Friday, October 24, 2008

Mothers in Pieces

mfpLogoHiRes One thing you have to give groups who base their existence on not liking something, they'll pull every rabbit out of the hat in order to have their way. This differs from advocacy groups, because being zealously against something comes far more naturally to the human animal than being zealously for something (Presidential elections aside, of course, and even they are usually motored by dissatisfaction with the status quo.)

But the zeal frequently doesn't work - often foiled by a tin ear for nuance - and so it has come to pass for the San Luis Obispo group Mothers for Peace, which has been trying for two years to keep Diablo Canyon from storing their used nuclear fuel.

Well, lately, anyway. They describe themselves as a “non-profit organization concerned with the local dangers involving the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant” and nuclear energy in general. Luckily, they also stand for "peace, social justice and a safe environment," so we must allow that their hearts are in the right place.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission last week rejected on a 3-1 vote a petition contending that PG&E’s Diablo Canyon power plant is storing used nuclear fuel in above ground storage containers without sufficiently accounting for the potential environmental damage resulting from a terrorist attack. In rejecting the petition, the commissioners determined that even the worst-case scenario would not cause health problems for area residents - and that scenario is vanishingly small. (This gets into risk assessment, a frighteningly complex field of study that you use when you try to convince a friend that plane travel is far safer than your average 1974 Pinto.)

In 2006, the 9th circuit court of appeal agreed with the group that NRC must develop an Environmental Assessment (EA) to address the concerns.

NRC complied in 2007, but Mothers for Peace remained dissatisfied:

The resulting EA, however, is offensively inadequate, a simplistic 8-page document which distorts and minimizes the environmental impacts of attacks. It rules out credible threat scenarios and fails to provide references to scientific or other sources.

Things didn't go well for them:

"The NRC staff and PG&E provided essentially uncontradicted evidence that the probability of a significant radioactive release caused by a terrorist attack was low, and that the potential latent health and land contamination effects of the most severe plausible attack would be small," commissioners wrote in their order.

None of this is new, of course - we'd agree if the mothers had said that Yucca Mountain would be a better place than the plants to store used nuclear fuel - so would the plants, when it comes down to it - but we all know how that's going, and we'd guess the mothers wouldn't want to open that can of pop.

However, the mothers really didn't do their homework on the casks - they're really quite safe and not vulnerable to much mischief - and the commissioners rapidly whittled their various contentions down to one. And the NRC essentially said that one didn't have much merit. The decision allows PG&E to continue with their storage procedure.

Don't rule out the Mothers of Invention - er , for Peace - yet, though. Diablo Canyon may allow them to go about their business in a pollution-free kind of way, but they won't stop until they get that delicious smoke-belching plant to enhance their "peace, social justice and safe environment" sort of life. We wish them all kinds of luck - we just won't specify which kinds.

Hard to complain with such a sweet logo - normally, we might ding them for the whole "doing it for the children" dodge - but heck, they are mothers, so we guess they get a pass on that one.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Mark, you wrote, "The Nuclear Regulatory Commission last week rejected on a 3-1 vote a petition contending that PG&E’s Diablo Canyon power plant is storing used nuclear fuel in above ground storage containers without sufficiently accounting for the potential environmental damage resulting from a terrorist attack."

I wager that the dissenting vote was from Commissioner Jackzo, Harry Reid's hand picked man. Now imagine an Obama administration where the majority of Commissioners are like Jackzo. What will happen then?

A vote for Obama is a vote against nuclear energy - pure and simple. I warn you now and I will remind you again once Obama gets elected and begins killing the nuclear rebirth. Mark my words - a Dem administration will be devastating for the nuclear industry.

Rod Adams said...

In response to anonymous, I would like to quote Susan Eisenhower, a strong advocate of new nuclear power plants.

"I didn't leave the Republican Party, they left me," said Ms. Eisenhower. "The Republican Party today does not look a thing like it did during President Eisenhower's administration. I am very concerned about America'sposition in the world. This is why I endorsed Barack Obama -- because I do not see things changing without a new cast of characters in the White House."

Eisenhower has been vocal in her criticism of the Republican Party including the direction the McCain for President Campaign has taken the Party. "Many things have happened with the Republican Party over time. It is the way the campaign has been conducted. For instance, the choice of Sarah Palin was a signal to moderates in the party that the future of the party is to the hard right rather than to the sensible center."

Anonymous said...

I was right. Jackzo was the lone dissenting voice:

http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/commission/orders/2008/2008-26cli.html

Just imagine an NRC and a DOE filled with Jackzo's. Guess what happens to GNEP and funding for ESBWR, ABWR, AP1000, EPR, etc.?

David Bradish said...

Just imagine an NRC and a DOE filled with Jackzo's.

I believe legally the NRC can't have more than three Dems or three Repubs on the commission at any one time. FYI - former commissioner McGaffigan was appointed by Clinton and he did real well. You need to get over your partisan politics. The Republican party ain't perfect either.

Anonymous said...

Like I said, David, this blog is biased in favor of the Democrats because you feel their victory is assurred and you need NEI to ingratiate itself with the new Administration. Mark my words - a Dem administration will kill nuke power. And I shall remind you when it happens.

David Bradish said...

Mark my words - a Dem administration will kill nuke power. And I shall remind you when it happens.

Excellent, I always love it when you pester us with these meaningless comments. It really adds a lot to the discussion. Thank you for your contribution.

Gunter said...

You all grouse about the partisianship of the dissenting vote--but did anybody really expect something different from Dale Klein, Lyons (Sen. Pete Dominici's former staff and pronuclear ghostwriter), and Svineki (Sen. Larry Craig's staff)---Bush appointees to the Commission?

You failed eve to mention why Commissioner Jaczko (next NRC chairman?)cast the dissenting vote: the three approving commissioners were "standing on a very weak foundation to reject this contention" on land contamination and latent health effects.

Cute blog title---tho I think premature to malign MFP as "in pieces." Perhaps we have yet see how much of a contortion the commission had to go through to dismiss the contention.

Joffan said...

gunter, only anonymous is making this political. And now you. Try to stick to the fac... whoops, forgot who I was talking to, sorry.

Let's meet up in a year back here and see how Obama's doing, okay?

Anonymous said...

I am a structural engineer that has been directly involved in the structural design of an Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation. I have had the opportunity to thoroughly review the FSAR for the particular cask system selected for use, and I can definitely say with no hesitation that these casks are extremely safe. The probabilities associated with the failure modes considered in their design are extremely (ludicrously) low.

Rod Adams said...

Gunter:

How do you propose to deal with the fact that there are reasons for not releasing all available information to the general public?

At some level, we have to be able to set up a trust relationship so that people who really understand what they are doing can make informed evaluations without providing information that can potentially be used for nefarious purposes.

Based on the numerous conversations where we have both participated, it seems to me that you automatically disqualify the technical capabilities of anyone who disagrees with your notion that we can somehow sustain the people who already live on this earth without either nuclear or fossil fuels.

If someone with a good technical understanding of the world speaks in favor of nuclear fission, you dismiss them as a "shill" or an industry patsy even if they are not spokesmen or marketing specialists.

BTW - for both Gunter and anonymous - wasn't Jazko appointed to the NRC under the current administration?

Chad said...

I'll confirm David's belief.

I recently attented a lunch and learn with former Comissioner Merrifield and I asked him about the political nature of the commision. Of the 5 commisioners, only 3 can be of one party.

d. Kosloff said...

Chad,

Who wins a 3 to 2 vote?

Anonymous said...

If condescension is the hallmark of good journalism, you're due a Pulitzer for this post.

Also, FYI, the formal political composition of the commission (3-2) is determined by the party affiliations of the commissioners, not the president who appoints them.