Op Eds

Dear Editor:

Nuclear-Free, Carbon-Free Contingent to People’s Climate March
Second National Grassroots Conference Call
Monday, May 23, 2016 -- 7pm Eastern
May 11, 2016
Dear Friends,
Please contact Tim Judson at TimJ@nirs.org to join this call.
The March for a Clean Energy Revolution in Philadelphia on July 24, 2016 – right before the Democratic National Convention starts.
This march is our greatest chance to put a nuclear-free, carbon-free energy policy on the agenda in this year’s elections. Thousands of anti-fracking, climate justice, and clean energy activists are mobilizing for the march -- and we need to be there too!
NIRS is hosting the nuclear-free, carbon-free contingent at the march. We absolutely must put the dangers of nuclear power front and center in the national debate.
We will host the second national grassroots conference call on organizing the nuclear-free, carbon-free contingent on Monday, May 23 at 7pm Eastern.
Two years ago, thousands of us mobilized for the People’s Climate March in New York City, and made the nuclear-free, carbon-free message at the core of the largest climate mobilization in U.S. history. Ultimately, we got the EPA to take nuclear power out of the Clean Power Plan – and kept nuclear power out of the 2015 Global Climate Treaty in Paris!
We will bring you up-to-date with our latest information on the march itself, plus our activities. Buses and carpools are being organized from cities throughout the east coast and Midwest, which you can get plugged into.
Bring your updates, ideas, questions, thoughts and concerns to this call!
Thanks, and we’ll talk on Monday the 23rd,
Michael Mariotte and Tim Judson
P.S. Our Facebook group page for the nuclear-free, carbon-free contingent is being updated for the Clean Energy Revolution march: https://www.facebook.com/groups/nukefreeclimatefreemarch/  If you’re on Facebook, please join it and post your information.



Contact: Scott Portzline - Three Mile Island Alert 717-232-8863

Nuclear Watchdog Group Says the Results of a Hostile Action Drill at Three Mile Island are Grievously Misleading

A key element was missed during the hostile action drill at Three Mile Island (TMI). Specifically, emergency responders could be prevented from carrying out their responsibilities if the bridges at TMI are not under the control of the licensee. The control of approach routes was previously an NRC goal during the rule making process in which TMI Alert participated.


by Scott Portzline

The new steam generators at Three Mile Island have an unexpected flaw which is yet to be understood by Areva, the twice financially rescued French company (last year by US tax dollars) which built them, or by the engineers in the US nuclear industry. Fortunately, the engineers at TMI correctly determined that abnormal wear was occurring at unexpected locations on 257 steam generator tubes. Their observation caused Arkansas Nuclear to re-evaluate data which it had glossed-over indicating that the same thing was occurring at their reactor site.

These new "enhanced" steam generators were supposed to save money by decreasing maintenance and by increasing the amount of electrical power generated. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) was so confident in the new metal alloys used in the steam generators that they would automatically extend inspection cycles to any licensee which requested it. But, now the NRC should mandate that the inspection of these new steam generators be more thorough and occur during each refueling outage. TMI will do this voluntarily.

The problem will probably be blamed on a design flaw which allowed steam tubes to bang against each other. Either the proximity of the tubes to each other, or inadequate stiffness can be blamed for the unexpected wear. The high temperatures of the pressurized water running through (and around) these tubes cause the tubes to expand and to bow sideways.

There are concerns that under abnormal conditions, when the temperatures can double or triple, additional tubes will bow even farther and then additional tubes may be compromised. Add to that the vibrations and shock waves caused by steam voids (which happened at TMI in 1979) and you have a large break loss of coolant accident on your hands as numerous tubes fail.

At the moment, there is still enough safety margin at TMI during normal conditions. Exelon claims that a "large break loss of coolant accident evaluation also demonstrates significant margin" as far as the steam generator tubes are concerned. Their report allows for tripled pressure differentials to support their analysis. However, there is no discussion of the temperature differences which allow the tubes to bow. During the 1979 emergency, temperatures in the reactor rose ten-fold. Steam generator "A" tore its guts apart.

The NRC's Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards, which conducted a review in 2001 stated that, "The NRC staff does not currently have a technically defensible analysis of how steam generator tubes, which may be flawed, will behave under severe accident conditions in which the reactor coolant system remains pressurized."

Additionally, there is a special manner in which tube failure can cause what is known at a guillotine rupture accident. If a high temperature jet rushes from a failed tube and cuts through an adjacent tube, the process can repeat itself in a rapidly cascading failure. A report on experiments by the Rockwell International states "[Damage] occurred on the surrounding tubes due to the high temperature reaction."

Knowing this, and despite the chances of its occurrence being very low, the NRC should address this as a Safety Issue. A spokesman for TMI stated that the newly found flaws are not considered a safety issue.

The problem reminds me of a fatal flaw that existed during the Apollo Moon Program. The original Saturn rockets had a vibration problem called "pogo." Liquid fuel slammed against the bottom of the fuel tank and then slammed against the top. The forces threatened to tear apart the rocket. Designers solved the problem by installing baffles to prevent the sloshing of the fuel.

Now back to nuclear thinking: For years the industry compared itself to "rocket science" and that ordinary citizens were unable to understand the complexities involved. Therefore citizens who worried about nuclear safety were viewed as ignorant, over-emotional pests. As the years went on and citizens became very sophisticated with their knowledge and familiarity of the regulatory process, citizens were accused of wanting to over-regulate the industry. New cries went up from the industry and even from the NRC's chairman Nils Diaz, "This is not rocket science."

The steam generator concerns are on the level of rocket science. These are new materials, higher pressures and temperatures may be involved, and new operational conditions and data; just like rocket science. No one should forget that experiments are still being thrust on the public in this nuclear realm.



by Scott D. Portzline

The good news for energy reliability is that wind and solar are stealing the show. Just last week, the North American Electrical Reliability Corporation testified to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) that over the next 10 years 260,000 megawatts of new nameplate electrical capacity will be added. A whopping 96% of that will come from wind and solar. The NRC was told they might have to back down some of their nuclear plants during off-peak loads because of new wind-powered generation.

The claim by former NRC Commissioner Forrest J. Remick that nuclear power is “the most cost-effective way to boost capacity while meeting climate change goals” is hardly the truth. (Allentown Morning Call, Your View, 3/22/2010) The so-called nuclear renaissance is already on “life support” with taxpayer loans. Some proposed new plants are being canceled by utilities as costs double and even triple. Ratepayers in Florida are already paying for new nuclear plants that haven’t even begun construction let alone generate a watt.

In San Antonio Texas, the city-owned utility filed a $32 billion lawsuit against their nuclear construction partners alleging they had concealed rising cost information and thereby threatened the city’s credit rating. In South Carolina, the Public Service Commission ruled that the cost of proposed new nuclear plants does not have to be disclosed. How can anyone determine its cost effectiveness with a secret nuclear price tag? Meanwhile nuclear plant owners are suing the US over their current nuclear waste burden.

On the question of operating capacity, even if the new wind and solar generators were to operate at 20% capacity, that’s still double the output of the 26 proposed nuclear plants touted by Professor Remick. There’s no perpetual waste bill, no security force, no government subsidized catastrophic insurance, and no need for evacuation plans with these renewables.

The US is already ahead of schedule for the Department of Energy’s 2030 energy plan to have 20% of our electricity supplied by wind. Just last year 9,900 megawatts of new wind power came online. That increase in a single year represents 4 times the rate of growth provided by nuclear plant power uprates as calculated over a 15 year period. Best of all, it relieves us of the financial entanglement of 2 new nuclear plants. It should soon be obvious that Public Utilities and Wall Street favor these renewables and have all but closed the door on nuclear.

Scott D. Portzline
Harrisburg PA Security Consultant to Three Mile Island Alert


Comments of Eric J. Epstein,
January 6, 2010


On August 4, 2000 Governor Tom Ridge announced that electric competition would lead to job growth, economic expansion, and decreased rates. According to Governor Ridge, “Pennsylvania’s national leadership in electric competition continues to bring dramatic savings and economic benefits to Pennsylvanians.” Gov. Ridge added, "And, according to this new report, those savings and benefits will continue for some time to come!”

The Department of Revenue released "Electricity Generation Customer Choice and Competition” (August, 2000), and predicted free market nirvana. Secretary of Revenue, Robert A. Judge Sr., forecast reductions in retail electricity prices would lead to the following economic impacts in Pennsylvania by 2004:

The real gross state product will be $1.9 billion higher; overall employment will increase by 36,400 full-time and part-time jobs, nominal personal income will increase by $1.4 billion; the price index will decrease by .47 percent; and the population will increase by 51,400 people, as workers are attracted to job opportunities in Pennsylvania.

The Department of Revenue also reported that deregulation would result in greater sales tax and Personal Income Tax collections.

Could the deregulators have gotten it more wrong?

The reality is not so dreamy. Electric companies are collecting $11.4 billion in stranded costs, shifted taxes to hostage rate payers, and dumped customers at record rates.

Deregulation shifted power plants back to the local tax rolls under the assumption that utilities would pay at least the same amount had they been subject to real estate taxes.

By 2004 homeowners were paying an average of 30% more in property taxes than they did in 1997. PPL and the other electric utility companies are paying 85% less in taxes on their plants, down from about $120 million annually to about $20 million according to a Philadelphia Inquirer analysis.

Uncollectible accounts were supposed to decrease with the price of electric.

On November 19, 2004 - the last day of a “lame duck session” - the General Assembly passed “The Responsible Utility Customer Protection Act” (SB #677 or Chapter 14) at the behest of the energy industry. This legislation - passed in secrecy and without public comment - became Act 201.

Prior to this legislation, the PA Public Utility Commission prevented most winter time utility shut offs between November through March.

Deregulation’s “Consume Protection Act” has produced a 113% increase in terminations. In the first eight months of 2008, PPL cut electricity to 28,561 customers, which was an 111% increase over the number of customers whose power was shut off during the same period in 2007. The statewide average was 24%.

In 2004, about 70% of customers who received notices saying power could be shut off called the company and tried to arrange an alternate payment schedule according to PPL. Now only 28% of those who receive termination warnings try to arrange other payment plans.

But it got worse for Joe the Plumber.

A study published by Carnegie Mellon University's Electricity Industry Center found, “On average, power users in restructured states pay 2 to 3 cents per kilowatt hour more than customers in states that didn't restructure.” (Electricity Prices and Costs Under Regulation and Restructuring, 2008)

Future shock: The Office of Consumer Advocate, in a letter to Governor Rendell on April 20, 2008, estimated approximate increases in the overall rates of residential customers, comparing rates that were in effect and rates that would be expected to be in effect for each company after the rate caps have expired:

Met Ed -54%

PECO - 8%

Penelec - 50%

Allegheny (West Penn) - 63%

These numbers are staggering and coincide with the deteriorating health of Pennsylvania's shrinking middle class. The promise of deregulation leading to more capacity, more competition and lower prices has turned out to be a profitable illusion for a select few.


Patriot-News Op-Ed by David Hughes

December 29, 2009


Pennsylvania decision-makers’ poor understanding of the electricity industry led them into a big mistake 13 years ago: Giving up the state’s authority to control electricity-generation prices.

Consumers were promised a competitive retail electricity market that would restrain prices. The warnings that such a market would not develop went unheeded, but they turned out to be correct.


• PPL should implement a program for senior citizens on       

fixed incomes who will be forced into a “hardship class.”    


December 1, 2009

By Marlene Lang

I received mail asking about the "leak" at Three Mile Island on Nov. 21. There was no "leak." Chicago-headquartered Exelon Corp. is replacing the steam generator at its Three Mile Island Unit 2 nuclear reactor, as is being done at other old plants around the country. These alloy generators were made to last the life of the plant, 30 to 40 years, and no plan was made back then for how to replace them. Today, these dinosaur plants are applying for license extensions and must replace their ailing parts.