July 25, 2019

Are nuclear sites prepared for increased wildfires?    
Flooding, fires and earthquakes will increase under the worsening climate crisis. Drought-induced fires around the Chernobyl zone have already contributed to redistribution of radioactive contamination originally caused by the 1986 accident in Ukraine. And just this week we were again reminded just how high the stakes are when US nuclear facilities are in the line of fire, literally, as wildfires threatened the Idaho National Laboratory and the Hanford nuclear reservation in Washington State. In June 2011, the Las Conchas wildfire in New Mexico (pictured) came dangerously close to the Los Alamos National Laboratory; the November 2018 Woolsey Fire in California began at the Santa Susanna (nuclear) Field Laboratory. Commercial nuclear power plants are equally at risk. But, as we wrote on Beyond Nuclear International in April, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has changed its rule requiring plant owners to anticipate and protect against new and greater threats brought on by climate change, from mandatory to voluntary, and on the cheap. While an earlier version of the rule required a per reactor expenditure of $1.7 million to prepare for climate change threats not anticipated when the reactor was originally designed, that figure was slashed to a paltry $110,000. And despite recognizing that fire is the number one threat to reactor safety at nuclear power plants, the NRC routinely waives fire rule violations even though there are on average 10 fires a year at US nuclear power plants, a number that could increase under climate crisis conditions. 
Bailout enacted in Ohio, clearly "the best democracy that nuclear/coal lobbyists can buy"!   
That's one small step for bought off Ohio state legislators, one giant leap -- backwards, to the 1950s -- for the State of Ohio. The highly controversial, broadly opposed (by 70%+ of Ohioans, polls show) nuclear/coal bailout -- held off for over five years by grassroots resistance -- has tragically been passed by the Republican majority Ohio State House of Representatives by a very narrow margin. It has now been signed into law by Republican Ohio Governor Mike DeWine. Thus, Ohio ratepayers will now pay, yet again, yet another, nuclear and coal tax/surcharge on their electric bills. The dangerously age-degraded Davis-Besse and Perry atomic reactors, on the Great Lakes shoreline, will enjoy the lion's share -- $150 million per year. But two dirty, asthma-inducing and climate-destroying, 1950s coal burners -- one located in Indiana -- will also reap the Ohio ratepayers' bailout; the Ohio Valley Electric Co-operative (OVEC) coal burners formerly provided electricity for uranium enrichment in Ohio and Kentucky, for both nuclear weapons and nuclear power generation. As Sierra Club/Beyond Coal has urged, thanks (to Ohio legislators who voted against this nuclear/coal bailout boondoggle) are in order, as are "spanks" (expressions of outrage, towards Ohio legislators who voted in favor of it). If you reside in Ohio, please take direct action. If you don't, please spread word to folks you know who do, to register their thanks and/or "spanks" to their own state representative and senator. Ohio has now joined New York, Illinois, New Jersey, and Connecticut in bailing out, at exorbitant ratepayer expense (to the tune of many billions of dollars), dangerously old atomic reactors that likely would have otherwise shutdown for good. These bailouts come at the expense, and opportunity cost, of genuinely clean energy -- renewables like solar and wind power, as well as efficiency upgrades -- thus foregoing true solutions to the worsening climate crisis, as well as risking breakdown-phase atomic reactor meltdowns. The bailouts also enable the ongoing generation of 20+ metric tons of high-level radioactive waste per year, per reactor -- a forever deadly curse upon all future generations, as there is no safe, sound solution for the radioactive waste dilemma. To learn more about the bane of these expanding old atomic reactor bailouts, see our Nuclear Costs website section. ("Burning Money" image by Gene Case of Avenging Angels, above right; "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy" is a book title by Greg Palast, himself a nuclear power watch-dog.)
Jolted, Nevada's leaders highlight risks of earthquakes at targeted Yucca Mountain high-level radioactive waste dump-site
On July 4 and 5, 6.4- and 7.1-magnitude earthquakes, epicentered in Ridgecrest, CA, jolted southern Nevada, including Las Vegas, as well as the proposed national dump-site for high-level radioactive waste targeted at Yucca Mountain, on Western Shoshone Indian land. (See photo of Yucca taken by Ian Zabarte, Principal Man, Western Bands of the Shoshone Nation of Indians, and Secretary, Native Community Action Council, an official party with legal standing in the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Yucca Mountain dump licensing proceeding.) In response, Nevada's governor, Steve Sisolak, and bipartisan U.S. congressional delegation, wrote Trump administration U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry, doubling down on the state's 32-year long resistance to the proposed dump. They were backed by Nevada's state geologist, as well as its state seismologist. Sisolak stated "These significant recent earthquakes so near to Yucca Mountain show one of the many geologic problems with the site as a nuclear waste repository and only strengthen my resolve to fight any continued federal effort to use Nevada as the nation's nuclear dumping ground. I'm proud to join our bipartisan group of federal representatives in once again sending the loud and clear message that Yucca has never been, and will never be, good for Nevada." Not only would below-ground waste burial tunnels be at risk of seismic and/or volcanic activity, but so too would surface storage and waste handling facilities, as well as transportation infrastructure for importing irradiated nuclear fuel. Nevada first officially raised such contentions in its opposition to the dump in 2008, citing a 5.6-magnitude quake in June 1992, epicentered at Little Skull Mountain, less than ten miles from Yucca, which caused extensive damage to the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) field office at the site. In spring 2002, a magnitude-4+ quake struck near Yucca shortly before the U.S. House vote to override Nevada's veto of the proposed Yucca dump; DOE announced no damage to the underground Exploratory Studies Facility tunnel, even before checking the accuracy of its statement. In the late 1990s, Western science began to catch up with Shoshone traditional wisdom, documenting with Global Positioning Satellite data that indeed Yucca Mountain is expanding due to plate tectonics. The ancient Shoshone name for Yucca is "Serpent Swimming Westward." What can you do? Contact your U.S. Representative, and both your U.S. Senators. Urge they block any funding for the Yucca dump, and oppose any congressional bills that would resume Yucca dump licensing, or undermine safety, health, and environmental standards at the site. You can be connected to your Congress Members' D.C. offices via the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121. You can also join with your friends, colleagues, family, and neighbors, and demand a meeting with your Congress Members' during their August recess back home, to communicate in person your opposition to the Yucca dump and its inevitable Mobile Chernobyl transportation risks (see 2017 maps for impacts on your area). To learn more about resistance to the Yucca dump, please see our relevant website section.  
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All best wishes,

The Beyond Nuclear team