Say what?

This is shocking – and depressing, since the NRC is largely a bunch of industry hacks:

WASHINGTON — A federal judge on Thursday blocked Vermont from forcing the Vermont Yankee nuclear reactor to shut down when its license expires in March, saying that the state is trying to regulate nuclear safety, which only the federal government can do.

The judge, J. Garvan Murtha of United States District Court in Brattleboro, Vt., also held that the state cannot force the plant’s owner, Entergy, to sell electricity from the reactor to in-state utilities at reduced rates as a condition of continued operation, as Entergy asserts it is now doing.

The nuclear operator filed a lawsuit last year challenging the constitutionality of a state law giving the Vermont Legislature veto power over operation of the reactor when its original 40-year license expires.

In an extensive review of the legislative record, Judge Murtha pointed out in his ruling that in remarks “too numerous to recount here,” state lawmakers and witnesses made clear that their effort to close the plant was “grounded in radiological safety concerns” — the province of the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The commission has already granted Vermont Yankee a 20-year license extension.

The ruling is almost certain to be appealed by the state and an array of private groups that want the plant shut down because of leaks of radioactive tritium and other issues.

10 thoughts on “Say what?

  1. Fundies think that abortion should be stopped because they believe that women will suffer irreparable emotional harm. When the Supreme Court agreed with them a couple of years ago, we all howled with rage because we knew that argument was untrue and could be proven.
    So, let’s apply the same sort of reason here. Is the plant dangerous or not? If you believe that all nuclear power plants are dangerous, shouldn’t you have to prove it before a court of law? And does the fact that a powerful group of state legislators proclaim to agree with you give them the right to extort electricity at a reduced rate?
    Don’t misunderstand me. I’m all for cheap power. But I also know for a fact that not all nuclear power plants are dangerous. It is unfair and seems to violate the rule of law to me to use an irrational belief in the inherent danger of all nuclear power plants as an excuse to extort goods or services from them. The same applies to pharmaceutical companies. Yes, they are run by greedy assholes. But it feels like extortion to sick class action lawyers on drugmakers for unavoidable side effects that only become apparent once the drug hits the general population and not a small clinical cohort.
    There are better ways to handle the drug situation to bring down the cost of drugs, neither party has tried them. It’s just a political football and useful to provoke their voters. Each side has a set of beliefs that is convenient to them to overcome the law. I don’t approve of either side doing this. It’s just as wrong to condemn all nuclear power plants as it is to condemn all abortions. The law is the law. We need to force people to prove themselves. It’s only fair.

  2. Actually, it’s worse than I thought. The people you should be condemning are the fucking hypocrites in the Vermont state government. They are perfectly happy with letting the power plant operate past it’s 40 year license. They should be all over that plant, rigorously enforcing safety standards. I took radiation safety training last year in order to operate an x-ray diffraction apparatus and the guy who trained me told me that since the feds turned over the oversight of radiation safety to the states, the states have not been able to keep up with all of the things they are supposed to be checking. Like your dentist’s x-ray machine. Go ahead and ask them when that sucker was inspected last. Here in NJ, there are thousands and thousands of them that are overdue for inspection. There are simply not enough qualified state employees to do the job.
    So, let’s assume that this situation is not unique to NJ. What reassurance do the citizens of Vermont have that the state has been thoroughly inspecting their power plants on a regular basis? The state is perfectly willing to let this aging plant remain online in order to extract reduced cost electricity from it. If Vermonters are really concerned with the safety of this plant, they need to verify that the plant is safe. And if they are really militant about nuclear power, they need to set an example and refuse to use it under any circumstances. Otherwise, Judge Murtha is right in his ruling. You can’t hate, hate, hate nuclear power and then accept it for a discount. That just looks craven and stupid.

  3. This is just one more example of the fact that the oligarchy (1%) will do exactly what the oligarchy wants to do and “we the people” be damned. Talk about a “nanny state” (or what is best for the entire group (country) may not be best for the smaller groups (states,etc.) within it). On the other hand this could be seen as a states rights issue. If you go that route and win, then forget about a single-payer, universal health care law. At least in the Red States. So the questions are, “How did we come to be trapped in this box that we are in? And how do we escape?” Any answers out there?

  4. In interviews and public statements, some current and former government officials have admitted that Japanese authorities engaged in a pattern of withholding damaging information and denying facts of the nuclear disaster — in order, some of them said, to limit the size of costly and disruptive evacuations in land-scarce Japan and to avoid public questioning of the politically powerful nuclear industry.

    The Canadian Medical Association Journal accused the Japanese government of “lying through its teeth”, though the Canadian and American governments haven’t done much better.

    The Nelson Daily points out:

    The Green Party of Canada said despite public concern over fallout from the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Health Canada failed to report higher than normal radioactive iodine levels in rainwater.

    The Greens have been calling for Canada to increase transparency around possible radioactive contamination in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

    “We were worried that this important information would not reach the public and unfortunately, it looks as if we were right,” said Green Leader Elizabeth May, MP for Saanich Gulf Islands in a written press release.

    It has now been revealed that data were not released from a Calgary Health Canada monitoring station detecting levels of radioactive iodine in rainwater well above the Canadian guideline for drinking water.

    This isotope was known to be released by the nuclear accident and also showed up in tests in Vancouver, Winnipeg and Ottawa. Lower levels of contamination resulted in a don’t-drink-rainwater advisory in Virginia.

    “Serious questions are arising about how Health Canada tests for radiation, and why it has failed to properly alert the public,” said May.

    “We find out now that monitoring appears inadequate, Health Canada data does not agree with that from independent researchers, and no information is making its way to the public.

    “In effect, Health Canada has not allowed Canadians to take any preventative steps to reduce our exposure to this radiation.”

    NPR (and see this) Bloomberg, USA Today and KUOW note that top-level whistleblowers say that extremely unsafe conditions at Oregon’s Hanford nuclear facility may cause a plutonium explosion leading to “dire” consequences. Whistleblowers have been severely punished in an effort to cover up the dangerous conditions.

  5. Fukushima Reactor Fuel Missing

    The New York Times pointed out last month:

    A former nuclear engineer with three decades of experience at a major engineering firm … who has worked at all three nuclear power complexes operated by Tokyo Electric [said] “If the fuel is still inside the reactor core, that’s one thing” …. But if the fuel has been dispersed more widely, then we are far from any stable shutdown.”

    If the center of the reactors are in fact relatively “cold”, it may be because most of the hot radioactive fuel has leaked out of the containment vessels and escaped into areas where it can do damage to the environment. After drilling a hole in the containment vessel of Fukushima reactor 2, Tepco cannot find the fuel:

    The steam-blurred photos taken by remote control Thursday found none of the reactor’s melted fuel ….

    The photos also showed inner wall of the container heavily deteriorated after 10 months of exposure to high temperature and humidity, Matsumoto said.

    TEPCO workers inserted the endoscope — an industrial version of the kind of endoscope doctors use — through a hole in the beaker-shaped container at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant’s No. 2 reactor ….

    The probe failed to find the water surface, which indicate the water sits at lower-than-expected levels inside the primary containment vessel and questions the accuracy of the current water monitors, Matsumoto said.

    And while cold shutdown means that the water inside the reactors is below the boiling point, CNN reports:

    Massive steam and water drops made clear vision difficult.

    Given that steam forms when water boils, this is an indication that the reactor is not in cold shutdown.

    Reactors 1 and 3 are probably in no better shape:

    The fuel inside the Nos. 1 to 3 reactors is believed to have melted through the pressure vessels and been accumulating in the outer primary containers after the Fukushima plant lost its key functions to cool the reactors in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami on March 11 last year.

    These two comments were posted over at my house, where they look a lot better as posts than comments (and the links work!). (I could make the links work but I’m on a roll)

  6. In the history Of nuclear power from around the world, we have three nuclear accidents that were important enough to make the news. One was a catastrophe due to bad design, one was a catastrophe preceded by a super major earthquake and a tsunami. And one was a minor blip compared to the other two caused by a stuck valve and an annunciator in the control room that the operators couldn’t see. In the last case, the media hyped the fallout, no pun intended, to irrational hysterical heights. We react like pavlov’s dogs to the sound of the word nuclear.
    But if we continue to behave like this, we may let mob logic prevail and make horrendously bad decisions. Nuclear power plants supply this country with too much power to shut them down. The first priority is to vigorously and rigorously monitor them and to have a healthy fear of their power. The second priority is not to demonize them to such an extent that they see citizens as the enemy and try to get around the regulations. And that means, don’t use fear of nuclear energy as an excuse to extort them. That’s wrong and as immoral as the bastards who work in executive offices trying to screw homeowners for heat.
    Be smart about it and hold them accountable.

  7. is there some reason you all are giving the vermont lawschool team a pass?

    are you all assuming that there was competent advocacy against the relicensing of vermont yankee?

    one narrative is “the NRC is largely a bunch of industry hacks”. another is “the VL-lead legal team is largely a bunch of incompetents styling as eco-thought-leaders”.

  8. “Nuclear power plants supply this country with too much power to shut them down.”

    That sounds a lot like “too big to fail”, doesn’t it?

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