by Pat Marida, chair, Ohio Sierra Club Nuclear Issues Committee

Sierra Club No Nukes Summit:  The Sierra Club No Nukes Summit was held May 4-7 in Washington, DC.  Four members of our committee joined 80 other activists from 19 states and Canada.  On Friday and Saturday we heard keynote speakers; Sunday was strategic planning; Monday we met with Sierra staff at the Club’s downtown office and activists visited legislative offices.  Ohioans met with Jonathan McCracken and Ben Cohen at Sherrod Brown’s office.

In our strategic work, separate groups outlined outcomes for 1) stopping new reactors;  2) phasing out and shutting down old reactors;  3) ending “front end” nuclear processes including uranium mining and enrichment while promoting cleanup of toxic mining sites and enrichment sites;  and 4) ending a legacy of irresponsible handling and disposal practices for low level nuclear waste and opposing consolidated storage of high level irradiated spent nuclear fuel.

The national No Nukes Team is currently in the process of forming 4 Working Groups, each dealing with one of the 4 strategic areas, with the goal of launching our Nuclear Free Initiative in the near future.

AMP-Ohio Promotes Nuclear Relapse:  American Municipal Power-Ohio (AMP) is a nonprofit corporation based in Columbus which owns and operates electric facilities and provides generation, transmission, and distribution of electric power to 121 member municipal electric systems – 81 in Ohio, 27 in Pennsylvania, 7 in Michigan, 4 in Virginia, and 2 in West Virginia.  AMP recently signed a letter of intent with Santee Cooper to explore potential purchase of share of Summer Nuclear Station units 2 and 3 in South Carolina.

In March, 2012, the NRC approved the construction license of these two proposed reactors at the Summer location. NRC chairman Gregory Jaczko cast the lone dissenting vote, saying “I continue to believe that we should require that all Fukushima-related safety enhancements are implemented before these new reactors begin operating”. The reactors are expected to go online in 2017 and 2018 respectively. The Sierra Club is promoting city council resolutions against the proposal in AMP cities.

NEWGreen Gets Ohio and ORDC Funding:  According to their website, “NEWGreen Legacy Services Radioactive Material Program is designed to reduce or eliminate the legacy storage of large components which are, presently, cost prohibitive to dispose of and create unnecessary radiological challenges to operating power plants.”  More information can be found at their website.

The NEWGreen facility is located next to the Perry Nuclear Station on Lake Erie. Their CEO is Patrick New. However, the Sierra Club disagrees that the facility is “green”.  What will become of the radioactivity they remove?   Who will be monitoring the operation for radiological hazards?  Will they be doing incineration?  Not only is there danger of leaks from these processes contaminating the waters of Lake Erie, but shipments by rail and by ship across the Great Lakes pose incalculable hazards.

For 2 years the Sierra Club and other anti-nuclear activists in 2 countries have been opposing shipments of 100-ton radioactive steam generators from the Bruce Nuclear Station on Lake Huron in Ontario through Lake Erie and the St. Lawrence to Sweden for “refurbishing”.  Lately there has not been a big push from Ontario Power to get US permission for the shipments.  Perhaps they are waiting for a closer facility to open?

On March 21, 2011 NEWGreen held a ribbon-cutting ceremony, boasting that they had over 50,000 square feet of space, that they had secured two large contracts, and that plans were in place to secure funding for lakefront development which might include a barge and rail system for shipping very large pieces of equipment, some reaching over 100 tons. That could include the radioactive steam generators from Great Lakes reactors.

We have just learned that in Feb. 2012, the Ohio Department of Development (ODD) approved an economic development loan and assistance to NEWGreen. Their $600,000 forgivable loan is for the feat of creating 40 and saving 20 jobs at NEWGreen’s Perry Township headquarters.

We also just learned that in March, 2012 The Ohio Rail Development Commission (ORDC) agreed to give a $50,000 grant and a loan of $500,000 to NEWGreen for the rehabilitation of 15,000 ft of existing track and at-grade crossings and the construction of a new 4,000 ft siding. The $550,000 in ORDC funding will be matched by the ODD’s $600,000 forgivable loan and approximately $785,000 of NEWGreen investment.

USEC at Piketon and Paducah:  USEC, Inc. has already received well over $1 billion worth of federal subsidies of multiple types for the construction of a uranium enrichment plant at Piketon, OH.  With this money, the company has completed 38 of a promised 11,500 centrifuges, 6 of which crashed in June 2011 due to a power outage.  The technology does not work, and the company is close to bankruptcy.

Nonetheless, a $100 million subsidy for USEC was added to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) by the US House.  Up to $150 million is expected to be proposed in the senate. However, the senate has given the US Dept. of Energy (DOE) the authority to transfer $150 million of its funds to USEC, so USEC may receive this sum even if the money is struck from the NDAA.  In January, DOE assumed liability for $44 million of USEC’s depleted uranium, which gave USEC enough money to keep the company afloat through March.

USEC currently enriches uranium at an energy-guzzling 1950’s-era gaseous diffusion plant in Paducah, KY. A contract between DOE, USEC, the Tennessee Valley Authority and Energy Northwest was finalized in May with $777 million being rearranged between entities. The deal provides a one-year enrichment contract for USEC that will provide enough uranium fuel to power TVA reactors and Energy Northwest’s Columbia Station reactor for 10 years.

The DOE will give Energy Northwest depleted uranium and Energy Northwest will contract with USEC to re-enrich it at Paducah.  It will likely take more energy to re-enrich the depleted uranium than the energy that can be derived from the enriched product. The Paducah diffusion process uses 20 times as much power as newer centrifuge technology.

Energy Northwest is a public entity that controls a federally-operated nuclear power plant in the state of Washington.  The deal has been called a “one year transition” to allow time for public officials and the community to formulate plans for use of the Paducah site when USEC’s enrichment plant closes.  The shutdown of the Paducah dinosaur would have happened years ago without government subsidies.

Why is the government subsidizing 2 uranium enrichment plants—one in Piketon that clearly doesn’t work and another in Paducah that uses 20 times as much electricity as its competition?  Politicians talk about “domestic source” and “national security”.  Domestic source is Pentagon jargon for its desire to use the facilities to enrich uranium for bombs and submarines, which they say they cannot do if enrichment plants have foreign ownership.  This hardly holds water, since USEC has legal arrangements with Japan and Russia.

USEC’s Coal Connection:  The Shawnee generating station in Kentucky has 9 active coal-fired generating units with a summer net capability of 1,206 megawatts. A tenth unit at Shawnee is idle.  USEC at Paducah used 1,855 MW of power to generate 6.5 million separative work units of uranium in 2008. That would indicate USEC needed more than just Shawnee for its power, in fact about 50% more.  According to TVA, “Shawnee generates about 8 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity a year, enough to supply 540,000 homes. The station consumes some 9,600 tons of coal a day.”  That’s over 3.5 million tons per year.

Freon releases at Paducah:  From USEC’s 2011 Annual Report, “The Paducah gaseous diffusion plant uses Freon as the primary process coolant. The production of Freon in the United States was terminated in 1995 and Freon is no longer commercially available. We estimate that our current supply of Freon would be sufficient to support at least 10 years of continued operations at current use rates.”

Freon use is grandfathered and DOE has stockpiled it.  Dr. Helen Caldicott references the use of Freon (CFC-114) at Paducah in an August 14, 2009 post at On Line Opinion, stating that Freon is 10,000 to 20,000 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Her careful research appears to come from the US EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory, although we are unable to locate the specific document.