Higher birth-defect rate seen in Chernobyl area counters UN reports

Reuters reports that higher-than-normal rates of certain birth defects plague one Ukrainian region affected by fallout from the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power reactor explosion. The findings were reported in April’s journal of Pediatrics and counter a 2005 United Nations report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) which stated that there was no increase in birth defects. Dr. Wladimir Wertelecki, researcher at the University of Southern Alabama, says that this official conclusion had a “chilling effect” on study of prenatal disease and that these findings show more research is needed into congenital defects, especially in regions of chronic, low-dose radiation.


National grassroots gathering on radioactive waste, Chicago, June 4-6

Beyond Nuclear is a co-sponsor of a national grassroots gathering in Chicago from Friday, June 4th to Sunday, June 6th, which will address the radioactive waste crisis. The gathering will be devoted to challenging President Obama's and Energy Secretary Chu's “Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future." As its name, explicit mandate, and the bias of a majority of its members make clear, the panel ironically appears more devoted to expanding atomic power (and thus generating yet more radioactive waste) than it is to solving the over 50 year old high-level radioactive waste crisis. Please consider attending this event, and spread the word!


US NRC asks National Academy of Sciences to perform a cancer study around nuclear reactors

The NRC announced today that it has asked the NAS to perform a study on cancer risks around nuclear facilities. The study will begin this summer. Citizens' groups have already expressed aggravation that NRC would have control of such health studies since this presents a conflict of interest between NRC's role as both creator and assessor of its own health protection regulations. In their letter, the groups also expressed concern over inadequate study protocols that US government agencies have used in past studies. The division of the NAS slated to conduct this study is the Nuclear and Radiation Studies Board (NRSB) which has as its chair, Richard Meserve, a former NRC Chair. NRSB has planned a public meeting for April 26 (ironically, the day Chernobyl exploded) at the NAS in Washington, DC.  A skeletal agenda has been posted. Beyond Nuclear will post further details as they occur. 


UCS files emergency enforcement petition with NRC regarding Davis-Besse lid leaks

The Union of Concerned Scientists' nuclear safety project director Dave Lochbaum has filed an emergency enforcement petition with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission concerning recent revelations of boric acid leakage through the Davis-Besse atomic reactor's lid near Toledo, Ohio. Similar leakage at Davis-Besse led, in 2002, to the nearest-miss to a major accident since Three Mile Island actually suffered a 50% core melt down in 1979. Due to that previous debacle, NRC fined Davis-Besse's owner, FirstEnergy, a record $5.45 million in penalties. However, this most recent leakage of corrosive boric acid appears to have again violated NRC's operating license, risking a fast-breaking breach of the reactor pressure vessel boundary and potential loss-of-coolant accident.


Nuclear utilities sue DOE to evade Nuclear Waste Fund fees

The industry's lobby arm, Nuclear Energy Institute, and 16 nuclear utilities, have sued the U.S. Department of Energy in federal court to seek a suspension to $750 million per year of ratepayer fees charged on electricity bills for radioactive waste generation at commercial reactors. The lawsuit comes in response to the Obama administration's decision to cancel the Yucca Mountain dumpsite proposal in Nevada.