are engaging in con game when the outcome of this act is to manipulate how another person perceives that image.

Rolling Stone Magazine put an image of the Boston Bomber on the cover of their magazine this week:

The public was outraged. It didn't want to see the image of a killer to look so much like the boy-next-door. So now this image is being circulated so you won't forget how he "really" looked:

And there was another image manipulation recently. When George Zimmerman was arrested in the killing of Trayvon Martin he looked like this in his mug shot:

To my caucasian eye he appears quite hispanic and maybe a bit thug-like. So my perception was probably not a singular view. By the time the trial became Zimmerman's image has changed a bit:

Now appearing more white-like and much more professional than like a street thug.

But Trayvon's image was manipulated too, we had the defiant bird-flipping Trayvon shown and the football playing All-American image tossed out there as well. In other instances that are not life and death matters we seen magazine cover images of stars that have had inches Photoshopped off their waists and thighs.

Yep, image is everything, isn't it? And thinking for oneself shouldn't even enter into it. Ahh yes, "The mind is a terrible thing to waste".

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Nuclear News Makes Me Sick

There have been a couple of nuclear newsettes the last few days. My first reaction is to blog and then I think that probably my following has heard enough and I will give it a rest for a bit. Then I get a major case of the “guilt’s” and I feel I am letting the cause down.

You see I have this skewed sense of purpose that what I do actually makes a difference. It’s this power of “one” thing. I’m not a celebrity blogger with millions of followers and Twitter doesn’t light up if I piss in mop bucket. But I do believe this; that just maybe “one” person will read what I write, take note and pass it on to another “one” person and maybe that will continue to roll forward and in the end it all will make a difference.

So there you have it, that’s why I do what I do… because I think it will make a difference.

The New York Times ran this article which reports that steam has been detected at the shut down and damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. This little excerpt has me shaking in my UGG boots:
“Fresh trouble at the No. 3 reactor is especially worrying because it contains mixed uranium-plutonium oxide fuel. The upper floors of the reactor also house its fuel pool, which stores over 500 fuel assemblies. The reactor complex’s basement is flooded with highly radioactive water. Studies show that an accident like a meltdown or containment failure in a reactor that holds such fuel would result in more cancer deaths than one in a reactor fueled only with uranium.”
Today I received an update from Beyond Nuclear that I think you should know about. What this country decides to do with the spent nuclear fuel is of major importance.  This issue has to be addressed and it has to be removed from the game of politics because it effects everyone. Not just Republicans, not just Democrats, or rich or poor, educated or uneducated, in a word its effects all of humankind.

If we set aside all this pettiness that seems to fuel Washington DC I am confident that we have the technology and the intelligence to solve this problem but the fight is going to be with the corporations that feather their bottom lines by putting off a real solution. One day they will wake up and realize that they are not immune if something goes really, really wrong with our current system of storing spent nuclear fuel.

Below is the full story by Robert Alvarez, which appears at the Beyond Nuclear website. You don't have to become an activist or chain yourself to a fence at a nuclear power facility to make a difference. As a member of the human race you should care and know about conditions that exist today that will have dire consequence on our little planet. Inform yourself, become part of a dialog at a cocktail party, write an email... don't just sit there and watch yourself glow...get informed.

~ ~ ~

Robert Alvarez, Senior Scholar, Institute for Policy Studies
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has recently published a draft study, which concludes that the risk of a catastrophic irradiated nuclear fuel storage pool fire is vanishingly low. This conclusion seems to starkly contradict earlier NRC findings that pool storage risks are real, and should be dealt with.
The NRC draft study focuses on the risk of a severe earthquake impacting a General Electric Mark I boiling water reactor storage pool (specificially, at the Peach Bottom nuclear power plant in PA). Ironically enough, NRC's draft conclusion clearly contradicts a warning issued a decade ago by its own current agency Chairwoman, Dr. Allison Macfarlane, who knows a thing or two about seismic risks: she is an internationally recognized Ph.D. geologist, who has long focused on radioactive waste risks. See below.)
NRC has granted the public a short 30 days to comment on this new 369 page draft. Deadline for public comments is currently Friday, August 2nd. Beyond Nuclear, and its environmental allies, are racing to meet this arbitrarily short deadline, to prepare comments which individuals and groups can endorse, or use to write their own. Watch for this in the near future.
However, there are strong voices who disagree with NRC's flip assurances of safety. Robert Alvarez (photo, left), a Senior Scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies, and a former senior advisor to the Energy Secretary during the Clinton administration, published a report in late June, commissioned by Friends of the Earth (FOE), entitled Reducing the hazards of high-level radioactive waste in Southern California: Storage of nuclear waste from spent fuel at San Onofre. The report appeared a couple weeks after Edison International announced the permanent shutdown of San Onofre Units 2 & 3, under intense pressure from FOE and a widespread grassroots environmental network, due to the $2.5 billion, defective steam generator replacement boondoggle, which had put 8 million Southern Californians within a 50-mile radius at radiological risk. Alvarez concludes that the risk of catastrophic radioactivity releases from a high-level radioactive waste (HLRW) storage pool fire at San Onofre, such as caused by a severe earthquake suddenly draining away the pool cooling water supply, are high. A large region downwind could be severely contaminated with radioactive Cesium-137 fallout, including lethal doses to thousands of people within a 10-mile radius.
Alvarez's study follows a 2003 report he and others (including the current NRC Chairwoman, Dr. Allison Macfarlane) co-authored, warning of the catastrophic risks of HLRW pool fires, and calling for the unloading of pools into not-risk-free, but safer, dry casks. Alvarez also published a report in May 2011, documenting the nationwide risk of storage pool fires, in light of the still-unfolding Fukushima catastrophe, which began a couple months earlier.
Just today, the New York Times and Agence France Press/Jiji have reported that steam at Fukushima Daiichi Unit 3 could either be due to a nuclear criticality in the molten core, or, as Alvarez (and Fairewinds Associates, Inc's Chief Engineer Arnie Gundersen) have hypothesized, could be due to a nuclear criticality in the ruined HLRW storage pool itself.
Beyond Nuclear and a nationwide coalition of hundreds of environmental groups, representing all 50 states, have long advocated Hardened On-Site Storage (HOSS). HOSS calls not only for catastrophically risky pools to be emptied, but for dry cask storage safety, security, and environmental protection to be dramatically upgraded. Dry casks are currently badly designed, poorly fabricated, and not even required to withstand terrorist attacks.
What can you do about HLRW storage pool risks? Contact President Obama and your Senators and Representative (via the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121), and urge HOSS as an interim alternative to a recently introduced Senate bill which would make matters worse, by rushing "Mobile Chernobyls" onto the roads, rails, and waterways, in a race for senseless "centralized interim storage" parking lot dumps targeted at already radiologically-burdened DOE sites and nuclear power plants, or, as an act of blatant environmental injustice or radioactive racism, Native American reservations.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

A Day in July

Ahhh a warm summer's day, seems the perfect day to stir up a bit of trouble at the old bastille.

Friday, July 12, 2013

The News is So Tempting

It is so tempting... to take the bait and create a blog post on the latest news. But I won't do it, no not me, no way.

This from Texas:
"State troopers confiscated tampons and maxi pads from people entering the Texas Senate gallery on Friday afternoon as senators began debating a controversial new abortion regulations that are almost certain to pass. However, folks with conceal-and-carry permits are allowed in with their guns, as state law allows. It seems like an unusual threat analysis, but things are different in Texas."

And this headline from US Weekly:

Kate Middleton, Prince William's Baby: What Will the Royal Baby Eat?

Please someone call 911 for me, I don't think I am getting enough oxygen to my brain.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Masao Yoshida - R.I.P.

Massao Yoshida - Died at age 58

Massao Yoshida the Fukushima chief who led the life risking efforts during the nuclear plant's meltdown died today from cancer of the esophagus.  A news release from TEPCO stated his death was not related to radiation exposure.

And so there you have it.

For the full story click here

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

... And the rockets red glare ...

Fireworks illuminate Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, to celebrate the victory of of Mohammed Morsi, in the country’s presidential election, on June 24, 2012. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

Egypt’s first freely elected president was ousted today, certainly with great assistance from the military. Reports are that this is the will of the people who have been extremely unhappy with Mohamed Morsi and his close ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.

It is no secret that after Morsi’s election he brought many members of the Brotherhood into the government and I know from my recent visit to Egypt that there are many people, especially women, who have no love for the Brotherhood.

As the protests were being held against the president in Tahrir Square over the past four days at least 91 women have been assaulted and raped in this square in the security vacuum that exists there. Sexual harassment of women in Egypt is common and an increasing occurrence.

There will be many issues that will need to be addressed once again when a new government is in place. Perhaps some of those in that new government will be women; that would be a good start.

Here in the United States fireworks will go off in celebration of our long-standing freedoms. Freedoms that has been flawed on many occasions, but nonetheless precious freedoms that must be continually reviewed, made right when necessary and protected at any cost.
For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others. – Nelson Mandela

Happy Fourth of July!