Nuclear Newsreel, Thursday, January 30, 2014

The National Journal claims, without much in the way of evidence, that former NRC Chair Greg Jaczko is “persona non grata” on Capitol Hill and to the nuclear industry. On one level, that’s what happens when one speaks the truth. It might have been better if Jaczko had been even more aggressive when he was the Chair, although that would probably have reduced his effectiveness at the agency–and he did do a lot to make the NRC more safety-conscious, especially for a brief period of time following the Fukushima disaster. But he was up against four other Commissioners who see their mission as less to protect public health and safety than to protect the fading remnants of the nuclear power industry.

But in our view, becoming “persona non grata” to the nuclear industry and its Congressional allies is a badge of honor and we should all be thankful for Jaczko’s public statements since leaving office–especially those pointing out that all U.S. reactors suffer from fundamental design deficiencies and should be shut down.

We do have a real beef here with National Journal. They headlined the article Whatever Happened to Gregory Jaczko? and are actually the one coining the phrase that Jaczko is “persona non grata.” After all, no one is quoted to that effect and the only anti-Jaczko quote they could muster up came from the zealously pro-nuclear blogger Rod Adams–one of a dwindling few who think a nuclear “renaissance” would be a good idea. It seems to us that speaking the truth may be a little too much for the National Journal; in the context of this article they are not actually reporting on anything real, but rather they seem to be hoping to make that assessment a foregone conclusion. Jaczko’s views may not be mainstream to much of the Journal’s inside-the-Beltway audience; out in the real world they make a lot of sense.

Southern Co. submits new papers to DOE for $8+ Billion taxpayer loan for construction of new Vogtle reactors in Georgia. At the same time, Southern CEO Tom Fanning is quoted as saying progress on Vogtle construction “is terrific.” This is a rather startling assessment for a project that began two years ago and is already a year behind schedule and somewhere around $1 Billion over-budget. What isn’t clear is whether the papers Southern submitted to DOE are an acceptance of loan terms or perhaps a new proposal for those terms. Nor is it clear that the White House’s Office of Management and Budget has signed off on loan terms for the project; OMB’s apparent assessment that the project is quite risky has been the main stumbling block to completing the loan, which was first announced by President Obama nearly four years ago.

The new deadline for the loan deal is tomorrow, Friday, January 31; although since the deadline already has been extended several times, presumably it could be extended once again. More than 4,000 people have sent objections to the loan to DOE, President Obama and their Congressmembers in the past 24 hours. Keep it up! It’s not too late to stop this unnecessary, risky and plain nonsensical use of taxpayer dollars. Act here.

Note: we received one comment yesterday that the action link against the Vogtle loan didn’t work. We tested it and it worked for us. If you have any problems using this link or the action page, please let us know by sending us a brief note describing the problem to

Conservatives in UK take on their government’s fascination with “fast” reactors, specifically the PRISM reactor designed, but never built anywhere, by General Electric. This is the same type of design being promoted by a handful of climate scientists led by Dr. James Hansen. This piece, published on a Conservative website and headlined Nuclear power: The gift that keeps on taking, is an absolutely devastating indictment of the whole “fast” reactor concept. A must-read.

1400 people sue GE, Toshiba & Hitachi over reactor design issues that led to the Fukushima disaster. Yes, there wouldn’t have been a disaster without the initiating massive earthquake and tsunami, but the long-identified design flaws in Fukushima’s GE Mark I reactors are what turned a natural disaster into a nuclear catastrophe. Here’s hoping the Japanese courts accept this lawsuit for a full review and place some of the blame where it belongs: on the reactor manufacturers themselves.

Speaking of Fukushima and reactor safety issues, at this morning’s Senate Environment Committee hearing on the NRC’s response to the lessons of Fukushima, Committee Chair Barbara Boxer (D-CA) blasted the NRC for “unacceptable delay” in implementing post-Fukushima safety modifications. She also complained that the agency still has not turned over to the Committee key documents related to the safety issues that shut down southern California’s San Onofre reactors last year.

Photo from Greenpeace

Photo from Greenpeace

A beautiful Greenpeace action turns a major square in Budapest into an anti-nuclear symbol in protest against a Hungarian/Russian agreement to build two new reactors at Hungary’s Paks nuclear site.

DeSmogBlog is always worth a read. Today it analyzes the two big reasons why solar power is under siege from far-right groups like ALEC and traditional utilities.

Finally, this article points out that declining electrical demand dogs some big and very traditional private sector utilities, in this case Southern Company and American Electric Power. The utilities better get used to it: electricity demand may never again reach 2007 levels as energy efficiency programs in states across the country are proving effective policies at accomplishing exactly the goal of achieving declining electrical demand. That means less need for new power plants, especially the large nuclear and coal plants they utilities still favor.

Michael Mariotte


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