1. Remaining Three Mile Island Reactor To Shut Down
On May 30 Chicago-based Exelon Corporation, the largest US owner and operator of commercial nuclear power plants, announced that it would be shutting down its Unit 1 reactor at the Three Mile Island plant in Pennsylvania in September 2019. Located 10 miles from Harrisburg, the state capitol, and 90 miles northwest of Philadelphia, the reactor started up over in 1974, over40 years ago.
The May 30 Los Angeles Times declared TMI a “symbol of nuclear incompetence for 38 years and today “a symbol of another failure of American nuclear plant industry:the impossibility of making a profit.”
On June 23 the Pennsylvania Real-Times News reported that Exelon “sent formal notice of its intention to shut down Three Mile Island to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The report noted that this would result in “storage of spent fuel rods at the facility for potentially decades to come.”
This report also noted that an Exelon executive stated the nuke plant “has lost more than0 million over the past five years.”
The planned TMI shutdown is the latest announcement in a series of closures of old reactors no longer able to compete in the marketplace. On June 1 the no nukes group Nuclear Information Resource Service reported, “In recent years, safety and market conditions have led to the closure of six nuclear reactors and five plants across the US, and closure plans have been announced for eight reactors at six other plants, including Three Mile Island.”
Another factor in these closures is that solar and wind are growing cheaper than nuclear. The May 30 LA Times story reported, “Just last week an executive from Sempra, parent company of San Diego Gas & Electric, told a utility conference that the technology exists in California to get all its power from solar and wind.”
The Three Mile island nuclear power plant is best known for being the site of the worst disaster at a commercial nuke in the US. On March 28, 1979, the Unit 2 reactor went out of control, due to a combination of human and mechanical failure, resulting in a partial reactor meltdown, the release of massive amounts of radiation, and the evacuation of many thousands of people.
Ever since then the nuclear industry has endlessly repeated, “Nobody died at Three Mile Island.” But in their 1990 book, Deadly Deceit: Low Radiation, High Level Cover-Up, authors Jay Gould and Benjamin Goldman present considerable evidence to the contrary.
They report that right after the disaster, Dr. Ernest Sternglass, pioneering author of Secret Fallout: From Hiroshima to Three Mile Island, rushed to Harrisburg, where he found ”radiation reading 15 times above normal.”
“I felt acutely,” Sternglass wrote in Secret Fallout “the great difficulty of having to explain, without causing panic, the seriousness of the situation that already existed for pregnant women and children.”
Three days into the disaster, Pennsylvania's governor finally ordered an evacuation, but most of the radiation had already escaped into the environment in the first two days. Gould and Goldman found evidence pointing to increased infant mortality in areas known to have been exposed to the radioactive plume, and argued that the crippled rector's radioactive releases could be the primary cause:
“The hypothesis that these abnormal mortality increases were associated with radioactive releases from TMI is strongly supported by the following considerations: First, large amounts of iodine-131 and other fission gases were released from the plant in the first two days before the order to evacuate pregnant women and children was issued. Second, infant mortality peaked three or four months after the initial release. This corresponds to the period when highly active fetal thyroids, which control growth hormones, would have taken up the radioactive iodine-131, and thus could explain the large increase in immature and underweight babies who died of respiratory distress, as reported by hospital records. Third, the greatest infant mortality increases took place in areas closest to the plant, diminishing with the distance away from Harrisburg, and Pennsylvania. In sharp contrast, states to the west and south experienced declines in infant mortality rates.”
The authors also report “some 2500 lawsuits filed against the Metropolitan Edison Company the owner operator of TMI by plaintiffs living close by, who claim to suffer from a host of radiation induced illnesses, including 'birth defects, still births, spontaneous abortions, sterility, cancers, leukemia, hair loss, bizarre sores that won't heal, heart failure, emphysema, stroke, cerebral palsy, hypothyroidism, and a wide range of other diseases that have stricken them, their children their farm animals, and even the foliage around them.' ”
On May 30, Bloomberg News reported, “after 1979, no new nuclear reactors were ordered in the US for three decades.”
Sources: Los Angeles Times, latimes.com; Pennsylvania Real-Time News, pennlive.com; Nuclear Information Resource Service, nirs.org; Bloomberg News,bloomberg.com Deadly Deceit; Secret Fallout
Connecticut Nuke Plant Bailout Ripoff Fails For Second Consecutive Year
For the second straight year, an attempt to push a bill through the Connecticut legislature that would have forced ratepayers of the Millstone nuclear plant to pay more,failed. These customers already have the highest electricity rate in the nation.
Millstone is located on Long Island Sound in southeastern CT, where I hail from. Formerly the site of a gigantic granite quarry where my great-grandfather worked, In the 1960s the local utility was encouraged to build a nuke plant by the federal government, and enticed by large subsidies the feds offered through its “Atoms For Peace” project. This juice was touted as “Too cheap mo meter.” Millstone's first reactor started up in 1970. In the mid 70s it released very large amounts of radiation into the air and Long Island Sound, due to defective nuclear fuel rods and with the knowledge of the utility and the approval of the NRC.
To this day Millstone remains the US nuclear plant that has released the most radiation—besides Three Mile Island.
As with TMI, it was Dr. Ernest Sternglass who first discovered and publicized the health problems that arose and worsened after Millstone's big 70s releases.
Deadly Deceit devotes an entire chapter, “Cancer In Connecticut”, to this disturbing development: “Sternglass found that increases in cancer mortality rates from 1970 varied directly with distance from the plant. From 1970 to 1975, cancer mortality increased 58% in Waterford, where Millstone is located, and 44% in New London, five miles to the east. Cancer mortality in Connecticut as a whole increased by 12%, which was twice as fas as the corresponding 6 % US rise.”
Unfortunately these and other subsequent warnings by Joseph Mangano and associates at the Radiation and Public Health Project (radiation.org) went unheeded. Instead two more reactors were built at Millstone.
But in the 1990s Millstone got into a lot of trouble and appeared on the cover of Time Magazine in 1996 as an due to gross mismanagement and systematic harassment of a series of courageous whistleblowers. I joined with the people power group Citizen's Regulatory Commission, and we got Unit 1 permanently shut down in 1998 and the other two reactors closed for some years. Unfortunately they were eventually allowed to restart.
Now, almost 20 years later, the situation has changed drastically. There are only two other nuke plants still running in New England, with one of those scheduled to close in a few years.
The US nuclear industry, desperate to keep from going the way of the dinosaurs, has been trying to promote its scheme to trick customers to pay more for its decrepit hardware.
In Millstone's case, the utility, Dominion Resources of Richmond, VA, flooded the state legislature, both in 2016 and this year, with lobbyists, to twist arms and line pockets.
But through the spring a seemingly unlikely coalition emerged, which the Connecticut Mirror on June 3 described as “environmentalists, consumer groups, and other energy producers.”
These included the Connecticut Coalition To Close Millstone, Peoples Action For Clean Energy, American Association of Retired People (AARP), and even the CT Petroleum Council, which opposed the bill because it would have given Millstone an unfair advantage in the marketplace. A survey the latter conducted found that 76% of CT ratepayers opposed the bailout bill.
The Connecticut Mirror story “DominionEnergy Loses Fight Over Millstone Closing” quoted state representative Lonnie Reed on the bill's fate, “It's dead. It's a toxic brand now, literally radioactive.”
And the Connecticut Mirror story reported that a Dominion executive said, “We could retire Millstone any time we choose to.”
Michael Steinberg is the author of 1998's Millstone and Me: Sex, Lies and Radiation in Southeastern Connecticut.
Sources: Deadly Deceit; Connecticut Mirror, ctmirror.org