Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Head: We may Never Need New Coal and Nuclear Plants

Renewable Wind Energy

Earlier this week, three former Michigan governors used Earth Day as an occasion to call for more nuclear power plants to be built in Michigan. The three–two Republicans and one Democrat–argued that nuclear power would help meet the state’s energy needs and offer a clean alternative to coal power plants.

However, in an article published this week in The New York Times, Jon Wellinghoff–who serves as Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission–said that there may be no need to build either new nuclear or coal power plants to meet the country’s energy needs:

No new nuclear or coal plants may ever be needed in the United States, the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said today.

“We may not need any, ever,” Jon Wellinghoff told reporters at a U.S. Energy Association forum.

Wellinghoff said renewables like wind, solar and biomass will provide enough energy to meet baseload capacity and future energy demands. Nuclear and coal plants are too expensive, he added.

Of renewable energy, Wellinghoff said:

There’s enough renewable energy to meet energy demand, Wellinghoff said. “There’s 500 to 700 gigawatts of developable wind throughout the Midwest, all the way to Texas. There’s probably another 200 to 300 gigawatts in Montana and Wyoming that can go West.”

He also cited tremendous solar power in the Southwest and hydrokinetic and biomass energy, and said the United States can reduce energy usage by 50 percent. “You combine all those things together … I think we have great resources in this country, and we just need to start using them,” he said.

Problems with unsteady power generation from wind will be overcome, he said.

It’s nice to see someone both questioning the need for new power plants and praising the benefits of renewable energy. Hopefully, Wellinghoff is able to sway those in President Barack Obama’s administration who have been previously unwilling to rule out nuclear power.

In Honor of Earth Day, Former Michigan Governors Advocate More Nuclear Power

042109-nuclear_power.jpg

Three former Michigan governors–Republicans John Engler and William Milliken along with Democrat James Blanchard–are commemorating Earth Day by calling for more nuclear power in Michigan.

The three write in the Detroit Free Press that:

As former governors, we support expanding Michigan’s nuclear energy capacity. Carbon-free nuclear energy has long been a workhorse for the state’s energy needs, powering one out of every four homes and businesses. Because nuclear energy produces virtually no air pollutants, it accounts for more than 87% of all carbon-free electricity generated in the state each year.

Aside from singing the praises of nuclear energy as “clean” energy, the three further argue–citing a nuclear industry front group–that building nuclear reactors in Michigan would help create jobs:

It takes as many as 2,400 skilled tradesmen to build each new reactor, and once built, they employ 400 to 700 workers at salaries few can match, according to the Clean and Safe Energy Coalition.

Predictably, the three ignore questions over the immense cost of new nuclear plants, as well as debate over just how much electricity Michigan actually needs. They assert that Michigan’s “energy demand is surging,” but others said that such projections are based on flawed numbers and that energy demand will likely decrease.

Moreover, the international environmental group Greenpeace–who has campaigned against nuclear energy for years–has just released a report titled “Nuclear Power: A Dangerous Waste of Time” that highlights the risks associated with nuclear power. It points to the unsolved problem of radioactive waste; the risk of catastrophic accidents; and the dangers posed to global security.

In its report, Greenpeace argues that nuclear accidents and “near misses” are frequent occurrences and that there is no such thing as “permanent” ways to dispose of nuclear waste. Moreover, it criticizes plans to “reprocess” spent fuel as creating more waste and increasing health problems.

With the environmental and health impacts of nuclear power–including the possibility of increased cancer rates in Michigan’s Monroe County–do we really “need” nuclear power?

Coalition Takes Legal Action against Proposed Michigan Nuclear Plant

Legal Action Against The Proposed Fermi 3 Nuclear Reactor in Michigan

A coalition of environmental groups has taken legal action against the proposed construction of the Fermi 3 nuclear reactor in Newport, Michigan.

The coalition–which includes Beyond Nuclear, Citizens for Alternatives to Chemical Contamination, Citizens Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario, Don’t Waste Michigan, and the Sierra Club–filed fourteen legal contentions with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission earlier this week. It argues that Detroit Edison’s proposed plant would have devastating impacts on Lake Eerie’s western basin. There are already 33 atomic reactors operating in the region.

The coalition cited past problems with Detroit Edison in particular:

“The track record of the Detroit Edison Company is abysmal. The partial

core-melt accident at Fermi 1 in October, 1966 and the 1993-94 Holiday

dumping of millions of gallons of radioactively contaminated water into Lake

Erie by Fermi 2 speaks to this record,” said Michael Keegan of Don’t Waste

Michigan. “The proposed Fermi 3 would represent another half-century of

safety and security risks for the Great Lakes shoreline. Many concerned

local residents don’t want to play yet another round of radioactive Russian

roulette,” Keegan added. Michael Keegan resides in Monroe and has been

following the Fermi reactors for three decades.”

The coalition further argues that the electricity needs could be met by alternative, cleaner renewable power sources such as solar and wind.

Report Finds Increase in Cancer Rates near Michigan Nuclear Plant

Cancer Rates Have Increased Dramatically Near the Fermi II Nuclear Reactor In Michigan

An article published by the Michigan Messenger has found a significant increase in cancer rates near Monroe County’s Fermi nuclear plant.

According to the article, cancer rates have increased 31% in young people since 1996. This is three times the rate of the rest of the state and is higher than the national average. Children are more susceptible to the effects of radiation than adults.

The article used data from the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) to find that:

“In the 1980s, the cancer rate for young people in Monroe County was below the state average. In the ’90s this rate grew, and in the first half of 2000 the cancer rate for this group in Monroe was greater than the state average. For the period 1999-2004, there is data to compare the Monroe under 25 cancer rate to both the Michigan and U.S statistics. The rate was 23.5 per 100,000 in Monroe County, 21.5 per 100,000 in Michigan and 19.5 per 100,000 nationwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).”

While the article stops short of saying that the Fermi nuclear plant is causing the problem, several scientists and health experts cited in the article call for additional investigation into the cancer rates.

DTE Energy–who owns the Fermi plant–is hoping to build a new reactor at the site. Citizens are organizing to stop the new reactor and are citing the rise in cancer rates and the proximity to nearby schools as two of the many reasons to oppose the reactor’s construction.

Nuclear Research Facility to be Built at MSU

A new nuclear facility is going to built at MSU and the media is reporting the construction as an overwhelmingly positive development that will boost the economy. There is no discussion of the relationship to nuclear weapons research.

121108-nuclear.jpg

With the recent talk about nuclear power as “green energy”–despite its well-documented risks–it’s no surprise that the announcement a new nuclear physics lab at Michigan State University (MSU) was met with laudatory coverage by the corporate press.

The media highlighted the fact that the construction of the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams (FRIB) will bring $550 million in federal constructions. They reported that it will boost the economy by creating $1 billion in spending in Michigan, creating 400 new jobs over a decade, and generating $187 million in tax revenue.

Of course, there was little discussion of what would actually be done at the lab. Similarly, there was no real discussion of the history of nuclear research in the United States, which has often been closely aligned with the development of nuclear weapons. Indeed, nuclear research receives substantial government funding and research often has both civilian and military applications, as is the case with the FRIB facility:

“…a U.S.-based FRIB facility, capable of producing high-specific-activity samples of exotic isotopes, could contribute to research in the national interest. The applications of rare-isotope technology could influence many areas, including medical research, national security, energy production, materials science, and industrial processes. It would provide an important contribution to the education and training of future U.S. scientists in the physics of nuclei. The aspects of nuclear physics addressed by the FRIB community directly impact the basic-science knowledge base relevant for nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons.”

The government described the main goals of the facility:

“The main focus of FRIB is to produce such rare isotopes, study their properties, and use them in applications to address national needs.

FRIB will provide researchers with the technical capabilities to study the properties of rare isotopes, and to put this knowledge to use in various applications, including in materials science, nuclear medicine, and the fundamental understanding of nuclear material important to nuclear weapons stockpile stewardship.”

Articles on the MSU facility talked briefly about medical applications as well as the development of mechanisms to test nuclear weapons without detonation. Such tests may be important as Obama mulls the possibility of developing a new generation of nuclear weapons.

Help Stop a New Atomic Reactor in Michigan

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has scheduled an informational meeting to discuss DTE’s application to construct a new nuclear reactor. Public opposition is needed to stop the reactor.

A call to take action to oppose a new nuclear plant in Michigan:

“Help Stop a New Atomic Reactor in Michigan!

What: NRC public meeting about proposed new reactor at Fermi Nuclear Power Plant

Where: Monroe County Community College’s La-Z-Boy Center, 1555 S. Raisinville Road in Monroe, Michigan

When: 7 to 9:30 p.m., Wednesday, August 20, 2008 

How and Why: Show up, bring your friends and family, network with anti-nuclear kindred spirits, speak out, and show the nuclear power establishment that we won’t accept a new reactor and its forever deadly radioactive wastes in Michigan!

Contact: For more info., call Kevin Kamps at Beyond Nuclear, (240) 462-3216, or email him at kevin@beyondnuclear.org.

 

Dear Friends and Colleagues in Michigan,

Next Wed., Aug. 20, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) will hold an informational meeting for the public in Monroe to discuss DTE’s (formerly Detroit Edison) imminent application to construct and operate a new atomic reactor at its Fermi Nuclear Power Plant. This is the same site as the 1966 partial meltdown at the Fermi 1 plutonium breeder reactor, as documented in the classic anti-nuclear primer “We Almost Lost Detroit” by John G. Fuller, as well as the song of the same name by Gil Scott Heron. The long-troubled but still operating Fermi 2 reactor was visited by Republican presidential nominee John McCain on August 5th, who is calling for the construction of 45 new reactors by 2030, and 100 altogether, across the U.S. Anti-nuclear protestors “greeted” him at the front entrance.

 

DTE has publicly announced that it will apply for a Combined Operating License on Sept. 18, 2008. By making application before the end of the year and the departure of the radically pro-nuclear Bush administration, DTE hopes to take advantage of many billions of dollars in U.S. taxpayer subsidies and federal loan guarantees approved by Bush and Congress in recent years.

 

Once DTE submits its application, NRC will schedule public “scoping” hearings about four to five months later (that is, in early 2009) to receive comments from concerned citizens about environmental, public health, safety and security concerns. Concerned citizens would then have to establish “standing” in order to file official contentions against the new reactor before an NRC “Atomic Safety and Licensing Board,” a proceeding now scheduled to take place in mid-2011.

 

Please attend the meeting next Wednesday, and spread the word. A good turn out of concerned citizens will show the nuclear establishment in industry and government that strong opposition exists in Michigan and Northwest Ohio (site of the near-meltdown at Davis-Besse nuclear plant in 2002). Such opposition in just this neck of the woods led to the defeat of a radioactive waste dump targeted at southern Michigan by eight states in the 1980s and 1990s, after all!

See the NRC meeting announcement below. Contact Kevin Kamps at Beyond Nuclear, at (240) 462-3216 or by email at kevin@beyondnuclear.org, for more information, or for ideas on concerns that you can raise at the meeting next week.”

McCain Promotes Nuclear Energy in Michigan Visit

On Tuesday, Republican Party presidential candidate John McCain spoke at the Fermi 2 nuclear power plant in southeast Michigan. His speech–largely held in response to Obama’s unveiling of his new energy plan–outlined support for “clean coal” and nuclear power, including the construction of 45 nuclear power plants.

110607-john_mccain.jpg

Republican presidential candidate John McCain was in southeast Michigan yesterday at the Fermi 2 nuclear power plant. Just 24 hours after Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama spoke about his energy plan, McCain laid out part of his energy platform. The Arizona Senator began his remarks by saying, “It’s time we got serious about energy independence.”

McCain stated that he supports the construction of an additional 45 nuclear power plants as a way to “reduce our dependence on foreign oil without adding to climate change.” McCain did not present any new energy policy proposals while in Michigan, instead he continued to promote what he calls his Lexington Project. The Lexington Project calls for an expansion of domestic oil exploration and production, a clean car challenge, the use of what is referred to as “clean coal,” an investment in alternative energy, and a “cap and trade system that would set limits on greenhouse gas emissions.” Under McCain’s plan, there would be a 60% reduction in carbon levels by 2050.

McCain took the opportunity to criticize Senator Obama by saying that the Democratic Senator “was against off-shore drilling and against nuclear power.” The fact is that in recent days Barak Obama has reconsidered his position on off-shore drilling and has been a strong proponent of nuclear power. Recently, the two presidential candidates have been making claims about each other’s energy policies. In a new ad by the Obama campaign, the ad overstates McCain’s relationship to oil companies and how much money his campaign has received from them. According to the non-partisan FactCheck.org, McCain has received $1.3 million from the oil industry, not the $2 million the ad claims. The Obama ad also claims that McCain would “propose another $4 billion in tax breaks” for the oil industry. However, FactCheck.org writes, “McCain is not proposing new tax breaks specifically targeted to the oil industry. He’s proposing a general reduction in the corporate income tax rate, which Democrats figure would benefit the five largest oil and gas companies by $3.8 billion.”

McCain did address a crowd of supporters while in southeast Michigan, but according to the Detroit News, there were protestors outside the gates of the nuclear power plant, several of them were union workers with the Fermi 2 plant who held signs in support of Senator Obama.

Radioactive Contamination Confirmed at Palisades Plant

photo of palisades plant

Another sample of ground water at the Palisades nuclear power plant in Covert, Michigan has confirmed the presence of the radioactive substance known as tritium. The tests–a follow-up to tests last week–found levels of tritium at 22,000 picocuries per liter, or 2,000 above the limits set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). These tests were conducted on site, with samples sent to an offsite lab for additional testing. Once that testing is completed, Palisades’ staff will reportedly begin the process of finding the source of the contamination and begin trying to “address” it.

A report in the corporate media also says that the mayor of nearby South Haven is looking into having the city’s water tested for tritium. Representatives from Palisades have said that the contamination affects only ground water and not drinking water and poses no health risk. They say that because the contamination has been found in only one of five shallow wells between the plant and Lake Michigan, the contamination is contained.

Groundwater Contamination Found Near Palisades Nuclear Plant

photo of palisades plant

Groundwater samples taken on Monday near the Palisades nuclear power plant in Southwest Michigan have revealed radioactive contamination. A report filed by the plant–which is operated by New Orleans-based Entergy–found a concentration of tritium at 22,000 picoCuries per liter. This level of concentration exceeds levels set by the Environmental Protection Agency for drinking water. The EPA says that while tritium disperses quickly in the body and is excreted through urine, exposure to tritium can increase a person’s risk of developing cancer because it emits radiation.

In an article in the Grand Rapids Press, officials at the plant downplayed the finding, saying that it was not even required to report the finding because it was not found in a well that provides drinking water. In the same article, plant communications manager Mark Savage said, “there is no indication that this material has migrated to the other wells or to Lake Michigan.” However, the Michigan Messenger cites a study by the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research concluded that the federal limit for tritium in drinking water needs to be strengthened as it is “much more effective at causing harm than currently assumed by regulations” and can have a ” much more pronounced” effect on fetal development.

Citizens groups in Michigan have consistently challenged the safety of the Palisades plant, which began operating in 1971. They cite what they consider to be a history of accidents and the environmental threat of having the plant on the shore of Lake Michigan. Recent incidents at the plant include workers being exposed to radiation last year and a lawsuit charging that the plant is in violation of earthquake safety regulations. Despite preliminary approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the plant is still awaiting a proposed twenty-year extension of its operating license.

“No Nukes Rally” Planned for Palisades Plant

photo of palisades nuclear protest

Less than a month after a court filing charging that the Palisades Nuclear Plant in Covert, Michigan threatens environmental and human health, activists are planning a “No Nukes Rally” near the plant. The rally is demands that the government “Shut it down before it melts down.”

The protest announcement:

NO NUKES RALLY AGAINST PALISADES ATOMIC REACTOR!

“On the Beach,” at Van Buren State Park, on the Lake Michigan shoreline 23960 Ruggles Road South Haven, MI 49090

(From I-96 take Exit 13 W. 1/2 mile, N. on Old Blue Star Hwy. For 4 miles. Left on Cr 380, then left on Ruggles Rd.)

Sunday, July 22, 2 p.m.

Speakers from Don’t Waste Michigan & the Michigan Peace March (20th anniversary celebration)

Music by Great Lakes singer-songwriter Victor McManemy of Traverse City

SHUT IT DOWN BEFORE IT MELTS DOWN!

For more info. on the ongoing grassroots resistance to Palisades atomic reactor, see:

www.nirs.org/reactorwatch/licensing/palisades.htm