Five Years of Nuclear Disaster: Fukushima Anniversary

Fuku 5 webThe fifth anniversary of the tsunami and earthquake which devastated Japan on March 11, 2011 caused the press to again — briefly — pay attention to the condition of the four Fukushima reactors, the radiated water gushing into the Pacific, the 9 millions bags of contaminated soil and debris, the daily crises faced by 80,000 evacuees, and the ghost towns. (Links to a few are below).

Safe & Green held a vigil on Saturday March 12 for a vigil between 10am and noon, at Pliny Park in downtown Brattleboro. About 30 citizens from Windham County, central Vermont, and downwind in the Pioneer Valley gathered together to counteract the nuclear industry whitewash, and spread the truth. At noon we walked silently through the Farmers Market and along Main Street.

Farmers Market IMG_2526sidewalk off center





By Safe & Green Campaign members:

Fukushima MotherhoodEnd Circle

Not a Wake Up Call

No end to nuclear disaster

Five years of local Fukushima solidarity actions

Outside Media

Fukushima: Five Years Later [Popular Science February 2016] A clear overview

NIRS April 5, 2016 Telebriefing on current conditions in Japan with Mary Olsen, NIRS and Arnie Gundersen, Fairewinds, who both the country in March 2016.  Presentation 30 minutes, followed by Q&A (60 minutes).

Arnie Gundersen, Fairewinds, reporting from Japan now. This audio episode is on daily living impacts. [Put on a Happy Face – Japan]

Namie: Abandoned Town in Japan’s Chernobyl (The Telegraph UK photos]

Kawauchi: Citizens step in where government has failed Fukushima children [Simply Info, the Fukushima Project 2014]

Over 9 million bags of nuclear clean up waste piled up across Fukushima [Mainichi JP December 2015]

Five years on, contamination crisis [South China Morning Post February 2016]

Japan to consider ocean disposal [Ashahi Shimbum December 2015]

For Fukushima mothers, protecting children from radiation comes at a heavy price [Ashahi Shimbum February 2016]

Cancer on the Rise in post-Fukushima [Fairewinds Energy Education November 2015]

Public Housing for Disaster Victims [Japan Times February 2016]

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PSR: 10,000 new cancers from Fukushima

Yesterday, Physicians for Social Responsibility released its research on the health impacts of Fukushima.  PSR estimates 10,000 excess cancers due to Fukushima.  Access the report or read highlights here.

Howard Schaeffer, long-time cheerleader for VT Yankee and the nuclear industry, told NDCAP at its February meeting meeting that no cancer hss resulted from the March 2011 triple meltdowns at Fukushima. We sincerely hope the citizen panel did not believe him. In its press conference releasing the PSR report, Dr. Alex Rosen, pediatrician and vice-chair, International Physicians for Prevention of Nuclear War, said:

 “One is of course reminded of the tobacco lobby disputing the notion that the horrific effects of its products have no adverse health impacts. This self-serving falsehood echoed for decades was made possible simply because the long-term health effects of smoking were not immediately observable. The 10,000 to 66,000 people who will develop cancer solely as a result of the “manmade disaster” are neither ‘negligible’ nor ‘insufficient,’ as Japanese authorities, the nation’s nuclear lobby, and various industry-dominated international bodies, would have you believe.”

Please stand up and speak truth to power. Join Safe & Green tomorrow, Saturday March 12th from 10am-Noon to remember Fukushima. Pliny Park, corner of High Street & Main Street, Brattleboro. More event info is here.



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People Power Wave by March 18

Decommissioning is the nuclear power wave of the future. Stop letting this corrupt industry dominate its captive regulator who should be answerable to the public, not profiteers. Add your voice to change the decommissioning rules. Comment to the NRC by March 18 by going to this link.

Need more info before writing your comments? We sat in on a Webinar hosted by NIRS & CAN. They make 11 recommendations.  You can download the NIRS PDF Powerpoint with more info. Here is a summary:

  1. Require Full Decom Funding Upon Closure

Owners like Entergy exploit SAFSTOR to avoid compliance with regulations and defer cleanup for decades. The result: workers who know the reactor aren’t on the job; the environment is at risk of more contamination over time; economic planning deferred.

  1. Bar Exemptions for Decom Fund Expenses

NRC lets Entergy use Yankee decomm trust funds for nuclear waste management and storage, property taxes, and lobbying, among other things not in the rules.

  1. Restore NEPA Compliance

National Environmental Policy Act was required in the past, which makes decommissioning a Major Federal Action requiring EPA involvement and meaningful oversight.

  1. Restore Public Hearing Rights and Safeguards

Not just one public meeting! We deserve full hearing rights. We who live in the region impacted more than any other stakeholders.

  1. Require FULL Decommissioning Plans

The PSDAR is now rubber stamped by NRC. Require site-specific planning with detailed independent site surveys at the reactor to be decommissioning – not cookie-cutter plans.

  1. Restrict Use of SAFSTOR and DECON

Limit SAFSTOR and require SAFSTOR time period be justified with evidence. Decommissioning should begin at the earliest possible date determined by worker and community safety – NOT by corporate financial manipulation.

  1. Create 4th Decom Option: PDSR

Planned Decom & Site Remediation (PDSR) would limit duration of SAFSTOR to 20 years max, based on safety, not money; include state and community involvement, and retain 50% of current workforce.

  1. Establish Site-Specific Advisory Boards

Independent advisory boards with resources to hire technical consultants with access to information and the NRC.

  1. Permit State Oversight of Decom

States must have resources and authority to regulate pollution within their borders and decommissioning funds that impact taxes and host communities economic development.

  1. Require NRC Inspections and Oversight

The NRC inspectors have left VT Yankee. Who is enforcing even the weak NRC rules? Where is the accountability? Unannounced inspections plus liaison to Community Advisory Board should be mandatory.

  1. Increase License Fees for Decom Reactors

NRC must adapt to industry changes. Operators’ license fees should reflect projected decom costs.


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Busy Week: PSB & NDCAP

The Public Service Board is holding technical hearings in Docket 8300 today and tomorrow. This is Entergy’s application for a Certificate of Public Good (CPG) for a new, second pad for the dry casks which will hold the high level radioactive waste from the fuel pool.

In the past, all VT Yankee cases were accessible via the Board’s website but the Board is not posting documents from this Docket for the public to read.  We have previously postecd on the issue here.

Since we have no idea how long the radioactive waste will sit there, it is important that this be done well. The Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel (NDCAP) is wrestling with the issue. The panel has been unable to come to consensus on an advisory opinion. It will be discussed Thursday night at their meeting. [6pm, Multi-Purpose Room, Brattleboro Union High School].

Schuyler Gould, a member of VYDA and now a New England Coalition trustee, has done a  Markup – NDCAP Draft Advisory Opinion on the issue here. His Cover Letter, Gould Markup Advisory Opinion is here. In the cover letter, he writes:

With all due respect to the efforts of the Panel on this particularly difficult issue, even the latest draft falls far short of standing up for the interests of the citizens it is commissioned to represent. The entire opinion is based, essentially, upon assertions by Entergy which have yet to be reviewed by the Public Service Board and judged to meet its regulatory obligations with the State of Vermont.

It is unclear to me, and others, why Entergy is even included on a citizens panel, it has been shown repeatedly to be at variance with citizens’ interests. That said, it should not be allowed to direct, certainly not to veto, the will of the majority of the panel.

The latest draft of the Opinion calls for “reliable assurances” from Entergy to “relevant regulatory bodies.” We all know a litany of assurances Entergy has given year after year after year—to the NRC, the Public Service Board, the Department of Public Service, the Department of Health, the Agency of Natural Resources, the Governor, the Legislature—not to mention the public, which have proven, quite simply, false.

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Independent Monitoring Needed

Dr. Bill Irwin, Radiological & Toxicological Sciences Chief at the VT Dept. of Health (VDH), is fighting for Vermont’s ability to retain its independent monitoring of radiation at Vermont Yankee. He writes:

The citizens of Vermont have relied on the independent VDH laboratory analysis of split samples from the VY site and its surrounding public environment which have been published for more than forty years. This independence and ease of access to data is a cornerstone of Vermont’s public health system and it provides Vermonters greater confidence that their land, water, air and health are fully protected.

The above is his conclusion to a Draft Advisory Opinion, under consideration by the Nuclear Decommissioning Citizen Advisory Panel. The State has more stringent air and water radiation regulations than the federal government’s, which Entergy find irksome. We agree with Irwin that the state needs to keep an eye on radiation during decommissioning, “what will be the largest industrial activity in Vermont’s history” .

Entergy doesn’t want to spend the money. They wrote their own Draft Advisory Opinion.

The full panel will meet on Thursday, February 25 at 6pm in the Multi-Purpose room of Brattleboro Union High School. This topic is on the agenda at 6:55 pm. You can read the Drafts and download the Agenda here on NDCAP’s new website:

Public comments on the drafts can be emailed:

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Rad Waste Advisory

Who will pay if the Dept of Energy hasn’t taken away the highly radioactive waste in 68 100+ ton storage containers when it is time to take down the buildings? Some folks who sit on the Nuclear  Decommissioning Citizen Advisory Panel (NDCAP) want assurance from Entergy that the company (or any subsequent owners) — not Vermont taxpayers — will pay for any delay in decommissioning the site. You can imagine what Entergy thinks of that.

onedaysonallthiswillbeyoursTwo Advisory Opinion have been drafted by an NDCAP subcommittee.   Only a few lines in each is different; the emphasis in italics is mine. Draft A reads:

 In the event the presence of the DFS casks will cause an undue delay in the demolition of the reactor building and/or structures, ENVY or any subsequent owner will commit to remedying the delay in a manner that does not encumber the decommissioning trust or site restoration funds, and which will not burden taxpayers beyond recoverable costs from the U. S. Department of Energy.

Draft B, reads:

Under NRC regulations, in the event the presence of the DFS casks will cause an undue delay in the demolition of the Reactor Building and/or structures, ENVY, or any subsequent owner of the property, will be required to update the PSDAR and DCE as well, if there are resulting significant increases in costs. ENVY or any subsequent owner of the property will be responsible for providing any additional funds needed to maintain the site consistent with applicable regulations in effect at the time, including, for example, funds or damages recovered from the U.S. Department of Energy.

We see two main points

  1. Since the Dept. of Energy (DOE) has failed in this effort after 75 years of nuclear waste being created, forgive us if we are skeptical about its potential for success. There is no place for DOE  to put the waste, currently. It is searching the US for communities that will offer their “consent” to  host a site. Even if a community agrees, it will take time to work its way through the legal and regulatory structures — especially if there is local opposition. Then the site design would have to be approved, etc etc etc — then built.
  2. If Entergy is so convinced that it can decommission the entire reactor site safely without the 68 dry casks getting in the way, why is it spending time fighting this purely Advisory opinion from a panel of mostly just plain folks?

The main purpose of the Opinion is to advise the Public Service Board, as that three-person state regulator considers the issue of a new storage pad for the waste. The Board has a history of permitting a project but adding conditions to the permit.

The full panel will meet on Thursday, February 25 at 6pm in the Multi-Purpose room of Brattleboro Union High School. This topic is on the agenda at 6:55 pm. You can read the Drafts and download the Agenda here on NDCAP’s new website:

Public comments on the drafts can be emailed:

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February E-News

Dear Friends of the Safe & Green Campaign,

The 5th anniversary of the beginning of the Fukushima melt-downs, evacuations, contaminations and deaths is approaching, March 11. On Saturday, March 12, we will host a vigil at Pliny Park in Brattleboro. We will honor the 100,000 Japanese people still unable to return to their homes and share what we have learned about Fukushima five years after the disaster began. Please join us from 10am to Noon. Details will be coming soon.

This week, TEPCO’s management claimed Fukushima could be all cleaned up in 40 years. If true, Fukushima will be cleaned up before Vermont Yankee! We wish we could believe TEPCO, but are skeptical. Just look at a single issue, radioactive water: everything TEPCO has tried has failed to keep the water contained.

Speaking of leaking radioactive water: Vermont Yankee and Indian Point are both leaking tritium at a rapid clip. Entergy funds to monitor groundwater at VT Yankee will expire in two months, and Governor Shumlin has put zero dollars in the budget for the state to cover it. Just days after the State and Entergy argued over this at Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens’ Advisory Panel meeting, the news broke that 90,000 gallons of groundwater laced with tritium are approaching the turbine building. NRC thinks the site has more than 1 million gallons of radioactive water and likes Entergy’s plan to ship it all to Idaho. Read more on VtDigger (and check out the Comments section for creative solutions worthy of The Onion.)

NIRS has two fact sheets on tritium: Tritium Basic Info  Tritium natural background

At Indian Point, “One monitoring well showed a nearly 65,000 percent spike in radioactivity, from 12,300 picocuries per liter to more than 8 million picocuries per liter, the governor said.” The NRC and Entergy say there is no threat to the public, but NY Gov. Cuomo said the State will investigate. Edwin Lyman of the Union of Concerned Scientists points the finger at Entergy management.

The State of New York doesn’t think the two Indian Point nukes should get 20-year extensions of their licenses, because the 2.5 billion gallons of water Indian Point uses every day hurts the Hudson River and kills its fish. Entergy claims this is using safety as an excuse and cites the Vermont Yankee federal preemption decision. [ 01.21.2016]

The NRC’s rubber stamp has been getting a lot of Vermont action. Everything is OK!

— VY security is OK: VY Security Endorsed by NRC. It’s all hush hush, because, well, Security. One thing Entergy’s Marty Cohn would say is that people are no longer trespassing because there are signs up saying not to. (Ahem, when did that ever stop us?)

— Entergy’s PSDAR is OKNRC Finds No Issues with VY Clean Up Plan and NRC OKs VY Decomm Plan. Of course, this plan that does not require NRC approval anyway …

–The decommissioning trust fund is OK in Entergy’s hands – NRC: Entergy Complying with Investment Guidelines on Trust Fund (Barre Times-Argus). This comes on the heels of news that Entergy spent down 10% of the fund in the first year of post-closure operations: Entergy Spent 10% of Trust Fund in 2015 (VtDigger) It spent $58 million. (Ironically, Yankee now pays GMP $100,000 a month for electricity and has asked Efficiency VT for help). The State of Vermont disagrees with the NRC that money from the fund should be able to go to spent fuel management, property taxes and other non-decommissioning activities and have filed suit with the NRC. Vermont is joined by the states of Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire, which are not only worried about the impact of 60 years of Safstor on their own states, but worry about the NRC setting precedent for use of trust funds. Each has their own reactors, and Pilgrim will close in a few years. And all four states are worried about the nuclear waste.

Recently, Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds Energy Education in Burlington “Decommissioning: Trust Fund or Slush Fund?” Listen to the podcast and or read the transcript. Gundersen stated, “…with the use of exemptions, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has turned the decommissioning trust fund into a decommissioning slush fund. And now they’re talking about avoiding exemptions entirely by changing the law.”

What Arnie is referring to is the NRC is drafting new rules to decommission reactors. The nuclear industry is promoting its own vision of decomm, and you can bet it’s about money and not public safety or cleaning up a site for productive re-use in the community. Click here to submit your comments. FYI: the comment period was extended to March 18 after public pressure, although NRC’s public comment page has the old date of January 4. Hmmm…. Oversight?

Also happening on the Yankee front: the VT Public Service Board has set February 22 and 23 for arguments on a permit for a new storage pad (ISFSI) for dry casks. The PSB will allow Ray Shadis to testify on behalf of the New England Coalition. (Entergy had fought his testimony). NDCAP has been working the heart of the matter. “… delays or other interference caused by the ISFSI being adjacent to the facility to be dismantled are a public concern, and any associated costs should be borne by the owner and not the public or the Decommissioning Trust Fund.” Entergy insists the Dept. of Energy (DOE) will take away the waste, and if the DOE fails to do so (as it has ever since the first reactor was built), there is sufficient room for the pad and deconstruction of the building near the pad. If Entergy is so sure, why argue so vociferously against a citizen panel’s advisory opinion? As the NDCAP draft advisory opinion states, “If the location is indeed not a problem then this should be a ‘moot point.’”

US Senator Patrick Leahy weighed in on the future of nuclear waste storage with a letter to NDCAP. The Dept. of Energy has begun a “consent based approach” to find a nuclear waste site or sites. Of note: this week, the NH House of Representatives voted down a bill sponsored by Rep. Renny Cushing to prohibit NH from hosting a nuclear waste site.

The “Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act,” sponsored by Senator Crapo (that’s not a typo), passed the US Senate last week and is on its way to the House. It would give money to develop new nuclear power generation and calls for a four year limit on licensing — which will mean less public participation. VT Senator Patrick Leahy & MA Sen. Elizabeth Warren voted for it – what the hunh? Please contact Leahy & Warren and give them a piece of your mind: Sen Leahy 802-229-0569 Sen. Warren (413) 788-2690

Let’s end with some love, this being Valentine’s Day. We love that Vermont has the 3rd most solar industry jobs, per capita, in the US. [Check it out here.] Look what can happen once a nuke shuts down!

Peace, Leslie Sullivan Sachs


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2015: Year One of Shut Down

Happy Anniversary! And Congratulations! It has been one year since Vermont Yankee stopped producing highly radioactive waste.

It has been a busy year since VY shut down on December 29, 2014, although the “action” has been in meeting rooms rather than marching to the gate. For a bullet list of Yankee-related news, visit our VT Yankee Timeline for 2015 . Review our news posts for the year for opinion. Here are a few highlights:

The best news is the simplest:

The ice returned to the Connecticut River last winter.

The shad returned this spring in record numbers.

2015 has not been kind to the nation’s 2nd largest nuclear corporation. Entergy is closing two more reactors, Pilgrim in Plymouth, MA and Fitzpatrick in NY. Entergy’s profits were down 30% at the end of the 3rd quarter this year; their two Arkansas nukes plus Pilgrim sit dead last on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s safety list; and the NRC discovered that Entergy workers had faked 10 years of fire safety records at its Waterford nuke near New Orleans.

In Vermont, Entergy is under constant pressure from the State and from you and me, and we are starting to see some results. Entergy will begin moving the radioactive fuel out of the fuel pool two years earlier than it had planned. It will not use the decommissioning trust fund to move and manage the fuel. It will use a line of credit in anticipation of being reimbursed by the US Dept. of Energy.

The Nuclear Decommissioning Citizen Advisory Panel (NDCAP) got a new chair and co-chair, both citizens, and the neophytes on the panel got educated. The panel has come a long way; a few Entergy stunts woke folks up. NDCAP is now actively advising the State and is working with its counterparts in other states and with the US Congressional delegations from the region to influence the NRC.

There is even good news if you look at the big picture. Despite heavy lobbying by some big names, nuclear power does not appear in the agreement which came out of COP21 in Paris.

On the other hand … there is the NRC.  In an August story on overheating the Cape Cod Bay caused by Pilgrim, the NRC admitted that it had not studied the effect of climate change on nuclear facilities. Since nuclear power (ab)uses more water than any other energy production except hydro, you would think this is something the NRC might want to take a look into.

But denial is the NRC’s best friend.  It cancelled studies of cancer around 7 nuclear reactors in the US, claiming the public health data would not be worth the price of $8 million. Sound like a lot to you? Compare it the NRC’s nuclear reactor research & development budget. Last week, Congress approved “$986 million in fiscal 2016, an increase of $80 million, or 9 percent, over the requested budget.”

What will 2016 bring?

Citizens across the US and the world will continue to fight for their voices to be heard in the face of extreme energy projects built (and later abandoned) by corporations which put profits first.

The town of Vernon is desperate for tax money now that Yankee has shut down. This March, the town will vote on whether to host a new gas plant. It would hook up to the Kinder Morgan pipeline and compressor station proposed for neighboring Northfield, MA.

VT’s Public Service Board will act on Entergy’s application for a new dry cask storage pad. The fight is on: Entergy wants the PSB to ignore any testimony by the New England Coalition’s Ray Shadis, a twenty–year veteran of Yankee cases before the PSB. Windham Regional Commission thinks the pad is in the wrong place, and a lot of us agree with them that the DOE can’t be trusted to take away the waste in a timely manner.

The NRC is drafting new rules for decommissioning nuclear power plants. Bowing to pressure from all sides, it has extended the public comment period to March 18, 2016. [More on our website with a link to the NRC comment page.]

A Final 2015 Memory

One of the most difficult, but certainly memorable events of 2015 for me was when the NRC came to Brattleboro in February to get feedback from the public on Entergy’s decommissioning plan.

Bert Picard to the NRC: “So what are you? You are a government of occupation, right?”

Betsy Williams’ indignation: “When you tell me the casks will be adequate, that does not give me great assurance. I’m looking for a hell of a lot more than adequate.”

Kevin Kamps’ comments to the NRC are a fitting close to 2015.

“The folks in this room, educated citizens fighting Yankee for four decades, shut it down. You have to use your same courage and vision and creativity to make decommissioning happen.”

Peace, and No Nukes,

Leslie Sullivan Sachs

For the Safe & Green Campaign

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Xmas Gifts

We found a few holiday gifts under our tree this season:

  1. Under pressure from regional nuclear activists, NDCAP, and our Congressional delegations, on December 24th the Nuclear Regulatory Commission extended the deadline to comment on nuclear reactor decommissioning rules. The new deadline is March 18. We will share our comments here at a future date.
  2. Entergy announced that it will move the radioactive fuel out of the fuel pool and into dry casks two years earlier than planned. The new target date is 2017. Dry-Load-Entergy News-Release-FINAL
  3. Entergy says it will use $145 million line of credit to move the fuel, rather than drawing down the decommissioning fund.

There is one drawback of Entergy’s announcement about moving fuel. It puts pressure on VT’s Public Service Board to give a Certificate of Public Good to the dry cask location by this spring. The PSB will have to come up with some creative solution to make this work for Vermont. In Entergy’s application to the PSB, the casks are close to the reactor building. Before decommissioning the reactor can begin, the Dept. of Energy would need to take all the fuel away. We don’t trust that the DOE will have can do all that is necessary to take the fuel away.

A senior staffer from the pro-nuke trade group, Nuclear Energy Institute, came to the Vernon nuke recently to promote their spin on dry cask storage — “one of the great industrial success stories of our time. We did not envision dry cask storage when we built any of these plants.” Mike Faher’s interview is here.

As to the Christmas eve gift of an extended comment period on new rules: The NRC gets a lump of coal for not adding any public hearings in states that are currently or will soon undergo decommissioning. As it now stands, only one public meeting will be held. Read all about it, and comment, on the NRC website here.

The decomm rules won’t take effect until 2019 or later, says the NRC, so new rules will probably not affect the decommissioning of VT Yankee. But other host states and communities can learn from our experience. The decommissioning of merchant reactors is a whole new ball game, and we are the among first to go through the process.

VtDigger covers the story in more depth here.


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VT & MA Congressional Delegations Tell NRC to Let the People Speak

US Rep. Peter Welch (VT), US Rep. Keating (MA), US Senators Bernie Sanders, Pat Leahy, Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren are calling for an extension of the public comment period on new decommissioning rules. The current deadline is January 4th. See our post here for how to comment to the NRC.

“[“[W]e believe the short public comment period and the plan to have a single public meeting will not give local and state stakeholders sufficient opportunities to participate meaningfully in the rulemaking process,” their letter to the NRC states. The letter asks that the deadline be extended to February 4.

They point out that scheduling the comment period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s “falls short of providing satisfactory time to comment.” The also ask that “a public meeting be held in each of the states in which a plant is currently being decommissioned, or will be decommissioned int he next four years”



You can Congress decommissioning-nuclear-plants-letter 12.7.15.

Please email your thanks to and


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