Pro Nukes & Anti Nukes heat up their messages: will it make a difference?
By Abby Luby
America is taking to the streets. The month-long "Occupy Wall Street" is seen as a highly charged beacon of free speech and activism, a force that has roused protesters from their comfy cyber soap boxes out to public parks and sidewalks.
The anti-nuclear movement is no exception.
Over the last few weeks, mass rallies across the United States have protested the dangers of nuclear power, a cry still echoing from the devastating destruction of the Fukushima plants in Japan last March. The urgent message from anti-nuclear forces here: "it can happen here."
Under the umbrella of "A National Day of Action for America's Nuclear Free Future," protesters took to the streets in New York City, St. Petersburg, Fort Lauderdale and Fort Meyers in Florida, San Clemente and San Diego, California, Atlanta, Michigan, Ohio, Asbury Park, New Jersey, Raleigh, North Carolina and Virginia.
These protests were fueled not only by the harrowing and cataclysmic events still unfolding at Fukushima, but by recent e arthquakes, hurricanes, floods and tornadoes here in the United States - events that the nuclear industry's oversight agency, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission considers "unlikely" to affect the safety of nuclear power plants in this country. www.nrc.gov.
The NRC is unwavering in their federal conscripts, wearing their own brand of blinders tailored to forge ahead, re-licensing aging plants and building new ones, regardless of overt warning signs of possible dangers.
A story on iwatchnews in September http://www.iwatchnews.org (Nuclear miscalculation: "Why regulators miss power plant threats from quakes and storms," by Susan Q. Stranahan), reported that the NRC considers a Fukushima type quake and tsunami a rare event in this country. The feds stolidly held to this adage while Americans lived through a quake in Virginia that shut down that state's North Anna Power Station in August and caused the radioactive spent fuel storage casks to move unexpectedly, a tornado that ripped up the South and brought down transmission towers at the Browns Ferry power plant in Atlanta. And when Hurricane Irene ravaged the East Coast, a Maryland reactor was forced to shut down after loosened metal siding blustered up and sliced into the transformer's high power lines.
That the NRC says they are processing all this information and initiating studies on the effects of these "unlikely" events adds incrementally to the frustrations of the anti-nuclear movement which is determined to rid the country of old and poorly designed nuclear power plants. Their voices are heard not only on the street, but in courtrooms and in the legal catacombs of administration procedural hearings. Here in New York State, the battle over whether the NRC will re-license the 40-year old Indian Point Nuclear Power Plants, 24 miles from New York City, has become the longest and highly contested application in the agency's history. Entergy, the plant's owner, filed for a new operating license in 2007 to keep their twin reactors on the banks of the Hudson River running until 2033 and 2035. Their licenses expire in 2013 and 2015. The re-licensing process usually takes four to five years, but a litany of contentions may take Entergy's application past their expiration dates.
Governor Andrew Cuomo reiterated his campaign promise to shutter Indian Point in a chat last month on his new virtual chat blog, http://www.citizenconnects.com/. He said the power from Indian Point could be replaced, according to The Daily News. http://personals.nydailynews.com/blogs/dailypolitics/2011/09/cuomo-replacement-indian-point-power-can-be-found. Prior to Cuomo's chat, in July, New York State won a major victory after a groundbreaking decision by the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board ruled in favor of a petition served by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. The AG argued the NRC's environmental review violated the law by not requiring Entergy to complete severe accident mitigation analysis. This means the NRC must require Entergy to upgrade their accident impact plans unless the utility company can prove a compelling reason to refuse.
In 2010, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation denied Entergy a Water Quality Certification, which is required by law to operate the power plants. Because heated water is spewed out from Indian Point's once-through cooling system and into the Hudson River, killing billions of fish yearly, the DEC wants Entergy to upgrade their cooling system. Although Entergy is appealing the DEC decision, the NRC says the case has no impact on Indian Point's re-licensing application. When Patricia Kurkul, Regional Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for the National Marine Fisheries Service, asked the NRC if the uncertainty of the water quality issue would impact Entergy's re-licensing application, the NRC told her that "Notwithstanding the uncertain outcome of New York's Section 401 Water Quality adjudication, the NRC is required to move forward with its review of the LRA (license renewal application) as submitted by Entergy (http://pbadupws.nrc.gov/docs/ML1125/ML11259A018.pdf).