• California to reconsider $4.7 San Onofre settlement after corruption allegations undermine public confidence

    This week, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) will start to reconsider the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station settlement that was reached in March 2013 and left consumers on the hook instead of utility shareholders for $3.3 billion of a $4.7 billion negotiated settlement for a broken nuclear power plant that was forced to shut down after a radiation leak in January 2012. The commission itself has been under investigation since 2014 for its seemingly inappropriate relationships with the very utilities it is supposed to regulate.

    Reopening the settlement allows ratepayers the opportunity to get a more fair and balanced position at the negotiating table while parties divide the costs of the failed steam generator replacement project that lead to the premature shut-down of the San Onofre reactors.

    It has been discovered that the settlement that assigned ratepayers (not the utilities that owned and operated the plant) the majority of the costs for the premature shutdown, was negotiated and defined almost entirely in private communications and backroom meetings between the regulators and company officials, and not through the appropriately designed public process – which would have ensured that the public interest was being upheld.

    The settlement process is designed to guarantee representatives from all stakeholder parties; regulatory agencies, the ownership organizations, and appointed representatives for the ratepayers, a seat at the negotiating table. Instead, Edison, the company that owned and operated the San Onofre nuclear power plant cooperated closely with regulators behind the scenes to subvert the public process and negotiate the terms of the settlement and strategy for dealing with the backlash from the public when the settlement would be presented.

    In March 2014, Edison revealed the settlement to the public, portraying it as a $1.4 billion “rebate” for ratepayers – referencing the amount of costs that the utilities would cover for the premature closure of the plant. Consumer groups started criticizing the deal after it was learned that the ratepayers would be funding the other $3.3 billion of the $4.7 billion settlement.

    Ultimately, it was the news media that uncovered the truth and laid it bare before the public. Reporters uncovered a wealth of e-mails and corporate correspondence which exposed the backchannel communications and how terms of the settlement were established.

    Simply stated, Edison, a company that was supposed to be under investigation by the CPUC, was instead working covertly with the regulators that were supposed to be investigating them, to discretely negotiate a critical settlement that ultimately transferred billions of dollars of costs from the utility to the public.

    One of the reasons that this corruptive behavior may have occurred was because both Edison and the CPUC shared an interest in obtaining documents from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries – the company that manufactured the faulty steam generators that ultimately forced the plant to shut-down. Edison is in court with Mitsubishi, seeking $7.6 billion for the failed steam generators.

    For several months, commission lawyers worked directly with Edison attorneys to draft and issue subpoenas used in the case against Mitsubishi. The …read more

  • Michael Mariotte: Counterweight to Nuclear Energy (1952 – 2016)

    Let us be clear: without Michael Mariotte’s decision in the mid 1980’s to devote his talents to stopping the nuclear industry, many things would be very different today. Michael could not do what he did without Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS), and the many thousands of people who work with NIRS could not have produced the results they did without Michael at the helm. This is one telling of this story.

    Dispassionate passion: The smartest one in almost any room… but never resting on his own analysis; always digging, asking the next question, checking the facts. Michael Mariotte was a journalist and an organizer and at bottom it was these talents that made his leadership of the civilian end of the US anti-nuclear community so deft. Michael’s dispassion was sometimes misunderstood as indifference, but he was standing back, watching as the pieces of a puzzle would come together. Michael’s ability to zero-in with the precision of a hawk on the pressure point that could lead to change, and then write the words that would mobilize thousands onto a path of action created much of the passion in our community that has resulted in so many victories over the last thirty years. (See Victories below.)

    Michael’s dedication to evidence and documentation provided credible, reliable information and analysis from routine reporting to hardcore litigation. He fully supported and sometimes led nonviolent direct action.

    Writing: Michael’s 31+ year tenure at NIRS is characterized by dedicated writing. He joined NIRS in February 1985 to write and edit Groundswell, NIRS publication for the Grassroots Anti-Nuclear Movement which provided in-depth reporting and analysis. In it Mariotte wrote articles so classic (including Nuclear Is Not the Solution the Greenhouse Problem) that many, if reprinted today, would hardly need update. NIRS had already established itself as the Go-To source for information on reactor operations and capacity factors, which were calculated weekly by staff and published twice a month in The Nuclear Monitor. Prior to the internet, this publication was the only readily available source of good facts on nuclear energy performance, and lack thereof, for the financial and policy worlds. He did not pursue a desire to go into the field of socially responsible investing rather stayed with NIRS to inform that realm of the financial and other dangers of nuclear power and its fuel chain. Michael kept The Nuclear Monitor alive and expanded it when publication of Groundswell ended (circa 1989). By 2000 with a staff of seven, he was far too busy with other aspects of NIRS work to write as he had before. Indeed hand-off of the publication of The Nuclear Monitor was a key element in NIRS’s affiliation with the World Information Service on Energy (WISE) that year. WISE continues regular production of the Nuclear Monitor in conjunction with NIRS.

    Michael’s commitment to reporting shown through again on his daily log of events as the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) Fukushima Daiichi meltdowns unfolded in 2011. The NIRS website often “broke” news that was only reported by …read more

  • nuclear-news: When France uses Charles Aznavour to trivialize Fukushima

    June 29th, 2016 By Mathieu Gaulène (Reporterre), nuclear-news

    Last week, the Embassy of France in Tokyo, Japan organized a “friendship dinner” to promote agricultural products from Fukushima. In this great communication exercise, the main purpose was to “serve the interests of France in Japan”, that is by defending the nuclear industry.

    ” The oceans are garbage dumps, the seabeds are soiled, smultiple Chernobyls are seeing fetuses stillborn”, sang in 2009 Charles Aznavour in “The Earth dies”.

    Yet at the Embassy of France in Tokyo, Friday, June 17, at a dinner during which he was the guest of honor, it was another song that was sung to the the nonagenarian by the Ambassador Thierry Dana. In partnership with Fukushima Prefecture and the Aeon supermarkets chain, the Embassy of France organized within its walls a great event for the promotion of agricultural products from Fukushima. Some “delicious dishes” were prepared and served by the chef of the Embassy to the handpicked guests.

    Charles Aznavour with Ambassador Thierry Dana

    Charles Aznavour with Ambassador Thierry Dana

    This is not the first time that the Embassy of France is actively promoting the nuclear industry and minimizing the risks following the Fukushima accident.

    The former minister-counselor had even told us point blank, in 2013, that the main role of the embassy was “to serve the interests of France in Japan, that is to say nuclear.”

    “We want to end this drama with this event”

    But with this event, a new milestone was reached in the promotion of nuclear power, assumed and uninhibited: an outright negation of the health consequences of this disaster on the region. For, under the guise of a pseudo “friendship” with the people of Fukushima, singularly absent from the reception, the dinner was above all a great exercise in communication.

    “We want to end this drama with this event,” explains a communication officer before the press conference starts. And to end the debate about radioactivity? “We do not want to present things like that …” she begins, before going elsewhere. And indeed, the ambassador of France, Thierry Dana, achieved the feat of making a speech on Fukushima never saying the words “nuclear accident” or “radioactivity”. He should have thought about it strongly, however when talking about “unfounded rumors on products that are both delicious and safe for health” [1]. When the phrase was translated into Japanese, Masao Uchibori, governor of Fukushima, and Tsuyoshi Takagi, Minister for Reconstruction, nodded, visibly satisfied that France plays its role of stooge in this case.

    Masao Uchibori, the governor of Fukushima, Thierry Dana and Tsuyoshi Takagi, the Minister for Reconstruction (left to right), Friday, June 17, at the Embassy of France in Tokyo.

    Masao Uchibori, the governor of Fukushima, Thierry Dana and Tsuyoshi Takagi, the Minister for Reconstruction (left to right), Friday, June 17, at the Embassy of France in Tokyo.

    When we questioned the ambassador on the left unspoken and the danger or irresponsibility, to promote products from a …read more

  • Juno spacecraft demonstrates viability of solar power in deep space

    What NASA insisted for decades could not be­a spacecraft using solar energy rather than nuclear power going beyond the orbit of Mars­will be proven false next Monday, July 4th, Independence Day, when the solar-energized Juno space probe arrives at Jupiter.

    NASA had maintained that to provide on-board power and heat on spacecraft in deep space, plutonium-powered systems were required­despite the disaster if there were an accident on launch or in a fall back to Earth and the plutonium was released. I broke the story 30 years ago about how the next mission of NASA’s ill-fated Challenger shuttle was to involve lofting a plutonium-powered space probe and I have been reporting in articles, books and on television on the nuclear-in-space issue ever since.

    If the Challenger accident did not happen in January 1986 but the shuttle exploded on its next scheduled mission, in May 1986, with the plutonium-powered space probe in its cargo bay, the impacts could have been enormous. Plutonium is the most lethal of all radioactive substances.

    Still, when NASA re-scheduled the two plutonium-powered missions it had planned for 1986­one the Galileo mission to Jupiter­it not only publicly declared that plutonium systems to provide on-board power for space probes in deep space were necessary but swore to that in court.

    Opponents of the Galileo mission brought suit in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. in 1989 seeking to stop the nuclear-energized Galileo shot because of its public health danger in the event of an accident, and they pressed NASA and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) on the availability of a safe energy alternative. NASA and DOE officials swore that only nuclear power would do that far out in space, that solar energy could not be harvested beyond the orbit of Mars.

    And now comes NASA’s own Juno spacecraft energized by solar energy functioning in deep space. Indeed, NASA acknowledges, “This is the first time in history a spacecraft is using solar power so far out in space.”

    Says Bruce Gagnon, coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space: “All during out campaigns to oppose NASA plutonium launches during 1989, 1990 and 1997”­when NASA launched its Cassini space probe with the most plutonium NASA ever used in a power system on a spacecraft­“the space agency maintained in court and in the media that solar would not work as an on-board power source in deep space. Then, in part because of grassroots pressure from around the planet, NASA decided to use solar on the deep space Juno mission.”

    “To this day,” Gagnon went on last week, “NASA still maintains that it must use deadly nuclear devices on some of its space missions­further evidence that the nuclear industry maintains a stranglehold on the space agency. The nuclear industry mistakenly views space as a new market for its toxic product that so many have rejected back here on Earth.”

    Gagnon added: “We will continue to organize to stop the nuclearization of space­and we will use NASA’s own Juno mission as evidence that …read more

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