Beyond Nuclear Bulletin

June 4, 2009

Beyond Nuclear addresses internet security issue

Background: Imagine someone with a laptop computer in a Wi-Fi cafe practically anywhere on the globe, connecting to the internet and getting a view of the virtual layout from within 50 yards of just about any nuclear power plant in the United States. Now imagine that their purpose is to plan and execute a malicious attack that jeopardizes the lives of tens of thousands - even millions - of US citizens. All this is possible using state-of-the-art high resolution satellite photography found on the Web.


Guard towers, are readily located as are the nearest highways and secluded staging areas. It is even possible to identify the location of doors and stairwells into the reactor complex and from a variety of angles and perspectives. Scott Portzline, a security analyst with the citizens' group Three Mile Island Alert in Harrisburg, PA has researched these satellite Web sites and has conveyed significant national security concerns to the United States Department of Homeland Security as well as other members of the federal government.


Our View: We agree with Portzline that the advent of highly detailed and updated Web-based satellite photos of U.S. nuclear power stations is a serious security breach. It makes it possible for an enemy-of-the-state to conduct remote and anonymous virtual reconnaissance that reveals too much information potentially used for malicious purposes. By necessity and by its very nature, nuclear power is becoming a more secretive operation, incompatible with a democratic society. The continued operation, timeless presence and potential expansion of nuclear power poses an increasing threat not only to public health and safety and to national security but to the civil liberties of an open society. This contrasts dramatically with renewable energy installations, also viewable on the Web but of course lacking guard towers or other security-vulnerable features.


What You Can Do: Read the Beyond Nuclear editorial comment - "Virtual Reconnaissance and the SecurityThreat from Nuclear Power" - and convey these concerns to your members of Congress and your reactor community.


No More Atomic Power Love Fests on Capitol Hill!


Background: During his June 3rd testimony before the U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development on the 2010 DOE Budget, Energy Secretary, Dr. Steven Chu, stood strong against calls for the Yucca Mountain dumpsite's resurrection. But he supported a call from pro-nuclear boosters on the committee for nuclear waste reprocessing while admitting that new and improved reprocessing technology is not ready for prime time. Dr. Chu parroted industry claims that reprocessing is the equal to "recycling" and the promise to tapping vast stores of energy present in radioactive wastes, euphemistically called "used fuel." Dr. Chu also referenced "fast neutron flux" reactors as the promise to getting rid of radioactive wastes altogether. While maintaining that the U.S. needs new reactors to maintain the 20% of U.S. electricity contributed by nuclear power, he added: "I would like to see that fraction increase." He also indicated that approval of federal loan guarantees for nuclear power could begin this summer (see News Flash on our Home Page).


Our View: Given the state of the economy and the advent of climate change, Dr. Chu misses the critical point that every dollar wasted on nuclear power is robbing the real and implementable economic and climate solutions - efficiency and renewable energy - of much-needed support. U.S. taxpayers are also robbed in the process as a boost for nuclear power - the most expensive way to generate electricity - can only happen through federal loan guarantees. Reprocessing remains an astronomically expensive and environmentally devastating way to get bomb grade materials. The Obama administration was correct in its decision to abandon Yucca Mountain. Similarly it should cease the pursuit of the dangerous and failed "fast" reactor and plutonium "recycling" programs.


What You Can Do: Email the White House or call 202.456.2461 and tell President Obama that you support his firm stand to stop digging at Yucca Mountain and his pledge to expand renewable energy and energy efficiency. Tell him similarly to abandon any boosterism for new reactors that make more nuclear waste. And remind him that reprocessing is costly, dangerous and dirty.


The French Nuclear Medusa

Areva, caretaker of nuclear ghost ship Savannah

One of the more bizarre corporate tentacles of Areva extends to Baltimore Harbor, current home of the Nuclear Ship Savannah, an Eisenhower-era rusting radioactive relic. This atomic-powered luxury cruise-liner and cargo ship, intended to showcase "Atoms for Peace" in ports of call around the world, only operated from 1961 to 1970. Its waste is at the Savannah River Site but the ship's retired reactor remains on board without a disposal option. The U.S. Maritime Administration, today responsible for the Savannah, has hired Areva to maintain the ship while proposing to eventually restore it into a museum glorifying "Atoms for Peace" and the supposed arrival of the new "nuclear renaissance." See a photo of the ship here and a burned-out radiation symbol light fixture in the ship's dining room here.



Beyond Nuclear aims to educate and activate the public about the connections between nuclear power and nuclear weapons and the need to abandon both to safeguard our future. Beyond Nuclear advocates for an energy future that is sustainable, benign and democratic. Beyond Nuclear staff can be reached at: 301.270.2209. Or view our Web site at: