Posts Tagged ‘japan’

As Japan commemorates the anniversary of the Hiroshima atomic bomb attack, Japanese officials are developing new energy policies that will guard the safety and the livelihood of the Japanese public in the wake of the devastating Fukushima nuclear accident.

Sixty seven years ago today, on Aug. 6, 1945, nearly 140,000 people were killed by the first atomic bomb used in warfare. Three days later the United States dropped another bomb in Nagasaki that killed 70,000 more.

In March 2011, Japan was devastated by an earthquake and tsunami which crippled Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima nuclear plant and sent it into meltdown.  This caused radiation to spew over large areas from which more than 160,000 people had to flee. Every one of Japan’s nuclear plants were shuttered in the months following the world’s worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl in 1986.  This is a country that now knows, all too well, the devastation of nuclear power both in war and in peacetime.

Two of the nation’s reactors resumed operations in July, but the Fukushima disaster has turned public sentiment against the country’s dependence on nuclear power.

According to NBC News, a recent parliamentary investigation concluded that past energy policy reliance on opinions of industry experts, bureaucrats and politicians had bred collusion and blindness when it came to ensuring nuclear reactors’ safety.

Now Japan is conducting citizen debates to look at options for the role of nuclear power in their generation mix, and expects to compile a draft of its new energy policy by the end of August.

Read Full Post »

This weekend marks the first anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Our thoughts and prayers will be with the hundreds of thousands of Japanese still living in contaminated areas.

There are anniversary actions across the U.S. and entire world this weekend. You can find a list of many of them on the NIRS Actions page. Don’t forget to click the link you’ll see there for additional global actions to get a sense of the incredible number and variety of events going on all over the world!

Here in Austin:
Saturday, March 10th at Noon, Prevent Fukushima Texas vigil
At the river (Lady Bird Lake) immediately across from the front of the Austin City Hall (301 W. 2nd St.) just West of 1st Street.

Speakers will include Chiaki Kasahara and Ivan Stout, who lived in Japan at the time of the nuclear disaster and had to leave their home, family and friends in order to protect their health and that of their young son.

Sponsored by SEED Coalition and Nuke Free Texas. www.NukeFreeTexas.org

(If it looks like light rain, bring an umbrella. If it’s raining heavily, we’ll move over to a covered space at City Hall – under the solar panels.)

Read Full Post »

Had a nuclear power plant meltdown in your neighborhood and need to check radiation levels?  Well, there’s an iphone app for that.

Crazy as it may sound, Safecast, a global project created after the March 11th earthquake and tsunami that caused the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant disaster in Japan, has been building a radiation sensor network comprised of static and mobile sensors actively being deployed around Japan.  To facilitate deployment of small handheld devices, and Japan being Japan, the project also developed iGeigie – a portable Geiger Counter with an iPhone dock.

Don’t know how you would get one (and wouldn’t it make the perfect gift for the person who has everything), but you have to admire the technology advancements that could give us such a device in a few short months.

Read Full Post »

In their ongoing effort to accomplish a cold shutdown by January, Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco), the beleaguered operator of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear-power plant said it had resumed the use of recycled water to cool the reactor cores this weekend, a week after its first attempt was suspended due to leaks that developed within minutes of starting up the recycled water system.

Tepco has installed a tank to store 1,000 metric tons of decontaminated water to complete the recycling system, stabilizing the water source for cooling the Nos. 1-3 reactors, eliminating the need to use fresh water from an outside source to cool the reactors, and creating even more irradiated water, which then requires storage or disposal.

Establishment of a closed cooling system is essential to stabilizing the Daiichi reactors and getting the reactors to cold shutdown, which is defined as lowering the temperature of the fuel rods to below 100 degrees Celsius—water’s boiling point—and keeping it there.

If Tepco’s current efforts are successful, they hope to increase the flow of water and bring down the reactor-core temperatures, which currently hovers between 100 and 160 degrees Celsius.

Even if the recycling system works smoothly, Japan is still left with the problem of how to dispose of the radioactive sludge being created during the filtering process.  Japan, like Texas, has a disposal site for low-level radioactive waste, but there are no guidelines for disposing of the type of sludge now being created, which is expected to total 706 metric tons.

In the meantime, work at the complex is being hampered by the unseasonably hot weather.  There have been 17 reported cases of heatstroke at the plant in recent weeks.

And if that wasn’t enough

Tepco also faces other issues as senior members of Japan’s government developed secret plans to break up the nuclear plant operator, according to reports uncovered by Reuters.

The plan would bring nuclear operations of Tepco under government control, and force Tepco to sell its power distribution business.  Only the power-generation operations that use thermal and hydraulic power plants would remain as the company’s business cutting Tepco’s size to one third of its current operations.

I guess a really, really big mistake costs industry really, really big.

Read Full Post »

It appears that the fate for nuclear power in Japan following the Fukushima Daiichi disaster, could be decided by a local governor of an obscure prefecture of about 850,000 residents on the southernmost main island of Kyushu.

Governor Yasushi Furukawa of Saga Prefecture, must decide in coming days whether to support a request by Prime Minister Naoto Kan to restart two reactors at a local nuclear plant that have been shut down since last winter for regular maintenance.  If Governor Furukawa decides no, and other governors follow his lead, every nuclear reactor in Japan could end up idled in less than a year, turning Japan into a non-nuclear country faster than Germany.

Japan’s reactors are legally required to shut down every 13 months for routine maintenance. Thirty-five of the nation’s 54 reactors are now offline, some because of damage from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, but most because of the maintenance requirement. Unless some of them are turned back on, the last reactor in Japan will be shut down by next April.  Currently nuclear reactors provide the nation with almost a third of its electricity.

Turning the reactors back on requires the central government’s approval, which has not been granted since the Fukushima accident. In the public backlash against nuclear power that has followed the disaster, the government is asking local political leaders to sign off on the restarts as well.

Mr. Furukawa is the first governor who is being called upon to make a decision. This has turned him into a reluctant leader of sorts on this nation’s nuclear future, as his decision will be closely watched by other local leaders, most of whom are on the fence about restarting reactors as they weigh issues of public anxieties about safety versus the threat of electricity shortages.

Recent Japanese opinion polls show an overwhelming majority — 82 percent in a survey conducted last month for Tokyo Shimbun — support getting rid of the nation’s reactors, but do not favor an immediate halt, prefering a gradual phasing out of nuclear power as alternatives are found.

Japan has a long history with nuclear power, and is the world’s principle manufacturer of some nuclear reactor components.  A pull back of their commitment to nuclear power could have a resounding affect on the future of nuclear power throughout the world, including those countries – the U.S., India, and Poland – who are still promoting the expansion of nuclear power.  The Saga Prefecture governor should make a decision in the next couple of weeks and we’ll update this blog at that time.

Read Full Post »

Bashing Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco), has become a regular habit in Japan over the past three months. While Tepco managers certainly bungled the response to the crisis at the company’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, Tepco wasn’t operating in a vacuum.  Indications are that failures of corporate governance policies and the regulatory entity’s cozy relationship with industry contributed to the environment that left the Japanese public angered at both the Fukushima Daiichi operators and their government in the wake of the nuclear disaster that befell their country.   Japanese policy makers still are pretending Tepco is simply one bad apple, while ignoring systemic problems and the Japanese public is intent on going after Tepco.

Protests outside TEPCO shareholder meeting

Protests outside TEPCO shareholder meeting

Angry shareholders of Japan’s Tepco slammed the company for its handling of the nation’s worst ever atomic accident after the March quake-tsunami, amid calls for the firm to abandon nuclear power.  Protests were held outside the shareholder meeting on June 28th.

In the meantime, here in the US policy makers are still debating the future of nuclear power while Mother Nature keeps sending gentle reminders of the risks. Flood waters from the Missouri River breeched a damaged berm around Nebraska’s Fort Calhoun reactor  over the weekend inundating the site under several feet of water. Meanwhile, at Los Alamos, the birthplace of the atomic bomb and home to 20,000 barrels of nuclear waste, wildfires are still raging.

But back at Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), Gregory B. Jaczko, chairman of the NRC keeps telling Congress and the media that the probability of a nuclear disaster on U.S. soil similar to Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi meltdown is “very, very small.”  And the rest of the agency falls into line with federal regulators insisting that U.S. nuclear power plants are operating safely while they move forward with 12 applications for new nuclear power plans and five different reactor designs, as well as more and more applications for re-licensing of the 104 aging nuclear plants now operating. 

“At this time the agency considers that the existing emergency preparedness framework and regulations provide reasonable assurance of adequate protection of public health and safety in the event of a radiological  emergency at a US power reactor facility,” Jaczko submitted in written testimony to Congress on June 16.  But the results of a  special inspection of U.S. nuclear plants after the Fukushima disaster in Japan revealed problems with emergency equipment and disaster procedures that are far more pervasive than publicly described by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. 

The NRC ordered the inspection to conduct a fast check on the equipment and procedures that U.S. plants are required to have in place in the event of a catastrophic natural disaster or a terrorist attack in response to the March earthquake and tsunami that crippled Fukushima’s reactors. 

Agency officials unveiled the results in May, stating  “out of 65 operating reactor sites, 12 had issues with one or more of the requirements during the inspections.”  But an closer examination of the reports from those inspections by ProPublica found that 60 plant sites had deficiencies that ranged from broken machinery, missing equipment and poor training to things like blocked drains or a lack of preventive maintenance. Some of the more serious findings include:

While the deficiencies don’t pose an immediate risk and are relatively easy to fix, critics say they could complicate the response to a major disaster and point to a weakness in NRC oversight.

In a summary attached to the inspection findings even the NRC expressed some concern.

“While individually, none of these observations posed a significant safety issue, they indicate a potential industry trend of failure to maintain equipment and strategies required to mitigate some design and beyond design-basis events,” the summary says.

The special inspection covered equipment and procedures for use in disasters that are beyond the scope of the plant’s design — major earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, hurricanes and terrorist attacks.

The Fukushima accident has focused the NRC’s attention on the risk that a natural disaster or attack could knock out a plant’s safety systems for an extended period and lead to a radiation release.

Although all plants are designed to withstand natural disasters, U.S. nuclear facilities are aging. Recent studies have shown that earthquake risks are actually higher than they were predicted when some plants were built, although the NRC says reactors can still withstand the highest expected quake (but that’s what Japan thought). Now historic flooding on the Missouri River is testing design limits at two Nebraska plants.

So keep this in mind, like the reports coming from Tepco and the Japanese government after the problems started at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, NRC’s jargon-laden communiques freqently reflect what the operator has reported, and do little to shed light on any issues or events occurring at nuclear power plants throughout our country.  When the agency says that America’s 104 operating nuclear power plants are being inspected to deal with power loss or damage that might follow an “extreme” event, keep in mind the NRC’s loosening of standards over the years at the industry’s urging and the other policies put in place because of the agency’s cozy relationship with the industry.  The nuclear industry here in the US is not so different from Japan’s.  Whose heads will we want if there is some catastrophic failure at one of our own plants?

The full report of lessons learned from the Fukushima incident will arrive on July 19. For now, the world’s other 336 other radioactive reactors are also being pushed by the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to launch a series of national safety tests backed by international inspections.

Read Full Post »

According to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Japanese authorities are now admitting the crisis at the Fukushima nuclear plant in March may have been worse than a core meltdown.

IAEAIn an official report that will go to the UN’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) set up in 1957, Japan now says nuclear fuel in three reactors possibly melted through several pressure vessels and into the earth below.  This type of event, called a melt-through, is the worst outcome in a nuclear accident.

GOSHI HOSONO, SPECIAL ADVISOR TO JAPANESE PM (Translation): At present there is damage to the bottom of the reactor container, we call this ‘core melting’ in English. Part of the nuclear fuel has fallen onto the dry earth floor and it’s possible that it’s still lodged there.

TETSURO FUKUYAMA, GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN (Translation): Hot spots were found, meaning there were certain spots with very high readings of radiation.

According to atomic experts, this is about as serious as it gets in a nuclear disaster. Dangerous levels of radioactive iodine and cesium have already contaminated the sea, the soil, groundwater, and the air.

This week plutonium was detected for the first time outside the stricken plant, and Strontium-90, known as a bone seeker because it can cause bone cancer and leukemia, has now been found as far away as 37 miles from the facility.

In a draft report to the IAEA, Japan admitted that it wasn’t prepared for the Fukushima meltdown.  Further, it also acknowledged that its nuclear regulator was run by a ministry, which has been the chief promoter of nuclear energy for decades (sound like another nuclear regulatory agency that we know closer to home?).

In an NRC memo issued on Thursday – Subject:  NRC MONITORED ALERT, FLOODING (and a FIRE!!!!) AT FORT CALHOUN NUCLEAR STATION (the portion in red are mine, the rest is the NRC’s memo).

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Tuesday monitored conditions at the Fort Calhoun Station, located 19 miles north of Omaha, Neb. The plant, operated by Omaha Public Power District (OPPD), declared an Alert at 9:40 a.m. CDT.

The Alert was declared due to an indication of fire in the west switchgear room at 9:30 a.m. Automated fire suppression systems activated as expected and the fire was confirmed out at 10:20 a.m. OPPD exited the alert at 1:15 p.m. An “Alert” is the second lowest of four emergency classes. OPPD briefly activated its Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and the Joint Information Center (JIC).

For the duration of the event the NRC monitored developments from its incident response center at its Region IV office in Arlington, Texas, and received updates from the onsite NRC Inspectors. OPPD notified the states of Nebraska and Iowa.

There was no danger to the public of a radiation release because the plant has been shut down since early April for a refueling outage and remains in that condition (much like the Fukushima Dai-ichi units 4, 5, and 6). Although the plant briefly lost its normal ability to cool the spent fuel pool, temperatures in the pool remained at safe levels and the plant recovered pool cooling without the need for any of the plant’s multiple backup systems.

The licensee previously entered a Notice of Unusual Event due to the rising level of the Missouri River and some onsite flooding on June 6. Since that time, NRC has provided round the clock staffing with its Resident Inspectors and they will continue to remain on site and monitor the situation during the flood conditions.

Just last month, two US nuclear plants went into emergency shut down due to outside power loss and a fire in a switchyard adjacent to the plant when tornados tore through the Southeast.  Neither of these two plants were hit directly by a tornado, which would have made containment of the situation much more difficult.  But, scarely.one was discovered, just three months prior to the tornados, to have had issues for as long as nine months with their backup coolant system, which would have made the incident following the tornado much more dire. 

The disaster in Japan has forced numerous countries to re-evaluate the safety of their nuclear fleet of power plants and their ability to respond to safety incidents compounded by natural disasters that make containment more difficult.  Switzerland and Germany have made the decision to pursue other renewable energy sources and to phase out their nuclear units as their licenses come to their end. 

As the US looks at three incidents, in three months associated with natural disasters

  • unusual flooding,
  • what is amounting to one of the most prolific and deadly tornado seasons this country has seen in decades, and
  • a hurricane season that has just come upon us and is predicted to be an above average Atlantic hurricane season according to the most recent forecasts by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Colorado State University Tropical Meteorology Project (CSUTMP).

In the words of Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry, “You’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya punk?”

Read Full Post »

Last week, the seven-member Federal Council of Switzerland called for the decommissioning of the country’s five nuclear power reactors and development of new energy sources to replace them.

The recommendation will be debated in the Swiss parliament, which is expected to make a final decision next month. If approved, the five reactors (at four facilities) would go offline between 2019 and 2034 as they reach the end of their average 50 year.

The Swiss Energy Minister Doris Leuthard and other Swiss energy officials hope to turn to entirely non-nuclear sources of power like hydropower, wind energy, biomass and photovoltaics combined with energy efficiency to replace the two-fifths of the nation’s energy needs that the nuclear reactors now supply.

The announcement comes days after an estimated 20,000 people took part in the biggest anti-nuclear protest in Switzerland in 25 years by people concerned about the continuing crisis at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Japan.

The German government has also signaled its determination to ditch nuclear power and replace it with renewable energies.

While nuclear power proponents will argue that nuclear power is safe, a number of nations are coming to grips with the fact their their citizens are not willing to live with the consequences of something going wrong.  While those incidents may be few and far between, the aftermath can be devastating for the surrounding environment, the health and safety of the people living near the facilities and the economy of a country that has to deal with the cleanup should a disaster of the magnatude of Japan’s Fukashima Dai-ichi happen.

Read Full Post »


Comanche Peak

Most of us are familiar with the 10 and 50 mile zones around Fukushima, this map shows those same zones around the Comanche Peak nuclear plant located just 38 miles outside of Fort Worth.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff will meet in Glen Rose, Texas, on Thursday, May 12, with representatives of Luminant Generation Co., to discuss the agency’s assessment of safety performance for the Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant. The plant is located near Glen Rose.

The meeting, which will be open to the public, is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. at the Somervell County Expo Exhibit Hall, 102 Northeast Vine Street, Glen Rose, Texas.

In addition to the performance assessment, the NRC staff will be available to answer questions from the public on the safety performance of Comanche Peak and the NRC’s role in ensuring safe plant operation.

The meeting will provide an opportunity for NRC to discuss their annual assessment of the plant with the company, local officials and the public.   NRC will answer any questions attendees may have about their oversight.

A letter sent from the NRC Region IV office to plant officials addresses the performance of the plant during 2010 and will serve as the basis for discussion. It is available on the NRC website – click here to read the letter.

In light of public concerns that have emerged regarding the safety of nuclear plants here in the U.S. in the wake of the Japanese nuclear disaster at Fukushima, this public meeting provides an excellent opportunity for citizens living 10, 50, or even 150 miles away to find out what measures are in place at Comanche Peak to protect it’s neighbors.

Read Full Post »

Radiation hotspots of Cesium-137 from Chernobyl

Radiation hotspots of Cesium-137 in 1996 resulting from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident. -Wikipedia

Experts believe the radioactive core in reactor No. 2 at the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant has melted through the bottom of its containment vessel and on to the concrete floor of the drywell below.  This new development has raised fears of a major release of radiation at the site, and some nuclear industry experts are saying that while they don’t believe there is a danger of a Chernobyl-style catastrophe, it’s not going to be good news for the environment.

The major concern when molten fuel breaches a containment vessel is that it will react with the concrete floor of the drywell, releasing radioactive gases into the surrounding area. At Fukushima, the drywell has been flooded with seawater, which was a last ditch effort to cool any molten fuel that escapes from the reactor and reduce the amount of radioactive gas released.

The drywell is surrounded by a secondary steel-and-concrete structure designed to keep radioactive material from escaping into the environment. But an earlier hydrogen explosion at the reactor may have damaged this, and the detection of water outside the containment area that is highly radioactive and can only have come from the reactor core, is a good indication that the containment area has been breached.

In the meantime, countries around the world are reassessing their nuclear power programs.  Britain has signaled that they could take a step back from nuclear power in the wake of the disaster.  Germany ordered a temporary halt to the country’s seven oldest reactors, and China is considering scaling back their program.

France, which gets about 80 percent of its energy from atomic power and has been the poster child for nuclear power during the recent nuclear renaissance, wants threats from airplane crashes and terrorists excluded from safety checks planned on European reactors following the Fukushima nuclear accident.  An interesting stance to take considering as recently as October of 2010, the French defense minister, Herve Morin told the French people that a terrorist threat exists, and could hit them at any moment.

At a minimum, governments should insist on two conditions for the future of the next generation of nuclear power plants: they have to be safe and they can not let the taxpayer be ripped off.  This is a opportunity for investment into renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and energy storage that don’t have the potential to be really, really bad news for the environment and the people who live in that environment.

Read Full Post »

Today is the 32nd anniversary of the worst U.S. nuclear accident, a partial meltdown at the Three Mile Island power plant outside Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Although no deaths or injuries resulted, many of the concerns the public is expressing about the ultimate fate of the doomed Fukushima Dai-ichi plant were played out over five days in 1979 in the North East.  Then, as now, it is difficult for the public to discern what the real status of the situation is.

Today a spokesperson for the Japanese government announced that the containment structure surrounding the No. 2 reactor at the nuclear power plant is damaged and may be leaking radioactive material.  Tepco, the plant’s owner, then disclosed that small amounts of plutonium had been found among contaminants around the facility later today as Japanese authorities explained that how radioactive water was leaking into maintenance tunnels and possibly, into the Pacific Ocean.

The radiation level near the No 2 reactor is four times the top dose Japan’s Health Ministry has set for emergency workers struggling to control the further emission of radioactive material from the damaged plant and it is unclear what the status of ongoing efforts are, given the increased radiation levels. 

Greenpeace is organizing vigils around the country to show support for the victims of the Japan disaster and ask for a nuclear-free world.  Click here to find out about an event in your area tonight.

Read Full Post »

NRG has announced that they will back off of additional development of STP reactors 3 & 4, while awaiting federal guidance regarding safety issues resulting from the nuclear disaster in Japan. The reactor site in Bay City, Texas, is 100 miles from Houston.
Reactor safety has long been a concern of Public Citizen and the Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) Coalition. The disaster in Japan illustrates the danger of fires and explosions and of putting many nuclear reactors in the same location.  The SEED Coalition raised these concerns in legal opposition to the licensing of two additional South Texas Project reactors and anticipate an Atomic Safety and Licensing Board hearing this Fall. This case is likely to set important precedent as it will be the first in the nation to examine these safety issues in new reactor licenses.
The risks of nuclear power are real and apply to U.S. reactors as well as those in Japan. At the South Texas site, a hurricane could knock out power and flood diesel generators, leading to a loss of coolant and potentially a meltdown.  Human error or technological problems can lead to accident scenarios.  Drought conditions are expected to worsen so low river flows could threaten the ability to cool existing reactors. Hopefully, we’ll never see a terrorist attack, but that is a possibility too. We believe it is time to use safer, more affordable ways to generate electricity.
SEED Coalition recently raised safety issues in opposition to the re-licensing of reactors 1 and 2, which are set to retire in 2027 and 2028. The NRC is considering allowing them to operate another 20 years past their originally intended lifespan. Reactors become more risky as they age, and we do not believe another 20 years of operation is safe. We must prevent a serious accident from happening here.
There have been plenty of problems with the existing reactors, both of which were shut down for over a year in the 1993-94 timeframe due to problems with the auxiliary feedwater pumps and diesel generators. Houston Lighting and Power was fined $500,000 for safety violations.
Click here for a summary of historical problems at the site.
The public can comment on STP re-licensing until April 1st.  Click here for information on how to comment.

Read Full Post »

How close do you live to a nuclear plant? I got curious and this is what I found out.

If a crisis at a nuclear reactor happened in the U.S., could you be living in a danger zone? In a 10-mile radius, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission says the air could be unsafe to breathe in the event of a major catastrophe. In 50 miles, food and water supplies may be unsafe.  Click here to go to CNN.Money’s plant locator.

Don’t forget that radioactive particles can be carried on the wind and many of us in Texas know how far the wind can carry things – for example, every year, when we start coughing each time we walk outside, when Mexico is burning fields.

Read Full Post »

Even as the Japanese attempt increasingly frantic tactics to cool an overheated nuclear complex:  

  • U.S. officials warned the situation is deteriorating and challenged the Japanese government’s assessment of the radiation risks telling U.S. civilians and military personnel to stay at least 50 miles from the facility, in contrast to the 12-mile evacuation zone set by Japan.
  • The Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko told lawmakers that the U.S. believed the damage at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power complex was even graver than Japanese officials had outlined in public; and
  • U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu told those same lawmakers that he believed a “partial meltdown” had occurred at the Japanese nuclear power plant and that the accident was “more serious” than the 1979 partial core meltdown at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania.

In the meantime, Jonathan Silver, executive director of the Energy Department’s loan guarantee program affirmed that it will continue to finance nuclear projects in the United States during a presentation he made today at the Cleantech Forum conference in San Francisco.

Mr. Silver’s remarks followed Congressional testimony in Washington by Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Gregory B. Jaczko, chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. In the same testimony that cautioned the situation at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant was more serious than Japanese officials were saying,  Dr. Chu said that the Obama administration continued to support nuclear energy, noting the president had requested that $36 billion be appropriated for the nuclear loan guarantee program.

The loan guarantee program has come under fire from all sides, with Congressional Republicans, questioning whether the department has spent its money wisely and moving to cut funding for the $71 billion program.

An audit released last week by the Energy Department’s inspector general found that poor record-keeping made it difficult to evaluate some loan decisions.  This is especially concerning when considering the high capital cost and high default rate of nuclear projects both here at home and internationally.

NRG’s South Texas Project (STP) proposed expansion near Bay City, TX is high on the list of projects being considered for a federal loan guarantee under this program.  Many of NRG’s financial partners on this project, Toshiba, Tepco (the operators of the doomed Fukushima Dai-ichi plant) and the Japanese government (through loan guarantees)  are probably looking at considerable contraints in being able to make substantial financial investments in projects outside of Japan for the foreseeable future.  Taxpayers should be concerned about issues with loan guarantee program’s ability to adequately assess the risks of their loan decisions.

The U.S. should immediately halt subsidies and instead focus on developing solar and wind power.

Take Action on Nuclear Subsidies

The administration must take off the blinders, look hard at what is going on in Japan and realize that yes, a catastrophe can happen here.

Read Full Post »

On last night’s Rachel Maddow Show, Ms. Maddow provided some interesting information about how much radioactive fuel might be on site at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant.  We’ve provided a quick overview below, but the show’s presentation and graphics are much better than what we can provide.  Click here to watch the segment on “How much radioactive material is at the Fukushima plant?”

Chernobyl180 tons of fuel exploded into the atmosphere


Nuclear fuel believed to be on site at Fukushima Dai-ichi**


No. 1

No. 2 No. 3 No. 4 No. 5 No. 6

Common spent fuel pond located somewhere on site

Reactor Fuel

70 tons

90 tons 90 tons * 90 tons 90 tons

130 tons

Spent Fuel Pools***

50 tons

100 tons 90 tons 130 tons 160 tons

150 tons



120 tons

190 tons 180 tons 220 tons 250 tons

280 tons

1,240 tons

*       Reactor No. 3 is reported to have reprocessed fuel which means there is a mixture of uranium and plutonium in the fuel rods.

**     This information was reported by HKN News Japan, and was verified by MSNBC through Japanese and American nuclear experts as being their best estimate of the nuclear fuel on site at Fukushima Dai-ichi.

***   The spent fuel is less hot and less radioactive than the reactor fuel in the core, but without knowing how old the spent fuel rods are there is know way to know what the total radioactivity house at the plant is.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »