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Alec Baldwin et. al. vs. NA-YGN at Oyster Creek

What does it take for young nuclear professionals to get involved in campaigns to inform the public about the benefits of nuclear energy? Just hearing for themselves the kind of propaganda that is spread by anti-nuclear groups is enough to spur many to action.

Like their colleagues that attended events in Georgia, Tennessee, and Virginia, North American Young Generation in Nuclear (NA-YGN) members in New Jersey were stunned by the rhetoric and misinformation presented at the “Clinic Symposium on Campaign to Close Oyster Creek Nuclear Power Plant” at Rutgers University last Friday, December 8. Nuclear Notes’ previous posts on this event are here, here, and here.

Prior to the event, NA-YGN contacted Richard Webster of Rutgers Environmental Law Clinic to request a seat on the panel. While they were not completely denied, Webster did put some restrictions on their participation that are questionable in light of the qualifications and actual remarks of the selected speakers.

Webster said he only wanted "experts" on specific issues at Oyster Creek, not someone to give general pro-nuclear information. For instance, he wouldn’t allow someone to just counter Dr. Mangano’s Tooth Fairy studies, he would require someone that has studied the issue as completely as Mangano—that, like him, have “done tests around Oyster Creek”--and could give a different explanation of the “spatial correlations” that he found. Similar expertise would be required for his other chosen issues of drywell corrosion, used fuel pools, local health effects and environmental concerns, and Exelon’s “incompetence.” Webster was asked if that meant NA-YGN would have to provide a speaker that was an expert on ALL of those issues. At first, he said "yes" but when it was pointed out that none of the invited six is an expert on every single issue, he conceded and said he may allow several experts. He also said that they were short on time and the additional people would have to be handled as a breakout session. In addition, if NA-YGN was able to round up experts in such a short period of time, he would want to see their résumés and personally converse with them to determine if they were truly knowledgeable and could contribute to the debate.

With such short notice NA-YGN was unable to secure a speaker that would meet Webster’s requirements but as mentioned in the article about the event, Webster did allow NA-YGN to setup a table outside the room. They were joined by representatives from Women in Nuclear (WIN) and one person from the IBEW. NA-YGN members that attended included:

Mark DiRado
Jennifer Lee
Lauren Lail
Andrew Brown
David Olszewski
Colin Ricketts
Nnamdi Onorah
Matt Dreyfuss
April Schilpp

Most passersby were surprised the nuclear supporters were there. One local gentleman, who came purely for the celebrity sighting but enjoyed talking to the young nuclear professionals, actually returned to his home and brought back a copy of a recent New York Post editorial in favor of Indian Point. NA-YGN members quickly made copies and attendees took every last one.

Before the event, Paul Gunter of Nuclear Information Resource Service (NIRS) approached NA-YGN members and “loudly and aggressively” questioned their information. As is always important in this type of interaction, the nuclear supporters calmly and politely responded to the rhetoric. I’m told that Hibiscus Films, which is doing a documentary on Oyster Creek, caught the action on camera.

During the presentations, NA-YGN members did not interrupt the speakers but made several interesting notes.

As the moderator, Alec Baldwin’s remarks weren’t just anti-Oyster Creek, but entirely anti-nuclear industry (which makes me wonder why Webster insisted that any pro-nuclear speaker from NA-YGN must stick to Oyster Creek issues—he certainly did not require that of his invited speakers). Baldwin's message was clearly that the industry and the company were all about the money – but gave no actual facts to support his case.

Julia Huff of Rutgers Environmental Law Clinic spoke about marine impacts but apparently was difficult to follow. She focused on fish kill and sea turtle impingement but had no real evidence to back up her statements. She said “thousands" of turtles were killed last year. I highly doubt it given the industry’s remarkable protection of wildlife with things like traveling screens and programs to preserve habitats.

Joe Mangano gave his usual Tooth Fairy spiel, which we here at Nuclear Notes have debunked often.

During the Q&A portion each NA-YGN member asked a question to counter the statements of the speakers so that attendees heard a balanced point of view. Mangano received the most questions from the audience. Mark Dirado tells me:
[Mangano was asked] “Since the state of [New Jersey], the United Nations, the leading cancer researchers, and virtually all other credible institutions have debunked the tooth fairy project, why don't you just admit that your group is so far out on the fringe that you are irrelevant?” [The speakers] hated that term, fringe. I'm guessing "pseudoscience" would have sent them over the edge. [Baldwin] had to be physically restrained.
After the symposium, many young people in the audience “made a beeline” for the information table and conversed with NA-YGN members for a “very positive, energetic exchange.” I think that’s terrific—it’s what outreach is all about.

NA-YGN member Lauren Lail said:
I thought it was unfortunate that members of the public, especially those who may be on the fence where nuclear is concerned, were not given the opportunity to get the opposing (pro-nuclear) side of the issue during the presentation part of the symposium. After the number of mediocre speeches given by the panel "experts" it would have been easy for someone familiar with the nuclear industry to debunk many of the unsupported claims made during the presentations. Although no pro-nuclear speakers were able to present on the panel, it was great to see the nuclear industry represented in the audience. The question and answer section of the symposium presented the opportunity to discuss some [of] these issues with the panel members. Regardless of how unfavorably panel members received them, the questions alerted the public to the presence of, and generated interest in, the pro-nuclear side. … In the future, I hope to see the nuclear industry given the opportunity to represent itself on the panel of one of these symposiums.
Me too, Lauren.

Kudos to the NA-YGN members in New Jersey!

UPDATE: Here are two other takes on the Baldwin event from The Classless Society and Moonbattery.

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David Bradish said…
I wonder if they ever bothered to call the experts from Exelon or Oyster Creek. Especially on the issue of the drywell. Oyster Creek already conducted the tests and found the drywell adequate to serve its purpose. I'm sure the Oyster Creek antis have already heard the news about the drywell but I guess still went ahead with the issue anyways. What more can you really say if the test has been done by Exelon and proven to be adequate? All it is now by the antis is just huff and puff on that issue.
Anonymous said…
NRC is still reviewing the drywell test results. Both agency staff and the ACRS still have a lot of questions about the drywell. What, therefore, is the basis for saying the tests are "proven to be adequate"?

Also, how is it possible, according to the company's own ultrasonic testing results, for the plant's drywell to have magically INCREASED in thickness in the two years between measurements in the mid-1990s?
I don't know the details of the situation at Oyster Creek, but I have been involved in inspections in which the same sort of conclusion could be drawn if the reports were reviewed carelessly or with an agenda in mind.

Say you have a pipe in a power plant for which you want to keep an eye on the thickness. Your routine inspections are quick checks with standard equipment. The equipment may have large tolerances, so to be conservative, you'll record the thinnest measurement minus the maximum tolerance as your assumed thickness. But every now and then (at a frequency determined by technical specifications, design requirements, operating experience, or a combination of those), you do a detailed and precise measurement with extremely accurate equipment. Because you have more data and better equipment you don't have to add in such conservative assumptions.

In this case, it wouldn't be unusual for the results of the very precise test to show a wall thickness greater than the routine inspection that was conducted earlier.
David Bradish said…
Here's a quote from Platts' "Inside NRC" on November 13th, 2006:

"There are no safety conditions related to Oyster Creek's dryell that would preclude restarting the unit after its current refueling outage, the NRC said last week..."

Maybe I got a little ahead of myself since I guess the issue is on the renewal of 20 years. But according to preliminary results, the drywell is functioning as it should be.

Anon, where do you get that the drywell "magically increased"?
Anonymous said…
There seems to be a note of doubt about the turtle casualties. It's easy to prove that thousands of turtles were boiled to death.

On average, 100 million turtles experienced a temperature increase due to power station discharge of 0.001C. Thus the collective dose was 100,000 Turtle-C. It takes 50 Turtle-C to boil one turtle therefore two thousand turtles have been boiled alive.

Disclaimer: No real statistics were used in the making of this comment.
Anonymous said…
Anonymous -- there's nothing magical about a refined UT reading showing higher wall thickness than the initial scan. This typically indicates that the original readings were conservative (i.e., lower than actual).
Anonymous said…
My point was not that the company's measurements are either right or wrong, merely that this and many other drywell issues are still being reviewed by the NRC staff and the ACRS. Hence my asking David Bradish why he said that "the test has been done by Exelon and proven to be adequate." Proven by whom, to whom, is what I wanted to know.
>>[Mangano was asked] "Since the state of [New Jersey], the United Nations, the leading cancer researchers, and virtually all other credible institutions have debunked the tooth fairy project, why don't you just admit that your group is so far out on the fringe that you are irrelevant?"

I'd add "as well as most of your allies in the anti-nuclear movement." IIRC, Helen Caldicott doesn't even think the Tooth Fairy Project is valid.

It's important to remember, though, that they don't see this as a symposium. They see it as a media event by them and for them. I can think of at least two things off the top of my head that should have been done, once you challenge the resumes of the anti-nuclear panel members and get turned away by this guy Webster:
1. Disrupt it. They did the same thing to balanced symposia in the 70s. Don't heckle, but come in carrying signs (with messages referring to traditional liberal values--anti-censorship, for instance) and with duct tape over your mouths. Try to get them to throw you out on camera--and make sure it's your camera.
2. Go to the media and ask hard questions (this is where it would really help to have a student organization that doesn't answer to the industry): Why are they whitewashing the issue? Why won't they allow someone equal time to rebut the conclusions of this biased panel? Why won't they even let us in? Have some in the environmental movement abandoned their ideals and simply created yet another institution from which to exclude people (and offer Whole Ecology--the idea that people are part of the environment--as an alternative)? Why do they insist on spreading bad data--and contributing to the public illiteracy about nuclear technology that helped scare the public into supporting the invasion of Iraq? Why are they creating a false dichotomy in which pro-nuclear people don't exist, and the industry somehow represents pro-nuclear opinion instead of the industry's interests (mind you, I don't blame the industry for advocating for their interests--you'd have to be crazy not to)?

In short, this just goes to show how much we need an independent pro-nuclear activist group that can work out of college campuses, uniting a core of motivated engineering students with interested people nationwide. And we need it now, before more things like this happen. We're already 10-15 years behind where we should be.
Randal Leavitt said…
When I think about the mega-billions of dollars being passed around in the oil and coal business, and the miserable earnings in the nuclear power industry, I would really have to wonder about anyone who got into nuclear only for the money. What an amazing thing to claim, that money is the only motivator or even the primary motivator for nuclear power people.
Anonymous said…
Anonymous -- that's an even easier question. NDE inspections and acceptance criteria are spelled out by a number of codes (e.g., ASME Section XI). The results are reviewed and approved by the station's qualified NDE personnel, an engineering staff, a nationally certified, authorized inspector provided by the state (independent of the licensee) and a number of other reviews as specified in the applicable code. The NRC typically reviews the station's plan for conformance to regulatory requirements. If they choose to audit any part of the process, then it is really an additional layer of oversight to verify the results of the licensee.
Anonymous said…
Joffan -- i hope you're kidding.
Here's your turtle clarification from the experts:

Summary of the National Marine Fisheries Service report:

Estimate a maximum of 8 sea turtle collected per year with only 3 killed, and notes that more turtles will be killed by boat propellers than by the intake structure.

Real statistics were used in this blog entry.
Anonymous said…
"Why are they whitewashing the issue? Why won't they allow someone equal time to rebut the conclusions of this biased panel? Why won't they even let us in?"

Isn't this a bit of a double standard? Does NEI routinely permit anti-nuclear speakers "equal time" on panels at its conferences?
Anonymous said…
"a nationally certified, authorized inspector provided by the state (independent of the licensee)"

Has the state of New Jersey verified the drywell inspection results?
Actually, Ralph Cavanaugh of the Natural Resources Defense Council was an invited speaker at the 2006 Nuclear Energy Assembly.

And though it's not NEI, I organized a session at the 2002 American Nuclear Society Winter Meeting in which the panelists were Hill staffers of both pro- and anti-nuclear members.

And neither of those were on the grounds of a public, taxpayer- supported institution like Rutgers University.

Besides, no one is saying that an organization like NIRS is required to give the pro-nuclear voice equal time at an event it hosts, but I definitely think a public university should find a way to be fair to both sides of important issues.

Anonymous said…
if an NIS-1 form was used to document the inspection, it would be signed by the authorized inspector.
Gunter said…

Want to watch the presentation for yourself?

Go to Rutgers Library News:

It should be posted in the archives later for the December 8, 2006 event.

Gunter, NIRS
gunter said…

Just a few comments, now that we have a forum on the blog about a rusty Oyster Creak...

Mr. Bradish-
Re: your comment on a call to the "experts from Exelon or Oyster Creek."

As a matter of fact, AmerGen hasn't identified or put forward an expert before the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board hearing on the drywell liner corrosion. However, it looks like they are going to have to, since our NRC hearing is back on, at least for the moment.

Moreover,the ACRS has plenty of questions about the conspicuous absense of AmerGen's expertise on the subject at the last subcommittee meeting. I haven't heard saltier language from the robust body in some time. Read the transcript for yourself, it's posted on our website. Should be an interesting meeting on January 18, 2006.

If you follow the issue, in fact, AmerGen's 1996 UT measurements are "anomolies" according to NRC, hardly even "adequate" as you suggest.It was impossible for AmerGen engineers to explain to either to NRC staff or the ACRS subcommittee how the metal wall in the severely corroded drywell liner sandbed region spontaneously generated thicker walls from previous UT measurements.

At further issue is the extremely limited scope of current measurements.

The UT meausurements to date going back '86, '87, '89, '91, '92, '94 and '96 have looked at less than 3 square feet of the approximate 500 square foot area of pit corrosion in the former "sand bed" region of the liner. What's that all about?????? There is absolutely no excuse not to do a full scan of the entire damaged region and a laser point cloud assessment to determine if the drywell is really symetrical, which would affect the loading on the damaged region. Agreed?

As for restart---nobody really knows the integrity of the component. Nobody's inspected the embedded region of the liner where water intrusion since 1969 has no doubt infiltrated through the crevice between the liner and the concrete shield wall and ponded for ages under the liner. It was not until 1992 that GPUN even considered it and put down a bead of sealant. Since then, they have been relying solely on visual exams of an epoxy coating and the sealant bead.

As for Ms. Huff's comments, its actually about Florida's St. Lucie nuclear power station. St. Lucie has had upwards of 900+ entrained adult and juvenille sea turtles (endangered and threatened)in any one year. St. Lucie sucks so many turtles, they have been granted a biological opinion that uniquely allows for a 2% mortality rate. [You can go to our website to read NIRS report "Licensed To Kill:How the nuclear power industry destroys marine habit marine wildlife and ocean habitat to save money." But since St. Lucie is sited on a Loggerhead nesting beach there is no way of determining just how many hatchlings get sucked in and killed. I'd say this ocean predator should in fact should be required to shutdown during hatchling season for just that reason. But that said about St. Lucie, what's relevant to Oyster Creak is that the National Marine Fisheries Service of NOAA has dealt a "deal breaker" (according to a recently revealed NRC document)that the 20 year extension will require a cooling tower to replace the destructive once through cooling system. AmerGen is such a cheapskate they have threatened to close the sucker rather than install a cooling tower.

Gunter, NIRS
Anonymous said…
I'm not arguing with anyone that can't spell Oyster Creek correctly.
gunter said…
Hello again,

Regarding Oyster Creak not being invited to the Rutgers presentation, blog readers should know that AmerGen has been conducting community briefings around the damaged and antiquated reactor over the past year where the opposing point of view was not invited. Moreover, AmerGen's communications department vehemently objected to having re-licensing opponents even in the audience at a Waretown, NJ AmerGen appearance.

That's when we discovered that company spokesmen were misportraying the design of Oyster Creak in their presentation as something more robust that it really is.

So stop whining and let us simply figure out where, when, and who will debate the issue---if its now become such a big deal to industry.

Gunter, NIRS
I do think it would be in the best interest of both utilities and anti-nuclear groups to occasionally respectfully engage the other side. However, I don't speak for Exelon and I would understand why they would be reluctant to give the people suing them equal time to speak at an event they host and sponsor. Just as I said above that I don't think NIRS is required to give equal time to pro-nuclear voices at their events.

In the case of Rutgers, though, I'll repeat my stance that I think a public, taxpayer-supported university SHOULD take it upon themselves to ensure both sides equal coverage.

Anonymous said…
The current methodology presented in the OC SER is, if anything, overly conservative. The liner is protected with a coating to prevent degradation of the corroded area and the washed area is inspected on an increased frequency. The licensee could perform all of the laser mapping and finite element analyses but those would only help the licensees cause - since it would form the basis for a further reduction in the required wall thickness of the drywell shell. You'd think that the Anti's would be happy that the Licensee were using the more conservative evaluation methodology. Further proof that their (N)uclear (I)gnorance (R)eigns (S)upreme. NEI FTW.
Anonymous said…
The installation of cooling towers would cause more environmental damage than they would prevent.

A new closed cooling sytem would impact the migratory patterns of regional birds, would cause air pollution in excess of government regulations.

The resulting drop in river temperature would result in a thermal shock that would kill thousands of fish.

The environmental impact, not the financial consequence is what will doom this iniative.

The Anti-Nuclear folks cannot make a claim that a power plant should intentionally heat river water after a plant ceases operation to maintain the local ecosystem AND campaign for plants to cease operation of the once-through cooling system to maintain the local ecosystem. It's hypocritical.

It's also hypocritical to endorse cooling towers as an environmental benefit, then condemn those same towers as a target for terrorism.

The rational response would be for the licensee to spend their money on environmental programs with a proven ecological benefit, not to construct some monolith to environmental shortsightedness.

BTW, how'd that fight to get cooling towers installed at St. Lucie work out?

Oh, right, St. Lucie wasn't required to install them either, and for the same reasons.

Instead, they used that money to implement one of the most impressive environmental programs in any industry -- and one helluva turtle protection effort.

Let's work together to fight the real turtle killers -- boat propellers. How about you get Alec to champion for propeller guards as a mandatory install on all boats piloted on NJ's waterways. He can start with his own.

Anonymous said…
If you need any further proof that the tooth fairy project is junk science, look no further than their own donation form. They never ask for the age of the donor when the tooth was lost. How can you make any determination of the rate of deposition of any substance on tooth enamel if you have no idea how long the tooth was exposed to those substances?
gunter said…

Your argument (identical to AmerGen's)about cooling towers causing environmental damage is answered by EPA in an October 2006 letter to NRC (See NIRS website, Oyster Creek relicensing) So, NMFS and EPA are in agreement that Oyster Creek can and should retrofit to closed cycle cooling. So sorry, no cigar. The NMFS decision, alone, can kill the extension should Exelon decide against the retrofit.

You're also correct that it is our assessment that considering all the other issues, including the elevated and vulnerable nuclear waste storage pond, the corroded containment liner, the antiquated design (the DTVS backfit), Oyster Creek should not only be denied a twenty year extension but promptly shutdown.

Gunter, NIRS
Anonymous said…
Oyster creek identified and adequately addressed all potential issues regarding relicensing, including the installation of a state of the art spent fuel containment system, upgrades to security, implementation of a containment inspection and repair program unprecedented in any industry, and numerous component replacement and retrofits. There is no evidence that could or would support any conclusion other than the OC is safe, clean, reliable and deserves to have its license extended.
>>So stop whining and let us simply figure out where, when, and who will debate the issue---if its now become such a big deal to industry.

Would you rather debate industry or independent advocates?
Anonymous said…
>> "let us simply figure out where, when, and who."

I recommend they try to figure out a "how" as well, since they haven't been able to make a compelling argument thus far.

--you'll be in for a long wait indeed.

Good luck NEI!
gunter said…
Were your statements true, like "Oyster Creek identified and adequately addressed all potential issues regarding relicensing" and "they (NIRS et al) haven't been able to make a compelling argument thus far";

1) Exelon would not be going before the ACRS for an unprecedented second round of questioning on Jan, 18, 2007 on Oyster Creek relicensing and drywell liner corrosion stemming from our re-licensing challenge and;

2)NIRS et al would not be in the second round of legal discovery of Exelon documents on containment corrosion in the NRC hearing process.

Anon appears to be quicker at offering clueless insults than insights, but obviously by remaining nameless he's more comfortable with taking the low road.

As for the debate challenge, as Rutgers stated earlier to NEI/NA-YGN, we are looking for your debate team to be familiar with the Oyster Creek specific issues.
Anonymous said…
LMAO Gunter. Resorting to name calling so soon. I would have expected more from a professional lobbyist.

Here's an insight:

When your assumed corrosion rate was challenged by the ACRS, your expert stated, "I probably don't think that's realistic." Why should anyone believe the reports generated by your paid consultants when their underlying assumptions are, according to your own concil, flawed?

Please move along, there's nothing more to see here.
gunter said…

You attempt to take Webster's testimony out of context as that statement was offered as "worst case scenario" for corrosion rate.

Stay tuned.

Gunter, NIRS
Anonymous said…
The context was pretty clear, so I repeat the question. Why would you present numbers that you knew were unrealistic to the NRC?
Anonymous said…
Looks like the Rutgers Oberver is picking up this story:

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