Thursday, October 8, 2009

Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood...

cc: Beth Parke, Executive Director, SEJ

October 8th, 2009

Dear Readers,

The Society of Environmental Journalists is holding its annual meeting this week, in Madison, Wisconsin.

James Rogers, Chairman, President and CEO of Duke Energy Corporation, which owns more than half a dozen nuclear power reactors, will be speaking tomorrow morning (10/9/2009) in "Capital Ballroom B" under the topic: "BIG THINK: Energy Policy in a New Economy." The panel presentation is supposed to discuss how to "set the world on a new, greener path." So what's HE doing there?!?

Another member of the panel will be a smart-grid enthusiast, Katherine Hamilton, president of the GridWise Alliance, which supports something I support, namely a smarter and greatly expanded electrical energy grid. But the Alliance works with: "the Union of Concerned Scientists, Natural Resources Defense Council, Midwest Research Institute and other organizations to lobby Congress and statehouses, including Maryland, on various clean energy policies and funding." MRI? Fine, but both the UCS and the NRDC are troubling allies. (The UCS is often referred to in this newsletter as the UUCS ("Union of UnConcerned Scientists" because of statement such as this: "While nuclear waste can be stored safely for the short term (in on-site concrete casks)..." (May, 2009 UCS factsheet.) That's not showing much concern! And the NRDC helps build wildlife "sanctuaries" around nuclear power plants, and that makes them happy. 'Nuff said 'bout them, too.) Hamilton worked with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, "to put into place several programs mandated in the Energy Policy Act of 1992, including federal energy audit and water conservation programs." So basically, she stays away from worrying about nuclear power.

Another panelist is Abrahm Lustgarten, Energy Reporter, ProPublica, former staff writer and contributor for Fortune, who received his masters in journalism from Columbia in 2003, and wrote a book about China with a grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, which supports public radio (PBS), which is the mouthpiece of the government for most things they talk about, and gets most of its money from the government (right now, PBS is getting a grant from NASA and announcing it daily (a VERY pro-nuclear government agency, which has launched dozens of plutonium-238-laden rockets and several small reactors, and some of these "toys" have failed, causing worldwide plutonium dispersals!)). Lustgarten does not appear to be an expert on the dangers of nuclear energy and is also hardly a counterbalance to Rogers.

The final panelist, Brian Czech, is a "certified wildlife biologist" who "applies his training and experience to economic issues, especially macroeconomic policy. He has 20 years of experience in federal, state, and tribal governments with duties ranging from firefighting to managing elk herds to developing national conservation policies. Czech is also a visiting professor at Virginia Tech University, where he teaches ecological economics and endangered species policy. A prolific author, Czech wrote the book Shoveling Fuel for a Runaway Train, which calls for an end to reckless economic growth." So basically, he stays away from worrying about nuclear power, too? So it appears. But he's probably plenty worried about "climate change" and "global warming," which nuclear power could be considered a source of, not a solution for, but Rogers will claim otherwise, because "they" always do. And it sounds like everyone on the panel will let him.

The moderator, Lisa Palmer, is an award-winning science writer and guess what? I can't find anything negative she has ever had to say about nuclear power!

Will questions from the audience make this event memorable? Palmer can ensure that doesn't happen, by, for example, letting each of these panelists make long-winded statements about how damaging global warming is to plant and animal species all over the world, and how badly BOTH expanded nuclear power AND most (but not all) green energy solutions need a better energy grid to be viable options (but not the same grid: The renewable one is more distributed, and thus, much more resilient).

It does not appear that anyone on the panel will be qualified, or interested in, grilling The Big Guy (Rogers, he's everywhere these days, he must have a fast jet at his disposal, I hope someone will ask him how he got there) about what HE knows about how tritium damages a fetus. Nothing, he's an executive, not a doctor, he'll say. You know it as well as I do.

No one on the panel will be asking Rogers what he expects to do with the nuclear waste his reactors have already created. It's well over ten million pounds of nuclear waste -- all his! He's been saying, "Yucca Mountain" for years (as have them all), but what does he say now? Reprocessing? That's even yuckier that "Yuckie" Mountain!

No one will ask what he expects to do with the waste from the new nuclear reactors he wants the government to build for him. That's us, folks, the common taxpayer, who will pay for his nukes (and his waste)! (And not to mention, his ratepayers, too, will pay particularly dearly for these things.) And that's after the government finishes paying billions of dollars to foreign-owned companies with American names (such as "Westinghouse" and "GE") to cover the costs of designing the new nuclear reactors.

If they only allow a few questions, it will surely be quite a whitewash. And, of course, with Palmer moderating the questions from the audience, there's no reason to expect the truth to be exposed even if they allow a thousand questions (in the 75 minutes allotted to this important topic).

It's unlikely that Mr. Rogers will be asked what he thinks will be the total number of Curies his reactors will release into the environment over their lifetime, and the total number of deaths he thinks these releases will cause. (Not including accidents he doesn't think have happened, let alone, accidents he doesn't think WILL happen.)

It's unlikely that the rate hikes that are inevitable if Duke continues to be a nuclear-focused company will be realistically expressed.

It's extremely unlikely the circular cracks in the flanges (they call them "nozzles" for some reason, but let's pray they never BECOME "nozzles") at the Oconee reactor (owned by Duke) will be discussed. These cracks went nearly all the way around some of the control-rod flanges (they call them "nozzles" but God forbid...). IF the cracks had gone just the least little bit further around it could have -- would have -- resulted in a MELTDOWN. Oops, Mr. Rogers, there goes the neighborhood! And the state it's in, with it (South Carolina)!

So-called "super-alloys" aren't so super. Numerous parts, from steam generators to pipes, pumps, valves, and the reactor vessels themselves, are falling apart sooner than expected and in worse ways than expected. Indeed, this is the most likely cause for catastrophe in the nuclear industry these days (but hardly the only one). And just about ANY qualified person in the nuclear industry -- even Mr. Rogers -- will probably admit to you (once he believes you know a thing or two about the industry) that yes, "materials" is their biggest worry -- "these days." (They're such optimists!)

It is a shame to see a sham at the SEJ annual meeting, but I think that's what the environmental journalists in the audience should expect. In reality, nuclear topics should fill the agenda this year at the SEJ meeting. And real experts should be speaking, not just industry blowhards and their sycophants, so that the journalists can learn more about the topics they plan to write about, instead of just learning what the party line is, as if that's news.


Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

Society of People Who Call Themselves Environmental Journalists, 2009 agenda:

From NIRS: Dems caving on nukes in climate bill? Act Now!



Your actions are more important than ever, as the push for more nuclear power subsidies in the Senate climate bill intensifies.

October 8, 2009

Dear Friends,

Now that the Kerry-Boxer climate bill has been introduced, the nuclear industry is intensifying its efforts to turn the bill into a multi-billion dollar giveaway for new reactor construction, dirty and dangerous radioactive waste schemes like reprocessing, further "streamlining" reactor licensing proceedings, and the whole industry Christmas wish-list.

Leading the charge are Senators like John McCain (R-AZ) who has already said he will "never, never, never" vote for the bill; Lamar Alexander (R-TN), who has been making speech after speech calling for 100 new reactors in the U.S. by 2020 even while admitting he won't vote for a climate bill; and now Lindsay Graham (R-SC) who says golly gee, if they'll just put a lot of money for nuclear power and offshore oil drilling in the bill, maybe they'll get some more votes...

Yeah, right... Expanding oil drilling isn't exactly the best way to reduce carbon emissions--and neither is nuclear power or "clean coal," another pet cause of these Senators who won't vote for a climate bill in any case. What they're really trying to do is lard the bill with so much taxpayer giveaways to their favorite dirty energy interests that no one should vote for it.

Unfortunately, some of the bill's backers are listening to the nuclear lobby. Read this article posted on the NY Times website yesterday.

No matter where you stand on the climate bill itself, and our constituency seems fairly evenly divided between "against it," "for it, with reservations" and "wait and see what's in the final bill," we can all agree that the bill must not become a multi-billion dollar bail-out for the nuclear power industry.

Please send a letter to your Senators today. You can send an e-mail, fax, or both.

Please plan to call both of your Senators on National Don't Nuke the Climate Call-In Day, Thursday, October 15. It doesn't matter where they may stand on the issue--they need to hear your voice. Let's keep those phones ringing from dawn til midnight on October 15! Capitol Switchboard: 202-224-3121.

Please forward this Alert as widely as possible. Print it out and take it to meetings, post it at neighborhood food co-ops and other progressive venues, please do everything possible to spread the word. Organize protests at your Senators' district offices. Write letters-to-the-editor: Senate offices read them!

The backroom deals are being made now. It's never been more important for us all to take every action possible.

*Again: please send a letter to your Senators today.

*Please call your Senators on October 15, and start now to organize your friends, neighbors and colleagues to join you. Plan call-in gatherings at your house, a local pub or restaurant, a park--wherever it's easy for people to join you.

*Please forward this Alert and do everything possible to reach out to people who may not be on this list.

*If you haven't donated recently, please make a small contribution now and help us expand our outreach during this critical period. Faxes are more effective than e-mails, but we do have to pay for them; your contribution will also help us pay for the thousands of faxes that we hope everyone will send!

Together, we can stop this nuclear madness and build the nuclear-free, carbon-free energy future our planet and our people need.

Thanks for all you do,

Michael Mariotte

Executive Director

Nuclear Information and Resource Service

Dodging bullets:

The location of this morning's earthquake off California was not more than about 45 miles out to sea from San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, where about five million pounds of high-level radioactive used reactor cores (aka "Spent Fuel") is currently being stored and about 500 more pounds are being created every day the reactors are running. Right now, one of the "SONGS" reactors is undergoing multi-billion-dollar repairs and is closed. It should be PERMANENTLY SHUT, not "fixed" (patched up with toilet-paper and spit, wrapped up with bailing-wire and coat-hanger wire, duct-taped, and turned on again).


A really cool interactive live map of earthquake activity (thanks to Dr. Carol Rosin for finding this!):



Small undersea quake occurs off California coast

(AP) ­ 10 hours ago

AVALON, Calif. ­ A magnitude-3.8 undersea earthquake has struck near the Channel Islands off the southern tip of San Clemente Island.

The U.S. Geological Survey says the tremor occurred at 8:31 p.m. Wednesday about 31 miles southeast of San Clemente Island and 43 miles south of Avalon.

The USGS Web site reported that very light shaking was felt in some Orange County communities, including Newport Beach and Huntington Beach, but police there said they received no calls about the quake.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

AVALON, Calif. (AP) ­ A magnitude-3.7 undersea earthquake has struck near the Channel Islands off the southern tip of San Clemente Island.

The U.S. Geological Survey says the tremor occurred at 8:31 p.m. Wednesday about 31 miles southeast of San Clemente Island and 43 miles south of Avalon.

The USGS Web site reported that very light shaking was felt in some Orange County communities, including Newport Beach and Huntington Beach, but police there said they received no calls about the quake.

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Information about the author of this newsletter:



Ace Hoffman
Author, The Code Killers: An Expose
Carlsbad, CA