March/April 2015
Volume 2, Issue 3
  'Tis the season for nuclear meltdowns.

On March 28th, 1979, Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Middletown, Pennsylvania had a partial core meltdown that caused lasting health problems for people and animals downwind. On April 26th, 1986, the Chernobyl reactor melted down in what is now Ukraine. On March 11th, 2011, three reactors melted down in Fukushima, Japan, again dousing the world with radioactive pollution.

Nuclear power was never clean, green, or "too cheap to meter." In fact, it's showing itself to be "too expensive to matter," as no reactor in the world has been built without massive government subsidies. Even with billions in current federal U.S. subsidies, efforts to build new reactors in the U.S. are largely dead (with a few exceptions in the southeast which may get built).


Even victories against nukes are bittersweet, what with the U.S. taxpayer being saddled with the cleanup of toxic nuclear waste (with a half-life of tens of thousands of years) from shuttered facilities. Further, as Vermonters celebrated the closing of the Vermont Yankee nuclear reactor in December 2014, the dirty energy industry revealed plans to keep polluting the site with a natural gas and biomass power incinerator.

Nuclear power is also an extension of the nuclear weapons complex. They share the same uranium mining, milling, conversion and enrichment processes -- each of which pollutes a different set of communities.

It's only at the enrichment process where the paths diverge and some is fabricated for nuclear power plant fuel, while some is further enriched for nuclear weapons. Meanwhile vast amounts of "depleted uranium" waste are produced, then used in war with armor-piercing weapons that have contaminated entire regions of Iraq and other testing and war zones, contributing to Gulf War Syndrome in returning soldiers.

The legacy of nuclear weapons development (which is still expanding under Obama) still haunts us in communities like those between Denver and Boulder, Colorado, where the former Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant has spread plutonium contamination throughout the areas now being used as housing developments and a Wildlife Refuge.

Nuclear Power Plants USA.jpg

Radioactive Spikes from Nuke Plants Causing Leukemia?

- by Dr. Ian Fairlie, Ecologist

Operating nuclear power plants (NPPs) contain large volumes of radioactive gases at high pressures and temperatures. When their reactors are depressurized and opened to refuel every 12-18 months, these gases escape creating a spiked emission and a large radioactive plume downwind of the station lasting for 12 hours or so.

However the emissions and plumes are invisible, and no advance warning is ever given of these spikes. The public is effectively kept in the dark about them, despite their possible health dangers.

For years, I had tried to obtain data on these spikes, but ever since the start of the nuclear era back in 1956, governments and nuclear power operators have been extremely loath to divulge this data. Only annual emissions are made public and these effectively disguise the spikes. No data is ever given on daily or hourly emissions.

Is this important? Yes: these spikes could help answer a question which has puzzled the public and radiation protection agencies for decades -- the reason for the large increases in childhood leukemias near NPPs all over the world.



Prescribed Burn at Former Nuke Weapons Plant Worrisome

- by Josh Schlossberg, Truthout

This spring, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) had planned to conduct a prescribed burn to reduce vegetation and kill invasive weeds on 701 acres of the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge, nearly 4,000 acres of grassland prairie surrounding the site of a former nuclear weapons production facility outside Arvada, Colorado.

After local uproar, the FWS canceled the spring burn in early February, but burning is still a "management tool" they will consider using in the future, according to Noreen Walsh, regional director for FWS's Mountain-Prairie Region -- despite concerns of radioactive contamination.

Local activists and experts, including an air quality meteorologist and a former Department of Energy contractor, argue that burning will release radioactive plutonium from grasses and soils that may drift into nearby communities in Arvada, Broomfield and Boulder, and possibly as far as Denver, 16 miles away. The spring burn would've taken place on the southern portion of the wildlife refuge, adjacent to the Candelas and Whisper Creek housing developments.

Operations contaminated the soils and groundwater of the plant site with radioactive plutonium, americium, uranium and other toxic chemicals.The Rocky Flats Plant manufactured more than 70,000 plutonium "triggers" for nuclear weapons from 1952 until 1989, when a raid by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for alleged environmental crimes -- along with the end of the Cold War -- put an end to production.

Multiple fires, leaking storage drums, unlined disposal trenches, pipelines, storage tanks, landfills, incineration, buried buildings, and routine operations contaminated the soils and groundwater of the plant site -- and, according to some evidence, the refuge lands and beyond -- with radioactive plutonium, americium, uranium and other toxic chemicals, such as carbon tetrachloride, tetrachloroethene, trichloroethene, nitrates and chromium.


Reject the Exelon Takeover of Pepco

- by Mike Ewall, Energy Justice Network

Energy Justice Network testified in D.C. against Exelon energy corporation's takeover of Pepco, electric service provider to Washington, D.C. and Maryland. Read excerpts below with the full testimony here.

This takeover is a bad deal for the District of Columbia and is not in the public interest. It would hit DC ratepayers with higher electricity bills, would undermine renewable energy and would not provide reliable power.

Exelon is the nation's largest nuclear utility, with 23 of the nation's 99 remaining nuclear reactors. 81% of Exelon's electricity output in 2013 came from these 23 reactors. Two-thirds of them (15 of the 23) are in a list of reactors that are "at risk" of early retirement.

Nuclear reactors are NOT reliable. A reactor closed down temporarily for repairs, or permanently due to costs or unresolvable safety issues requires significant replacement power.

Exelon is hostile to renewable energy, despite some minor investments. In Maryland, they're starting to push for nuclear power to be included in state Renewable Portfolio Standards, which would decimate the market for wind power as existing nuclear facilities can name their price and undermine new wind and solar development.

Nuclear power is not environmentally sound. To produce the same amount of energy as coal, it lays waste to more land with uranium mining. It consumes extensive amounts of fossil fuels to mine, mill, convert, enrich and fabricate nuclear reactor fuel, and transport long ways around the country between each of these steps, before the fuel even reaches the reactor. Extensive radioactive and chemical pollution contaminates communities each step of the way, including in nuclear reactor communities, where radioactive air and water releases are routine and legal, not to mention illegal releases from spills.

Energy Justice Now provides critical reporting on the full spectrum of the Dirty Energy Resistance, highlighting the voices of community organizers battling fossil fuels, nuclear power, and biomass and waste incineration from sea to shining sea.


We are accepting submissions at Josh AT energyjustice DOT net. Find back issues here.


In Solidarity,

Mike Ewall, Josh Schlossberg, and Samantha Chirillo

Editors, Energy Justice Now

Join Energy Justice Network or consider a donation (please & thanks!).

Logo by Alex Zahradnik Design



EJN's Comments on  "Clean Power Plan"


Nuclear power should not be promoted by the Clean Power Plan, for several reasons. It's uneconomical, is monstrously expensive, and cannot exist without tremendous government subsidies and liability insurance caps. Conservation, efficiency, wind and solar can be implemented much faster for much less money.

The plan encourages states to keep open the six ailing nuclear power plants that are seeking to close, and would have states subsidize the five new reactors currently under construction. Four of the five are in majority black communities, which is a Title VI violation. Routine radioactive releases from operating reactors contribute to increases in thyroid and breast cancer, leukemia and infant mortality in reactor communities. There is still no solution for containing the radioactive waste.

Pollution throughout the fuel chain, from uranium mining to milling to conversion to enrichment to fuel fabrication is unaccounted for in the "Clean" Power Plan, as are the greenhouse gases from all the fossil fuels used to make the fuel, build/operate the power plants, then cool and isolate the waste for centuries.



No Nukes is Good Nukes


Arm yourself with information to shut down nuclear power.

Uranium Mining

The nuclear chain begins with uranium mining, a polluting activity that devastates large areas. Enormous amounts of rock have to be dug up, crushed and chemically processed to extract the uranium.

The remaining wastes, still containing large amounts of radioactivity, remain at the mines. These "tailings" are often stored in a very poor condition, resulting in the contamination of surface- and groundwater.

Nuclear Weapons

The same process used to make reactor fuel can be used to highly enrich uranium for nuclear bombs. This is why nuclear power programs have led to nuclear weapons programs in other countries.

Climate Change

While the nuclear reactors themselves release few greenhouse gases, the nuclear fuel cycle is a significant contributor. In 2001, 93% of the nation’s reported emissions of CFC-114, a potent greenhouse gas, were released from the U.S. Enrichment Corporation, where uranium is enriched to make nuclear reactor fuel.

Health Impacts

Radioactive air and water pollution is released through the routine operation of all nuclear reactors. A wide range of radioactive isotopes are released with varying radioactive and chemical properties -- some toxic, some not, some more radioactive than others, some lasting minutes, some lasting billions of years.


High-level nuclear waste (also called irradiated or "spent" fuel) is literally about one million times more radioactive than when the fuel rods were loaded into the reactor. This waste is so lethal that standing near it without shielding would kill you within minutes. This waste will be hazardous for millions of years. No technology exists to keep it isolated this long.


 Join NukeNet


Of all the forms of dirty energy, nuclear power has the greatest potential to harm human health and the natural world. Due to the obscene half-life of radioactive elements elements such as plutonium, nuclear waste remains a threat for tens of thousands of years.

Scores of advocates and organizers across the U.S. have been linking up with one another through NukeNet, Energy Justice Network's discussion list focused on closing nuclear power plants and preventing new ones from being built. 

If you have concerns about nuclear energy and want to stay in touch with other anti-nuke activists to share resources, talk strategy, or simply offer moral support, send an email to Traci AT energyjustice DOT net and join NukeNet today.