Always read beyond misleading headlines

By Leslie

Japan Times / Reuters September 10, 2014

Japan’s regulator OKs nuclear plant return while pushing to close old reactors

by Kentaro Hamada and Osamu Tsukimori


The Nuclear Regulation Authority gave the go-ahead on Wednesday for the restart of a nuclear power station, the first step to reopening an industry that was mothballed after the Fukushima disaster and which may involve the closure of a dozen old plants.

The NRA said Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s two-reactor Sendai plant in Kagoshima Prefecture could restart, although that still hinges on the approval of local authorities.

Japan is nearing the end of its first full year without nuclear power since 1966 and public mistrust of the sector remains high after the 2011 Fukushima triple meltdown, the worst such disaster since Chernobyl.

The government is pressing regulators to make the tough decision on whether to decommission the oldest of the country’s 48 reactors, which face higher safety hurdles than the rest. Weeding out reactors that are 40 years old or more may help win public trust in the rest of the industry.

“For myself, I would like to proceed with smooth decommissioning (of some plants) and at the same time the restart of nuclear power stations certified as safe,” Yuko Obuchi, the new minister for economy, trade and industry, who oversees the nuclear industry, said last week.

The government has been pressing to restart reactors that receive safety approval from the NRA to reduce Japan’s reliance on expensive imported fuel.

The push for a reckoning on some plants is “clearly part of the strategy by the government and utilities to send a signal to the people of Japan that they are listening and taking into account the lessons of Fukushima,” said prominent nuclear power critic Arnie Gundersen, director of Fairewinds Energy Education.

“But it also reflects the challenge faced by utilities in finding the funds to bring older reactors to a standard that can pass NRA approval,” Gundersen, a veteran U.S. nuclear engineer who turned against nuclear energy for safety reasons, said by email.

Under post-Fukushima rules, reactors are to be decommissioned after 40 years. They can receive a 20-year extension but that is subject to more rigorous and costly safety regulations.

As many as two-thirds of Japan’s 48 idled nuclear units may never return to operation because of the high costs, local opposition or seismic risks, while one-third will probably come back online eventually, according to a Reuters analysis from earlier this year.

The NRA gave final safety clearance at a meeting on Wednesday for the Sendai plant, after granting the two-reactor power station preliminary approval in July.

The approval certifies the upgraded design and safety features of the reactors, but the units, which have been shut for more than three years, still have to undergo operational safety checks and require local authorities to approve their restart.

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What does Southern Co.’s CEO know that we don’t?

By Michael Mariotte

Southern Company CEO Thomas Fanning (left) selling former DOE Secretary Chu on the wonders of Vogtle, 2012.

Southern Company CEO Thomas Fanning (left) selling former DOE Secretary Chu on the wonders of Vogtle, 2012.

The question of the day is what does Southern Company CEO Thomas Fanning know that the rest of the world doesn’t?

The question arises because on September 5th, Fanning sold nearly all his stock in Southern Company, more than a million shares, putting nearly $47 million into his bank account. He kept only 35,000 shares.

That’s a tidy sum, and would seem to be incentive enough to sell–unless one thought the stock would rise higher. It’s not like Fanning was selling off a few shares because he needed some cash to renew a country club membership or something. No, Fanning sold more than 90% of his stake in the company he runs. Not many people have pressing bills of $47 million.

And, after all, Southern Company has been telling Georgia regulators for years that construction of its two new Vogtle reactors is needed and well worth forcing ratepayers to put up billions of dollars for that construction. Fanning also negotiated a multi-billion dollar taxpayer loan from the Federal Financing Bank, through the Department of Energy. Fanning and Southern Co. have been assuring regulators and DOE that construction of Vogtle is going just great–nothing to worry about there.

So, you’d think that Fanning would be holding on to that stock for dear life–it’s obviously poised to soar once Vogtle is completed and becomes operational, right?

Apparently not. Maybe Fanning has been reading GreenWorld, where we’ve reported several times this year on the cost overruns and schedule slippages plaguing the Vogtle project.

Or maybe Fanning knows something the rest of us don’t know, or have only speculated upon. Maybe the Vogtle project isn’t really progressing as smoothly as Fanning and other Southern Co. execs have been saying. Maybe that schedule is going to slip some more. Maybe the cost overruns are only beginning. Or maybe Fanning doesn’t trust his own management abilities.

We’re certainly not accusing Mr. Fanning of doing anything illegal. And maybe we’re just not rich enough ourselves to realize that yes, sometimes one does need $47 million in cash instead of stock.

But one thing we are pretty sure of: Fanning doesn’t expect Southern Company stock to go up anytime soon. And we don’t either.

And that would seem to mean that Fanning doesn’t think Vogtle is going to turn out to be such a great thing for Southern Company. If that’s his thinking, we agree with him again.

But we wonder whether Fanning will still argue, with a straight face, that Vogtle is a great idea for ratepayers. Actions speak much louder than words, and in this case, Fanning’s actions are at Spinal Tap level–Volume 11.

Michael Mariotte

September 15, 2014


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Filed under: Nuclear Economics Tagged: Southern Company, Thomas Fanning, Vogtle

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France failing to keep up with nuclear reactor maintenance

By Lucas W Hixson

Cattenom Nuclear Power Plant - France

According to the head of the French Nuclear Safety Authority, Electricite de France SA (EDF) – the largest generator of nuclear power in the world, is unable to keep up with maintenance needs at aging nuclear reactors in its fleet. The state-controlled EDF operates 58 nuclear reactors at 20 nuclear facilities and nearly 85% of its electrical production comes from nuclear energy.

After the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, EDF was forced to conduct repairs and safety improvements at its nuclear power stations, but according to Pierre-Franck Chevet, head of the Nuclear Safety Authority in France, “There are delays and complications and some could affect safety.”

EDF has estimated that it will need to spend at least $71 billion to improve safety at its nuclear power plants before 2025.

EDF shares have fallen as much as 4.2% since June 19th.

The post France failing to keep up with nuclear reactor maintenance appeared first on Enformable.

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Japan In Depth / TEPCO Measures Fail To Hold Water

By Broc West By Eiji Noyori and Hiroyuki Oyama / / September 11, 2014 / Three and a half years after the outbreak of the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, efforts to contain water contaminated with radioactive substances at the plant are at a crossroads. Resolving the radioactive water issue is the first hurdle toward decommissioning the plant. However, despite the time that has passed since the beginning … Continue reading

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Japan To Restart Two Nuclear Reactors

By Broc West via / September 10, 2014 / Japan’s nuclear watchdog has given the green light for two reactors to restart but the operator still has to persuade local communities they are safe. Widespread anti-nuclear sentiment has simmered in Japan ever since an earthquake and tsunami in March 2011 caused meltdowns at the Fukushima power plant, sparking the worst atomic disaster since Chernobyl. The country’s nuclear reactors were switched off after … Continue reading

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TEPCO Signs LNG Purchase Deal With BP

By Broc West via / Septmeber 12, 2014 / Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) and BP Singapore (BPS), an affiliate of BP Group have signed an agreement under which the Japanese utility will purchase up to 1.20 million tons of LNG per year over 17 years from the British firm. LNG supplies are expected to commence in April 2017 and the gas would be sourced from multiple sources the BP holds, TEPCO … Continue reading

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From the Women of Koodankulam: a letter to the sisters of India and the world

By Nuclear Resource We also hope you remember us- the women of the tiny coastal village of Idinthakarai, closest to the famed Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP) in Thirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu. We have been silent for many months, not because a sense of failure engulfed us after the Supreme Court verdict that permitted the Nuclear Power Plant to be fully operational.

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Beautiful Skies with Devastating Repercussions

By Leslie


Solar Storms: Sometimes the most beautiful natural phenomena can have devastating consequences. When the sun ejects hot charged particles into space, the Northern Lights are created here on Earth. Occasionally the sun erupts with huge quantities of particles (Coronal Mass Ejection) that can damage the earth’s electric systems. Renowned author Mat Stein and Arnie Gundersen discuss the dangers of a large coronal mass ejection on the electrical grid and on nuclear plants worldwide.

Associated Material

MetaTech Study HILF Report (NERC) Mat Stein Website Mat Stein Blog


Sometimes the most beautiful natural phenomena can have the most devastating consequences. When the sun ejects hot charged particles into space, the aurora borealis is created here on earth. An aurora is a natural light display in the sky (from the Latin word aurora [Sunrise] or the Greek goddess of dawn, especially in the high latitude regions caused by the collision of charged particles in the solar wind with magnetic fields high in the atmosphere.

AG: Hi. I’m Arnie Gundersen. And today we have a real special honor. We have with us a renowned, best-selling author and an MIT grad, Mat Stein. Mat’s here to talk about electromagnetic pulses, commonly called EMP’s and solar storms. So Mat, I’d like to welcome you to Fairewinds and also I’d like to ask the first question. What the heck is an EMP?

MS: Well, thanks for having me on. An EMP stands for electromagnetic pulse. So what happens in the pulse in an EMP, whether it’s a highly charged plasma coming from the sun in a coronal mass ejection, like the sun burps and a bunch of sun stuff is launched into space at 1,000 times faster than our rockets fly – it can go out through space – and then on rare occasions they actually hit the Planet Earth. And on even rarer occasions – we have about 100 very significant geomagnetic storms in the last 152 years – but we’ve had two extreme geomagnetic storms in the last 152 years. And so the problem on our planet in kind of starting to connect the EMP and solar storm is that the last time we had a really big storm on our planet was in 1921 – the great geomagnetic storm of 1921. 93 years ago was the last time we had a really big one. So since then our grid has grown and our technology’s grown. And we have these Achilles’ heels in the grid now that didn’t exist in 1921. But now we have this giant interconnected grid with these massive transformers that are super susceptible to the EMP. Well, on top of that, we have microelectronics. Now a solar storm doesn’t really affect the microelectronics because it doesn’t have the E1 and E2 effect of the EMP. So the EMP is much more devastating to electronics on a smaller level; on the area of the affected level. But the solar storm is much more devastating in a different way in that it doesn’t really mess up your small electronics. It won’t cause immediate meltdowns of your nuclear power plants. What the solar storm will do is it will fry much of the grid over most of the Northern and Southern hemispheres for a long, long, long period of time. And the problem is that these giant transformers that I’m talking about that are susceptible both to EMP damage and solar storm damage – they’re roughly 100 tons each; they’re 10 million dollars apiece roughly, and they’re custom built and custom designed. And right now, there’s a 3-year waiting list to have one. In other words, when one fries – and they do on rare occasions – they burn up eventually – it takes a year to get a replacement for it – or three years. When things are going well or if it’s a rush order, you can get one in a year. But normally, like if you just wanted to expand your grid, you’ve got to think 3 years ahead. So in the event of an EMP, you’re going to probably lose dozens of these transformers in a single EMP; perhaps even 50, 60, 70. In the event of a massive solar storm, which is guaranteed to happen – the last one was 1921 – it was only 60 years before that to an even bigger storm, the 1859 Carrington Event. So this is a guaranteed event. I mean talk about an end-of-the-world scenario – end of the world as we know it, certainly. I mean an EMP itself is bad enough when you think about we’re going to have failed infrastructure. Think about 100 Hurricane Katrinas happening at the same time. Think about how our response was to a single Hurricane Katrina. Now imagine 100 Hurricane (4:11) Katrinas. The entire half of the United States – eastern half of the United States, the most densely populated part of the United States – it’s like a Hurricane Katrina has hit that entire place, the infrastructure is destroyed, the grid is destroyed, the electronics are destroyed, our manufacturing abilities are destroyed – everything is down for a long, long time, because there aren’t enough spare parts in the world to fix that stuff. For years. (4:40)

AG: Let me tell you a story. I was in Washington at the RIC – the Regulatory Information Conference – in 2012, and I had a chance to ask a question of then NRC Chairman Jaczko. And I asked him not about a bomb EMP but about the solar storm electromagnetic pulse and what was the NRC doing about that. And he said it was the last thing on his agenda. Ahh. He just basically felt it was – compared to the other issues on his regulatory agenda, it wasn’t something he was interested in.

MS: Well, I have a letter in my notes right here from Dr. William Graham. Now Dr. William Graham – I keep wanting to call him Billy Graham, but that’s a different doctor – Dr. William Graham was Ronald Regan’s Chief Science Officer for several years, his Chief Science Advisor to Ronald Regan. He spent more than 30 years in the Department of Defense Nuclear Program. He’s a Ph.D. physicist. He was the Chairman of the Bipartisan EMP Commission that was appointed by Congress to study this problem. And he has a letter dated October – that was received by the Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, it was addressed specifically to him – in October of 2011, a few months after Fukushima had happened. And he is warning them of the specific issue of multiple Fukushima-like events in the event of either a terrorist artificial EMP or a solar storm, and along the lines of the 1921 geomagnetic storm. And he said, well, what’s the chances of this happening. Well, scientifically, the chance of an extreme geomagnetic event, which is a grid-collapsing event over most of North America, is 1 in 8 every decade. So I don’t know about you, but if somebody told me oh, don’t worry about boarding that plane, there’s only a 1-in-8 chance it’s going to crash, I would not get on that plane. But what we’re being told is every single decade, we have a 1-in-8 chance that the world as we know it is going to end, unless we fix it. And there is a solution – a partial solution – to protect the grid at least. And everything in our world depends on the grid, all these things I’m talking about. When the grid is down nothing is working. And we can protect the grid of the price of a single B2 bomber, a single stealth bomber. And so far, they’re only talking about it. For 50 years, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers warned that the levees around New Orleans were going to fail – not if they were going to fail, but they were going to fail when the next category 3 or stronger hurricane hit. They said it’s not a question of if, but when. We don’t know when that next storm’s going to hit. So for 50 years they said it’s going to happen, it’s going to be a catastrophe and we can fix it. It just takes money. And for 50 years, they were ignored; in fact, at one point they approved the money and then the politicians shuffled it into something else. Because it wasn’t sexy. It’s not like having a nice new amphitheater or a big sports arena or something like that to show. It’s just fixing these levees. And everyone looks – well, they’re not broken, right? Nothing’s happening; everything’s okay. (7:48) So we’re in that situation right now where the scientists and engineers, the Department of Defense, Oakridge National Labs, Sandia National Labs, Los Alamos National Labs – these guys all agree this is a real and genuine problem. So what’s the chance? One in eight chance every decade. It’s been 9 decades since the last one. It was 6 decades before that to the one before that. So we’re living on borrowed time right now. No one knows. Right now we had a very quiet solar maximum. Nothing happened. But the truth of the matter is, solar maximum, solar minimum – a killer solar storm can happen anytime in the solar cycle. It’s just more prone to happen in the maximum and so yeah, we had a very quiet maximum, this last solar maximum. It doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen next week. In fact, earlier this year, there was a coronal mass injection from the sun and a very quiet solar maximum that went off in a direction not too far from the earth. If it had hit the earth, it would have been at least as strong as the 1921 storm and it would have been game over. And it went off, but it didn’t hit us; it just missed us. And if it had hit us, it would have been game over. (8:59)

AG: So we have the sun burps, sends these high-energy particles, hits the earth’s atmosphere and that then hits the electric grid and causes a huge electric spike that burns out all of the –

MS: Not all. Many of hem.

AG: Many of these huge transformers. And that’s one in eight per decade and we’re nine decades into this. So it’s going to happen – and basically we’re living on borrowed time. As I understand it, there was one of these that did knock out the transformer at nuclear plant already.

MS: Yes. In 1989, they had a geomagnetic storm that was strong. But how strong is strong? It is 1/10th as strong as the 1921 storm. So the scientists who look at different things and evaluate different storms geologically, the 1989 storm was 1/10th as strong. And it wiped out one of these massive transformers at a nuclear power plant in New Jersey. It wiped out one of these massive transformers in the Province of Quebec and one in the United Kingdom. So what was the result? Well, in Quebec in the first 30 seconds – the first 30 seconds of this geomagnetic storm, there were 15 simultaneous failures in the grid, one of which being a massive transformer. The entire Province of Quebec was blacked out for 9 hours. Six million people for 9 hours. And there was some parts of Quebec were blacked out for 2 days. Well, that’s one – one transformer. The MetaTtech study, which was funded by the Department of Defense and Oakridge National Labs oversaw it and the National Science Foundation – these guys all pooled together, and they did a computer modeling of the grid. And they based their analysis on the 1921 storm. The 1859 Carrington Event was like the granddaddy of modern storms. That was 50 percent stronger. They anticipate that’s a once-every-five-hundred year event. So they’re not as worried about that. The 1921 they assume is a once-in-ever-75-to-100-year – somewhere in that range – basically we’re due for that sized one. (11:03) So that event is 10 times stronger than the event that wiped out 3 transformers between Quebec and the United States and the UK, who lost 3 transformers. Now in 2003, there was an event – it was lower in intensity but longer in duration than the 1989 event. And it wiped out a transformer in Sweden and it wiped out – it caused – 14 transformers eventually failed from the overheating and the loss of insulation in the coils. 14 transformers in South Africa failed. Okay. So what does 14 transformers mean? For an entire year, the only way South Africa could function without 14 transformers was they had to ration power. So when you’re going to work in South Africa in 2003, imagine going to work and for 5 or 6 hours 2 or 3 times a week during your workday, there’s no power. There’s no lights, no air conditioning, no phones, no internet, no escalators, no elevators, nothing’s working. And the entire country had to switch power around the country for an entire year to keep the country functioning, and that was the only way they could do it.

AG: And that was for a baby storm.

MS: That was for less than 10 percent – 1/10th – less than 1/10th of the strength. And you know as a scientist and engineer that if you ramp up the strength of an event by a factor of 10, it’s not like you have 10 times more failures. You have – because all of a sudden, you start exceeding the threshold of far more things. If you double it, like you pass the threshold of damage on many more – you double it again and way more. So I honestly think that – and I talked to John Kappenman who did the – wrote the report for the MetaTech study and he admitted that they were very conservative in their estimates. They didn’t want anybody jumping on it. And so when he said like, oh, we’re only going to collapse the grid to 2/3rd‘s of the country, that’s really long-term collapse. Because see, in the year 2003 also, they had a massive blackout on the eastern coast of the United States. And at first they said oh, the terrorists, the terrorists – the terrorists did it. Well, it turned out there were some killer trees. You’ve got to watch out for those trees. They’re very highly trained.

AG: Killer trees, right.

MS: Right. So you had a killer tree that caused a cascading failure from the Niagara Plant and it took out power to 50,000,000 people in the United States. So there was no EMP, there was no terrorist act. It was just a killer tree that some power lines snagged into. Snagged into, shorted out and caused cascading failure. In 1996, we had killer trees in Oregon. We had a very hot day. The whole western coast was in a heat wave, air conditioners going everywhere, the grid totally maxed out. And in the extreme heat, some power lines expanded and sagged and shorted in Oregon, cascading failure. The entire west coast out of power, some places as long as a couple of days. Most west coast for 7 or 8 hours. On that day, my brother and sister-in-law were driving through the central valley of California with their AC on. They ran out of gas. So they pulled into a gas station and it was like – oh. And everybody’s sitting in the shade going like this, at the gas station. (14:19) And they’re like, what the hell’s going on. And well, your money machine card’s not working. The cash registers were locked closed. No one could buy a drink. No one could buy a gallon of gas.

AG: And the pumps that pump the gas of course isn’t working –

MS: Isn’t working. Right. So nothing was working. And it was 110 out that day. You could fry an egg in the sun on the pavement. And they’re stuck for 5 hours until the power came on. Imagine if you’re stuck for one day. Imagine this. Imagine you go out one night and you look up in the sky and you’re in South Carolina and you see a scene you’ve never seen before in your life. The sky is blood red – orange, gold streaks, shimmering. And it’s just awesome. And your view of the sky is so amazing because there’s no city lights. And it’s like wow, this is really amazing. And there’s no city lights that day. And you go try and get on your computer and there’s no internet signal, there’s no phone signals. And you think, wow. And then the next day goes by and it’s still lit up like this. In 1921, the sky was lit up from the North Pole to Hawaii and Puerto Rico and from the South Pole to American Samoa. So the only place the sky wasn’t lit up at night in the whole planet was a very narrow deep tropical zone right around the equator. And in 1921 that lasted for two nights and two days. And in 1859, there were two coronal mass ejections. So the first one hit the planet, got it spinning really, really hot electromagnetically speaking. And then just as things are starting to cool down, the second coronal mass ejection – a one-two punch – came and hit the planet and it got it electromagnetically charged up for another 5 days. So for a total of a week, the sky was jut lit up. People were waking up at 2 in the morning in Colorado in the back country and getting their gear ready, thinking was daybreak, that the sun had come up.

AG: I understand they could actually see that in Havana.

MS: In Havana. That’s right. So you’re talking – and then start your calendar going. It’s like oh, nuclear power plants are required to have a week’s worth of backup fuel on hand – because the grid’s never down for that long. Right? It just doesn’t happen. So here you’ve lost 370 transformers in the United States, a couple of thousand in the world. That’s 20 years of manufacturing capacity when the world’s working right. At today’s current capacity, we could replace those transformers in only 20 years. But most of the world that makes those transformers is going to be down just like us and struggling in mass chaos. So you’re talking 20 years at full capacity when the world’s working well to make those transformers to replace what fried in a single storm. So you’re talking a situation where things are down for a long time. So a week later, nuclear power plants start running out of backup fuel. Unless they manage to get the government and the military organized to guarantee fuel arriving to 104 nuclear power plants in the United States, you’re going to start to see Fukushima-like things happening. Maybe they’ll keep fuel running to some, but all 104? When there’s chaos, when (17:34) there’s hijackings, when nothing’s working, do you honestly think that trucks are going to just roll down the road with diesel fuel and provide all these power plants with fuel to keep them going? Now some of these reactor plant guys called me up and said, well, the NRC says that we’re mandated to have a week’s worth of fuel on hand but we have a month on hand. Okay, so you’ve got a month. You think the world’s going to be back together in a month? The EMP Commission estimates it’s going to be 6 to 9 months at the minimum and probably multiple years to get things back up and running in any decent way, shape or form. So you’re talking chaos and the world as we know it being very different for a long period of time. And if they’re not 100 percent successful at keeping these nuclear power plants going – and that’s in the event of a solar storm. See, in the event of an EMP, it’s a different worry. Because in the solar storm, the good news is that at least your control systems – digital control systems and things are probably still working. If you can get backup generators going and keep them powered, then you can probably maintain some control. Because it’s just the grid is down and the whole infrastructure with cascading failures over the next couple of weeks; everything will fall apart.

AG: So what that means is if a solar storm electromagnet pulse wipes everything between the big wires and the transformers, but the nuclear plant on the other side of the transformer doesn’t see the solar storm pulse in a solar EMP.

MS: We don’t know for sure because none of that stuff was around in 1921 when the last extreme solar event happened. But the scientists believe that your digital electronic stuff is mostly going to survive. They’re not saying there won’t be some pulses that are going to wipe out some digital stuff, but in general, that stuff is going to survive. What’s going to fry is these massive transformers that interconnect our grid; that keep the grid flowing. And those have caused – big grid failures in South Africa, caused power failures in the UK, power failures in Sweden, power failures in the United States and it caused the entire Province of Quebec to black out short term. But the problem is that when you lose so many of these transformers – not one or two but hundreds of transformers – then your interconnecting grid is going to collapse and pretty much shut down everywhere. And then they’ll be able to disconnect pieces of the grid and restart areas if they have lots of local power generation and if they’re not heavily densely populated and they survived without a lot of local damage from the solar storm. Then they’ll be able to disconnect and restart certain areas. But most of the heavily populated and industrialized parts of the country will have enough density in them in the modeling that those areas will suffer long-term collapse; not just like oh, everything went down for a few days and we were able to get them restarted in some places. So to be able to restart pieces of the country, but large zones of the country will have so much damage they won’t be able to restart.

AG: So the NRC’s relying on there being diesel deliveries in basically social mayhem to keep a nuclear plan running beyond the 7th day. (20:48)

MS: The NRC is relying on positive thinking. Wishful thinking. Their wishful thinking that it’s just not going to be that bad; that these guys are gloom-and-doomers and it’s just not going to be that bad.

AG: The best emergency planners in the world are the Japanese. They know that tsunamis happen; they know that earthquakes happen. And the emergency planning system in Japan failed miserably, horribly. So for us to rely on studies from the NRC telling me that don’t worry, we’ll get the diesel fuel to these nuclear plants once a week for the next 3 or 4 years until there’s no – we don’t have any concerns here – is really, really wishful thinking.

MS: Now that’s a solar storm.

AG: That’s a solar storm. That’s not in our control and it’s a one-in-eight decade kind of event. (21:50)

MS: Right, it’s a one-in-eight decade kind of event; its been nine decades since the last one. We’re living on borrowed time.

AG: So how do you live knowing all this stuff?

MS: People say, well, you seem like a cheerful guy. It’s like Mr. Gloom and Doom and yet you’re smiling. I basically do what I can. I feel like I’m here to serve in whatever way I can and I do my best. My motto that I like to end things on – I’ll just tell you right now because you asked me that question – my motto is, I ask everyone to do their best to change the world and do their best to be ready for the changes in the world. And so I’m doing my best to educate people and wake them up and I see that we have multiple challenges, that we’re collapsing our world – business as we know it are killing the planet, are destroying the natural systems that maintain life as we know it on Planet Earth and keep humans and mammals alive. And we also have this thing where we’ve created these systems that are highly susceptible Achilles’ heels to both EMP’s and solar storms. And so it’s kind of like rolling the dice, like what we’re doing is going to collapse the planet in the not-very-distant future if we keep it up the way we’re doing it. And we have these Achilles’ heels that could be an instantaneous collapse if we don’t do the right thing. Now here’s the silly part. For the price of a single B2 bomber, they have invented these large vacuum tube devices and they tested them at the same – Curtis Brian Burtenbach – I think is his name, or Burnbach. And they have the biggest EMP testing facility in the world. They do a lot of testing for the DOD and he’s extremely worried about this. For good reason. He’s very worried about both EMP and solar storms. So they have invented a large vacuum tube device that reacts fast enough and can handle such huge amounts of power that it can almost instantaneously shunt power around these transformers into earth and protect them from both EMP and solar storms. So we can’t protect all of our electronics from an EMP. Most of our electronics won’t be affected by the solar storm if we can keep the grid up. So if we can at least keep the grid functioning, then we can keep pumps going, we can at least keep part of our world going, at least with manual stuff, even though a lot of the digital stuff will be gone. So it’ll be rough, but it’s doable. So we could for 2 billion bucks, we could protect all of these massive transformers in the grid, and the grid from meltdown in the event of a solar storm or an EMP. And for another billion bucks or so, we could put (24:21) EMP-hardened containers with backup critical electronics, backup generators and store a year’s worth of fuel at each of our 104 nuclear reactors. So yes, it would be chaos. It would be rough even if we did the right thing. But it wouldn’t be the end of the world. But if we do the wrong thing, then either an EMP or solar storm could basically be – an EMP would be the end of America as we know it. And a solar storm would be the end of the world as we know it. But we could fix it.

AG: It reminds me of the tsunami at Fukushima. The tradition in Japan has seen tsunamis as high as 100 feet and certainly tsunamis as high as 30 feet. But in light of that, they built a tsunami wall that was only 15 feet high. So we have the opportunity to build our tsunami wall against solar detectors because we know it’s coming and it’s not going to break the bank. A couple of billion dollars is problem solved.

MS: And here’s the part of the other – it just kills me – is NERC – North American Electric Reliability Corporation – sounds like the good guys. It’s a private corporation from industry insiders in the electric utilities and they talk about protecting the grid and grid reliability. And then FERC which is the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is the federal government governing board that kind of follows everything and regulates stuff. So what happens? Well, NERC is kind of worried about the grid. They sponsor this conference and they look at threats to the grid and whether it’s from terrorists and digital threats – killer trees, various things, and they determine in this that the EMP’s and solar storms are the number 1 and 2 threats that could really be serious. They’re called black swan events. They happen now and then, not so often that you’re really worried, that you’re paying much attention to it, but when they happen they can be huge events. So they publish a report called the HILF report – High Impact Low Frequency Report. And they talk about these dangers. Now after that, in the government, they put the Shield Act in the Congress. And the Shield Act is saying that private industry is going to pony up 2 billion dollars out of their bottom line, out of their pocket and they’re going to fix the grid. Well, NERC goes wait a minute. That’s a lot of money for private industry. That’s a lot of money out of our bottom line. So what does NERC do? Well, they basically fire the guys that wrote the HILF report and said how dangerous this was. They come out with a new report that says everything’s okay; don’t worry, we’ve got it covered. And they tell the Congress. And they tell the Congress just what they want to hear and they say, oh, well, this is terrific, this is so wonderful. What new modeling did you do? What new scientific study and data did you take to do this? Oh, we didn’t do any new modeling. Well, what about the MetaTech Corporation study, the one that Sandia and Oakridge National Labs oversaw and sponsored and the National Science Foundation and Department of Homeland Security? What about that? And they said well, that’s proprietary computer code in the MetaTech study so we couldn’t really evaluate it. But we talked to our members and we decided we got it covered. Now I tell you, when three transformers blew in the 1989 event, which was 1/10th as strong as the 1921 event, which was 50 percent weaker than the 1859 event and yet they’re telling you they have it covered. (28:00) So then guess what they just did? In June, they published a standard. FERC – the Federal Regulatory Commission – came to NERC and said, could you please write us a safety standard or protocol for solar storms. So they said sure. So they wrote the standard and they got it passed and NERC rubber stamped it and the standard tells people what to do in the event of a solar storm. And the standard says every utility has to spend an average of 20 hours training somebody every year to make sure we implement the standard correctly. Now the standard doesn’t mandate that they put any hardware in, no current detectors to tell them how big the storm is and how dangerous it is to the grid. So they have no idea how to make a make-or-break decision, like is somebody just going to go in and shut down power to the eastern United States. And if they’re wrong, that’s the end of their career, for sure, if they’re wrong. And so – and yet – and how are they going to make that decision when they have no hardware implemented to tell them how serious the storm is? Plus, in 1989 in the first 30 seconds of the storm, 15 simultaneous hardware failures, including one of those massive transformers – in the first 30 seconds. What human being is going to go out and be able to make a decision in 30 seconds of that scale, of a massive scale, and make the right decision? It’s totally impossible.

AG: So we’ve got these satellites that are watching the sun. And the satellite sees this huge solar flare that likely is going to hit the earth, but maybe it’ll miss. And so the scientists go to the president and they say well, maybe this thing’s going to hit, maybe it’s going to miss. We need a presidential edict to shut the grid down anticipating that this thing will happen. Or, if it misses, we’ll all look like fools so let’s keep the grid going. That seems to be the only solution we’ve got in place right now.

MS: That’s correct. All we have now is you’re totally dependent upon – because let’s face it, no human being is going to make that decision on their own. And so in terms of a solar storm – a fast-moving solar storm can hit the planet in 12 hours. And the average solar storm is 2 to 3 days. So fast storms are 12 hours. One day, day and a half. Slow storms can hit as late as 5 days. But figure in general you’re going to have about 24 to 48 hours’ notice at most. And those are people watching the sun that are going to have to make those decisions, get to the right people, make massive decisions. And the chances that they’re really going to protect everybody are pretty slim.

AG: So you’ve written a couple of books about this topic. Can you let our listeners know what they might want to read.

MS: Sure. This book is my more recent book, called When Disaster Strikes. And it’s an emergency preparedness and survival manual. And people who read these kinds of things think it’s pretty much the best out there. And so this book has chapters specifically devoted to EMP and solar storm, survival chapters and prepping and strategies and what they are. This bigger book is my first book, the second edition widely expanded in 2008, of when technology fails. And this book, the subtitle describes it very well. It’s called The Manual for Self-Reliance, Sustainability and Surviving the Long Emergency. And so this book is kind of half eco green sustainability and half how you plan for and deal with varying levels of things falling apart in the world. So in my mind, if things really fell apart, I would much rather fall back on 18th Century technologies, live like Thomas Jefferson days or Abraham Lincoln days than go back to caveman days and eating worms and grubs and foraging for everything and living that kind of existence. It took me about a year to decide that maybe it was a good idea and maybe I could do it; another year to read a whole bunch of books and write a proposal and find a publisher; and then a third year to work 70 hours a week, 7 days a week. I only worked 6 hours on Sunday. I worked 12-hour days the rest of the week and 6 hours on Sunday and did that for 9 months to finish it off. And then I put another year into updating it in 2008. And it was like 50 percent bigger by word count. So this is my itty bitty big book and then the smaller book right here.

AG: All right. Well, thank you very much. I’m sure the people who listen to these videos (1) appreciate it; and (2) won’t sleep very well tonight.

MS: Well, again, I’ll just stress my motto one more time and that’s do your best to change the world and do your best to be ready for the changes in the world. And thank you, Arnie, it’s been a real pleasure being with you today.

AG: Glad you could come.

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NYC: Arnie Speaking Sept. 15

By Leslie


Arnie Gundersen will speak on September 15 at the United Nations Plaza in New York City. In conjunction with the NYC People’s Climate March and the United Nations Climate Summit 2014 in September, nuclear experts and activists will speak about issues associated with nuclear power – such as Fukushima, nuclear waste, uranium mining, human rights, health, economic, and technical issues – and will discuss why nuclear energy is not “clean” energy nor a solution to climate change. A Q&A session will follow the presentations. See below for more information.

WHERE: UN Church Center, 777 UN Plaza, 2nd Fl., NYC (44th St. & First Ave)

WHEN: Monday, September 15, 2014, 10:00 AM-12:00 Noon

HOW: Please pre-register by sending your name and affiliation to: Open to the public. Admission is free. No UN pass is required to enter the building.


CONTACT: Human Rights Now NY,

Nuclear Power is NOT the answer to Climate Change

September 15, Monday, 10AM – noon

UN Church Center, 777 UN Plaza, 2nd Fl., New York, NY 10017 (44th St. & First Ave)

WHAT: In conjunction with the NYC People’s Climate March and the United Nations Climate Summit 2014 in September, nuclear experts and activists will speak about issues associated with nuclear power – such as Fukushima, nuclear waste, uranium mining, human rights, health, economic, and technical issues – and will discuss why nuclear energy is not “clean” energy nor a solution to climate change. A Q&A session will follow the presentations.

WHERE: UN Church Center, 777 UN Plaza, 2nd Fl., NYC (44th St. & First Ave)

WHEN: Monday, September 15, 2014, 10AM-noon


Mr. Arnie Gundersen, Fairewinds Energy Education

Ms. Leona Morgan, Diné No Nukes

Mr. Pradeep Indulkar, Filmmaker

Ms. Marilyn Elie, Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition

Mr. Alfred Meyer, Physicians for Social Responsibility

Ms. Mari Inoue, Human Rights Now

Mr. Tim Judson, Nuclear Information Resource Service

Please pre-register by sending your name and affiliation to:

Open to the public. Admission is free. No UN pass is required to enter the building.

Fukushima Radioactivity – increased exposure levels and unstoppable contamination:

More than three years have passed since March 11, 2011, when the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami caused structural damage to the TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, resulting in a massive leakage of radioactive materials into the environment. Today, TEPCO still does not know how to stop the ongoing radioactive leaks from its facilities into the environment.

Many people, including children and pregnant women, still live in areas highly contaminated by the nuclear accident, because the Japanese government set the boundary of the evacuation zones based on an exposure level of 20 mSv per year, a threshold 20 times higher than that of the international protection standard and the pre-catastrophe national standard.

The Right to Health and a Safe Environment

Residents are entitled to live in a safe and healthy environment. However, a safe and healthy environment is not available to many Fukushima affected people because sufficient protective measures and supports are not provided in contaminated areas. Also, the rights to access to medical treatment and to know about one’s own body and health parameters have been seriously denied. The Fukushima nuclear accident teaches us that nuclear energy is not sustainable, and that such a disaster cannot respect the environment or the right to health of the most vulnerable individuals.

Indian Point puts 20 million in New York City area at risk

In the United States, there are about 100 nuclear power reactors still in operation. Two of them operate at the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant, 25 miles from New York City. Indian Point is in the process of renewing its operating licenses for an additional 20 years of operation. Nearly 20 million people reside, work or play within a 50 miles radius of these nuclear reactors. Are there any known safety concerns at Indian Point? Where does nuclear fuel come from? Is nuclear energy a carbon-free energy? How much nuclear waste is produced and where does it go, or more to the point, how long will it stay at the reactor sites, in need of continual cooling and security? Why do we have to take the Fukushima nuclear disaster seriously?


Arnie Gundersen, former nuclear power Senior Vice President,has more than 40 years of experience in nuclear power engineering. He attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) where he earned his Bachelor Degree cum laude while receiving a prestigious Atomic Energy Commission Fellowship for his Master Degree in nuclear engineering. He holds a nuclear safety patent and was a licensed reactor operator. During his career in the nuclear power industry, he managed and coordinated projects at 70 US nuclear power plants.. He is an expert witness on nuclear power engineering and risk, and has made presentations to Japanese universities, press, and the Diet about the ongoing tragedy from the Fukushima accident. As part of Fairewinds Energy Education initiatives, he has hosted numerous videos and provided updates about the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, found at:

Leona Morgan is a Diné (Navajo) organizer working with several community organizations based in the Southwest focused on addressing effects from past uranium mining and threats of new uranium operations in New Mexico since 2007. In 2014, she co-founded a network, Diné No Nukes, an initiative to nurture wide-scale awareness of nuclear and uranium development initiatives in the “Four Corners” region by providing multi-media educational materials and industry analyses to the Navajo electorate & elected officials. The goal of Dine No Nukes is to increase public awareness and civic participation to ensure that informed decisions are made on nuclear issues across the Navajo Nation and within the Four Sacred Mountains—for the protection of health, water, land, cultural resources and the sovereignty of the Diné people.

Pradeep Indulkar is an award winning documentary filmmaker of “High Power”, which won the Yellow Oscar in the short film category of the Uranium Film Festival in Rio de Janeiro in 2013. He has 12 years of experience at a nuclear reprocessing facility at different levels – from plant operator to engineer – which helped him gain wide experience and knowledge of the operational hazards and radiological threat to human life and the environment. After having some serious health issues, he left the job at the nuclear facility and started working to educate the public on nuclear power and the environment. He has founded 10 environmental education centers in India.
Marilyn Elie has been working to close the Indian Point nuclear power plant for the last 20 years. She is a co-founder of Westchester Citizens Awareness Network and one of the original members of the Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition, IPSEC, a coalition of grassroots and environmental organizations in the lower Hudson Valley. She became involved in this issue because of her concern about the unsolvable problem of high level radioactive waste; a toxic legacy that we are passing on to untold generations. Marilyn has also learned to watchdog the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. She regularly attends Nuclear Regulatory Commission meetings and has seen three regional directors come and go. She has learned how to read NRC reports for what is hidden between the lines and, on occasion, is the only person in the room who can attest to changes in the regulatory position because she was there at the original meeting. She firmly believes that the next year is critical in determining if the reactors at Indian Point will be relicensed to operate for another 20 years or if they will be denied a new operating license.

Alfred Meyer has worked with Physicians for Social Responsibility since 2000, and currently serves on the Board of Directors and Co-Chair’s PSR’s Radiation and Health Committee; he is a co-author of the 2014 PSR/IPPNW Chapters critique of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) report on the health effects of the Fukushima disaster, and is involved with a team that is working with the US Environmental Protection Agency as they begin the process to review and change radiation standards for U.S. nuclear power operations. He also is working with the PSR New York Chapter to add PSR’s resources and expertise to the broad based effort to shut down the Indian Point Reactors just north of New York City, to prevent and stop natural gas hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and to minimize climate change. Mr. Meyer has networked PSR with other groups working on Fukushima and nuclear power issues in the New York City area.

Mari Inoue, Esq. was born and raised in Tokyo, Japan. While working as an attorney in New York State, she has been volunteering for Human Rights Now (HRN) as its New York Representative since 2010. She co-authored “Opinion on the Measures to be Taken by Japan and Tokyo Electric Power Company to Address the Destruction of Health, Environment and Life Caused by the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant Disaster”, an opinion paper submitted by HRN in August 2011 that requested the Japanese government and TEPCO to change its policies on food safety, decontamination, evacuation, radiation protection etc. based on international standards, international precedents and domestic law in order to protect the health and restore the living environment of residents affected by the disaster. She has been playing an important role on behalf of HRN in co-organizing seminars and events in NYC to raise awareness about the ongoing grave situation in Fukushima. Recently she delivered a speech at the United Nations in March 2014 on behalf of HRN and 6 other international NGOs with ECOSOC status, and requested the international community to take the Fukushima nuclear accident seriously; to implement lessons learnt from Fukushima in the discussion on global health and environment; to take steps towards a nuclear free world; and to seek alternative energy in the Post-2015 discussion.

Tim Judson joined Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) in 2013 and was appointed Executive Director in 2014. He has been an organizer, campaigner, researcher, and policy analyst on nuclear issues since 1998. Prior to joining NIRS, he led campaigns in New York and New England, worked with whistleblowers, represented organizations pro se in NRC licensing cases, and helped develop the successful campaign to close the Vermont Yankee reactor. Tim is President of the Board of Citizens Awareness Network, a grassroots organization in New England and New York, and a co-founder (2011) and steering committee member of the Alliance for a Green Economy (AGREE), a statewide coalition in New York advancing the transition to a carbon-free, nuclear-free energy system. He has also a worked as an organizer, policy analyst, and researcher in the labor movement, and headed up the Workers’ Rights Program for the Progressive States Network

Human Rights Now: Human Rights Now (HRN) is an international NGO with ECOSOC status established in Tokyo in 2006. It has over 700 members composed of lawyers, scholars, journalists and concerned citizens, to promote and protect human rights worldwide with a special focus on Asian countries. In July 2011, on behalf of a coalition of civil society groups in Japan, HRN requested the Office of United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to appoint a Special Rapporteur to investigate the human rights situation after the nuclear disaster in Fukushima. In response to the request, Mr. Anand Grover, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health, visited Japan in November 2012. In December 2012, HRN submitted a joint statement, endorsed by more than 70 civil societies in Japan and worldwide, urging the IAEA and the Japanese government to take a rights-based approach in response to the nuclear disaster based on the preliminary findings and recommendations issued by Mr. Grover in November. To inform the international community about the ongoing crisis, HRN has delivered speeches and submitted statements to the Human Rights Council, has collaborated closely with a number of international NGOs and grassroots organizations around the world, and has organized human rights seminars and press conferences in Japan, Geneva, and New York. For more details on our past activities, reports and statements on Fukushima related issues, please visit:

Peace Boat US: Peace Boat US is a civil society, non-profit organization working to promote peace, human rights, equitable and sustainable development, and respect for the environment throughout the United States and the world. These goals are pursued through peace education programs, including onboard conferences, workshops, face-to-face encounters and field studies. Peace Boat US upholds The Hague Agenda for Peace and Justice for the 21st Century, including the promotion of the non-violent prevention and resolution of conflict among nations and peoples, and the development of a culture of peace. (

Nuclear Information and Resource Service: Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS)is the national hub of the grassroots anti-nuclear and safe energy movement in the US. NIRS’s mission is to promote the fastest possible transition to a nuclear-free, carbon-free sustainable energy supply; to advocate for responsible and environmentally just solutions to radioactive and toxic waste; and to fight for the greatest possible protections from the health and environmental effects of radiation. NIRS lso works closely with the international movement, and has a long affiliation with the World Information Service on Energy, a network spanning 12 countries on five continents. NIRS is the organizer of the nuclear-free, carbon-free contingent to the People’s Climate March in New York City which will be held on September 21, 2014. (

Physicians for Social Responsibility: Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR), the U.S. affiliate of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) advocates for sound public health policies regarding exposure to radioactive and other toxic materials. PSR is the medical and public health voice working to prevent the use of and to abolish nuclear weapons, to promote safe, non-nuclear energy, and to slow, stop and reverse global warming and the toxic degradation of the environment. PSR was founded in 1961 and was instrumental in achieving the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty that ended the global radioactive contamination produced by atmospheric nuclear bomb testing. PSR shared in the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize awarded to the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), for building public pressure to push their governments to end the nuclear arms race. ( presents an immediate challenge to protect those individuals most endangered by exposure to dangerous levels of radioactivity, and to adequately and openly track the health consequences of the ongoing irradiation of populations. PSR and IPPNW Germany recently co-authored“Critical Analysis of the UNSCEAR Report on Fukushima” which is available at:

The Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition: The Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition (IPSEC), a coalition of over 70 environmental, health and public policy organizations, was founded in 2001 to address the vulnerability of the nuclear reactors at the Indian Point nuclear power plant. Over 20 million people live within 50 miles of the plant. Our concerns include both existing radiation releases and potential additional releases from human error, aging infrastructure or terrorism, and the flawed, unfixable evacuation plan. Our grassroots efforts have enlisted the support of hundreds of local, state and federal officials.

Temple of Understanding: The Temple of Understanding (TOU) is among the oldest interfaith organizations in the United States with international presence and ECOSOC status at the United Nations (UN). The vision of founder Juliet Hollister was to cultivate positive social change and peace through the insights of all religions. Currently the TOU’s work at the UN is focused on sustainable development, through the transformation of consciousness needed to make necessary life-style changes to ensure sustainability. Religions help people shape their worldview and act on their values. Governments need the guidance of an awakened civil society to make radical changes. Corporations need an awakened civil society that will insist on sustainable consumption. Inspired by Thomas Berry CSP and the world’s religions, the TOU works towards the current manifestation of such transformation, in collaboration with those of many religious traditions and many different organizations. The TOU founded the Interfaith Consortium for Ecological Civilization, and most recently works closely with the Mining Working Group at the UN and the Women’s Major Group. Education and cultural programming have formed much of their work in the past, and inform the current work.,

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