Monthly Archives: August 2013

Sea Lion Update, 8/30/13

In a recent report there was no evidence of infection or toxin contributing to the death of the sea pups.   There was no apparent study of the possibility of radiation.  There was simply not enough food.

It’s not easy for scientists to figure out what’s killing animals that spend most of their lives offshore and out of sight. Of the 60 unusual mortality events declared by NMFS since 1991, researchers have found the cause of fewer than half. Marine biotoxins, poisons produced by microscopic algae, accounted for roughly 50 percent of those, and infectious diseases a quarter. The last three events for sea lions were the result of poisoning by domoic acid, a biotoxin that can build up in shellfish, sardines, and anchovies, and affect the neurological functioning of the mammals that eat them, including sea lions and people. Symptoms include seizures and disorientation, including sea lions wandering inland and walking the streets.

But this year, researchers didn’t see symptoms typical of poisoning or infectious disease, says Sarah Wilkin, an NMFS marine biologist and its stranding coordinator for the Southwestern United States. The sea lion pups weren’t having seizures. And on the whole, they weren’t showing signs of disease, such as breathing problems, runny noses, and diarrhea. NMFS researchers took blood and tissue samples from living and dead pups to test for bacteria, viruses, biotoxins, and other contaminants; they checked their stomach contents—measures that Palmer and her team, in crisis mode, didn’t have the resources to handle.

Now, roughly four months later, NMFS researchers are still compiling the test results. But so far, it seems, the pups weren’t sick; they were just hungry. Many arrived weighing less than half of their normal body weight and were dehydrated. For some reason, they had stopped nursing early and weren’t getting as much food as they needed; in many cases, simply providing the pups with fish seemed to restore them to health.

There has been little information about the demise of  the sea pups.  This piece is interesting for what they did not find.   Perhaps it was some unexplainable anomaly.  This story will be followed into next season to see if there is a repeat.

Another posting  looked at fish that have been destroyed by the intake of power plants on the West Coast, and indicates that:

Fish of all species have been dramatically declining in population all along the California coast, which is likely contributing to the starved sea lions that have been washing up on Orange County beaches in large numbers this year, according to a study by the University of California, San Diego.  Based on data collected from the filtration systems of five coastal California power plants since 1972, the study shows a 78 percent drop in not only commercially fished species, but also the smaller “forage” fish like sardines that provide sustenance for larger predatory fish and sea birds.

The data is not detailed enough to know how much of the decline is since the nuclear reactor disaster at Fukushima.   It does show a disturbing loss of fish population over the past 40 years,

Vermont Yankee to close, 12/14 !

In a press release today  (h/t to AG member Donna Riley) Entergy announced that they would close the plant at the end of the current fuel cycle, in !2/14.

The decision to close Vermont Yankee in 2014 was based on a number of financial factors, including:

  • A natural gas market that has undergone a transformational shift in supply due to the impacts of shale gas, resulting in sustained low natural gas prices and wholesale energy prices.
  • A high cost structure for this single unit plant. Since 2002, the company has invested more than $400 million in the safe and reliable operation of the facility. In addition, the financial impact of cumulative regulation is especially challenging to a small plant in these market conditions.
  • Wholesale market design flaws that continue to result in artificially low energy and capacity prices in the region, and do not provide adequate compensation to merchant nuclear plants for the fuel diversity benefits they provide.

This is very exciting news.   The Burlington Press had a story, and reported:

Regarding decommissioning, assuming end of operations in fourth quarter 2014, the amount required to meet the NRC minimum for decommissioning financial assurance for license termination is $566 million. The Vermont Yankee decommissioning trust had a balance of approximately $582 million as of July 31, 2013,

Despite all the financial subsidies the reactor at Vermont Yankee is not economical in the current environment.  Fracking has brought down the price of energy.  We await to hear about the environmental impact on the nation brought on by fracking.

Although Entergy plans to shut down the reactor late next year, the fundamental issues remain.    The health risks are the same for the next year.   The question of decommissioning remains.    There are some reports that Entergy plans to use “safe-store;” the reactor will be left alone for 40-60 years.  Other people are arguing that the entire contents should be placed in dry storage instead of wet storage.   The plant is not shut down until it is completely decommissioned.

A recent report in the Burlington Free Press stated:

Entergy will likely need decades to finalize the decommissioning of its Vermont Yankee nuclear plant, according to information on the plant’s website. Workers will remain at the plant until it completely shuts down. Used nuclear fuel will be stored on-site, as its removal is the responsibility of the U.S. government.

The prospects are that reactor will be dangerous for decades to come.

Finally, the Hampshire Gazette ran the following editorial on August 29, 2013:

The fight to close the aging and unsafe Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant shifts now to a cleanup that could last longer than the 41 years the plant has generated electricity.

The surprise many felt Tuesday over news that Entergy Corp. of Louisiana will take the plant off-line for good late next year, when its fuel runs low, may be turning to shock at the enormity of the environmental challenge posed by decommissioning.

Raymond Shadis, technical adviser to the New England Coalition, observed Tuesday that his group and other environmental and public safety advocates must remain involved with the fate of Vermont Yankee. That’s because by next year the plant will no longer be a money-maker for Entergy, but a liability, impure and simple. “Just a nuclear waste pile … from which the public and the environment need to be protected,” Shadis said Tuesday.

The company plans to move the reactor into the “safe store” status outlined by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. By one estimate, it could take 70 years for levels of radiation to subside to levels safe enough to dismantle the structure.

Spent nuclear fuel will be entombed in concrete casks on the site because the nation has no waste storage system for this industry, a problem that has dogged its prospects for decades. A Vermont Yankee decommissioning fund holds nearly half a billion dollars, but even that is expected to fall well short of the costs of safeguarding the public from the residue of its operations.

Plant opponents long argued that Entergy, which bought Vermont Yankee for $180 million in 2002, could not operate it safely. Strong evidence of that came in early 2010, when it was learned that radioactive tritium had been leaking into the ground at the plant from pipes that Entergy officials had repeatedly insisted, in testimony to Vermont regulators in 2009, did not exist. Two years before that, a cooling tower partially collapsed, raising worries about the overall integrity of the facility.

Plant opponents long argued that Entergy, which bought Vermont Yankee for $180 million in 2002, could not operate it safely. Strong evidence of that came in early 2010, when it was learned that radioactive tritium had been leaking into the ground at the plant from pipes that Entergy officials had repeatedly insisted, in testimony to Vermont regulators in 2009, did not exist. Two years before that, a cooling tower partially collapsed, raising worries about the overall integrity of the facility.

Even as it faced huge costs, including a $150 million expense to replace a 40-year-old steam condenser, Entergy spent heavily on its legal battles with the state of Vermont to protect its viability. It had won many of them, particularly a U.S. District Court case in which Judge J. Garvan Murtha decided last year that only the federal government, not Vermont, held the authority to compel the plant to close. The month before, the NRC awarded it a new 20-year license. Things seemed to be going the company’s way. But the rise of relatively cheap natural gas proved a big competitor.

And, significantly, the state of Vermont kept the pressure on. And in the end, though Entergy’s chairman and CEO said Tuesday a changing energy market forced “an agonizing decision and an extremely tough call,” the state of Vermont’s sustained campaign to hold Entergy accountable for environmental hazards must have figured in as well.

Residents of the Valley who live in the evacuation zone, or downwind and downriver, owe a debt of gratitude to Vermont officials who took unpopular stands related to Vermont Yankee. The closing will cost southern Vermont more than 600 jobs — a workforce that will likely never be replicated, even through investments in renewable energy. Hundreds of plant employees live in Massachusetts, whose border is but five miles from the plant.

Though most people reading this will not be alive to see the cleanup be completed, the plant’s closing next year means the Connecticut River will no longer receive millions of gallons of heated water — a form of thermal pollution that degrades habitats and endangers fish populations.

Despite that immediate gain, the call to activism will continue to sound. There is little doubt that Valley residents who have protested the plant’s operation virtually since its opening in 1972 will remain vigilant.

They deserve credit for putting environmental ideals and the public’s well-being ahead of their own interests.

Officials are already promising to press the NRC to see that the Vermont Yankee decommissioning moves along as quickly as possible and that, in time, the hazards it posed to human health fade away.

Greenfield Report, Ed, August 12, 2013

Andy & Robin …
Two and a half days and it’s recording.
I leave tomorrow morning .. back 7 September.
I’ll leave it recording (PRM-9000 next to a cracked window) until then.
Any anomalies during that time, I’ll send them along.
Cheers …  Ed

Inline image 3

This is the first report by the Vernon Radiation Committee, and shows results a several day monitoring from Greenfield, MA.   Unfortunately, the screenshot lacks the detail to actually identify the numbers.  I will check with Ed when he returns.
This does show our early success of getting a Geiger Counter, and setting up a computer to monitor data for a period of time.

Federal Court rules against Vermont 8/15/13

In distressing news from the Vermont Digger,

Three justices from the U.S. Court of Appeals decided Wednesday that the Vermont Legislature is federally preempted from shutting down the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant.

After U.S. District Court Judge J. Garvan Murtha made the same preemption ruling in January 2012, Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell appealed to the higher court. In a 56-page decision, the appellate judges upheld the crux of Murtha’s ruling in favor of Entergy Corp., Vermont Yankee’s parent company.

The judges agreed that the Legislature was chiefly motivated by concerns of radiological safety when it created two laws aimed at regulating Vermont Yankee. Safety falls under the purview of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission — not state legislatures.

– See more at: http://vtdigger.org/2013/08/14/breaking-state-loses-appeal-on-right-to-close-vermont-yankee/#sthash.vvPqnvFG.dpuf

There is still a determination to be made by the Board of Public Good.  Governor Shumlin was quoted as saying:

While Wednesday’s decision from the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York blocks the Legislature’s efforts to close the plant it does not halt review of the Vernon reactor’s operations by the state Public Service Board.

The board is slated to rule later this year on whether Vermont Yankee and its owner, Entergy Corp., should get a certificate of public good to operate until 2032.

News of the Flotilla at Vernon, 8/10/13

A recent article in the Rutland Herald reported that the NRC has accepted a suit that raises questions about Entergy’s finances.  Deb Katz was quoted as saying:

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will investigate the finances of three nuclear reactors owned by Entergy Nuclear — Vermont Yankee, Pilgrim in Massachusetts and the FitzPatrick reactors in New York — as a result of a petition by four anti-nuclear groups.  Deb Katz, executive director of the Citizens Awareness Network, said Saturday that the NRC accepting the petition for review was a major accomplishment for the groups. She said she hoped the NRC would get answers to many people’s questions about Entergy’s financial status.  Katz made her remarks during the “Flotilla 2013” rally and protest Saturday on the banks of the Connecticut River, directly across from the Vermont Yankee plant in Vernon, Vt. .

I went out in a boat and took this picture.  It shows the guard towers with guards who have shoot to kill orders, the fences, and the concertina wire.   It looks like a prison, but it is to keep people out.   The place is that dangerous.   What other industry has such powers of protection other than prisons and the military?   I went further down stream and put a thermometer into the water.   it went from 74 to 84 in about thirty feet at the outflow track.FImage

Oh, no: Tepco pants on fire, August 11, 2013

In a recent post Tepco spokesperson Masayuki Ono stated

A spokesperson for Tokyo Electric Power Company says the company has known for the past 2 years that a massive amount of groundwater was flowing beneath the Fukushima Daiichi power plant.  Masayuki Ono said on Friday that TEPCO experts estimated hundreds of tons of the water could reach the ocean daily.
Ono said the estimate was based on rough records of groundwater that TEPCO workers had collected.  Until last month, TEPCO officials had denied the possibility that contaminated groundwater was leaking into the ocean.   Ono said he is unable to explain why it took two years to disclose this fact.

The nuclear industry has been based on secrets and lies since the beginning.   They have been found out; at times the truth will prevail.  Will the responsible people be held liable, or will the corporations continue with their criminal behavior?

Mud making at Fukushima August 9, 2013

In a post today in Global Research, based on an article in the WSJ, discussed what happens when you pour lots of water onto earth.

      The spent fuel pool at Fukushima Unit 4 is the top short-term threat to humanity, and is a national security issue for America.   As such, it is disturbing news that the ground beneath unit 4 is sinking.   Specifically, Unit 4 sunk 36 inches right after the earthquake, and ha sunk another 30 inches since then.    Moreover, Unit 4 is sinking unevenly, and the building may begin tilting.

You make mud.   The reactor is slowly sinking into the ground.   The science seems primitive, but it makes for good politics: something is being done.