2016 - 06 - 15 Setting the Record Straight on Nuclear Plant Closures and Why Nuclear is Not a Solution to Climate Change

In 2016 there are an increasing number of stories and opinion pieces in news media distorting the facts about nuclear power. Mothers for Peace Board Member Molly Johnson sets the record straight on several environmental concerns and safety issues.


MISINFORMATION: “The fearmongers’ emotional appeals have already helped close three other California nuclear power plants.”


FACT: The three nuclear power plants that were closed are:

Rancho Seco, Sacramento: Closed by public referendum after a very serious cooling accident that came very close to cracking the containment vessel. Two workers were exposed radiation and the plant vented radioactive steam into the air over Sacramento Valley pastures, about 25 miles southeast of the California capital. The NRC said the overcooling was one of most serious of the many woes that had plagued the 913-megawatt Rancho Seco plant since it was built.   CLOSED BECAUSE OF SERIOUS SAFETY ISSUES – NOT “FEARMONGERING”

Cooling Accident at Rancho Seco Chills Nuclear Power Industry, Los Angeles Times, August 31, 1986|STEVE GEISSINGER | Associated Press

Humboldt Bay: Directly from the NRC, “The plant operated commercially from 1963 to 1976. On July 2, 1976, Humboldt Bay Power Plant (HBPP) Unit 3 was shut down for annual refueling and to conduct seismic modifications. In 1983, updated economic analyses indicated that restarting Unit 3 would probably not be cost-effective, and in June 1983, PG&E announced its intention to decommission the unit.” CLOSED BECAUSE OF ECONOMICS NOT “FEARMONGERING”


San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) –the San Onofre plant was closed because of problems in steam generator systems. A tube in the plant's replacement steam generator system leaked a small amount of radioactive steam on Jan. 31, 2012. Eight other tubes in the same reactor unit later failed pressure tests, an unprecedented number in the industry, and thousands more tubes in both of the plant's units showed signs of wear. Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric spent more than $780 million replacing the steam generators several years ago, which ratepayers are now repaying. Edison cited mounting costs as the driving reason for closing down the plant.   CLOSED BECAUSE OF ECONOMICS NOT “FEARMONGERING”

The Orange County Register, June 7, 2013



MISINFORMATION: “Diablo Canyon produces power without emitting carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases that worsen global warming.”


FACT: Nuclear power is pointedly advertised as a clean energy source. Examination of the complete series of industrial processes needed to make nuclear power possible reveals a picture of nuclear power completely different from the usual connotation of 'clean'.

What does the nuclear industry mean by 'clean'? Climate neutral: no emission of CO2, no greenhouse gases at all? No chemical pollution? Are radioactive releases 'clean'? A comprehensive life cycle analysis and energy analysis of the complete nuclear energy system from cradle to grave proves none of these claims to be valid. The nuclear reactor is the only part of the nuclear system that does not emit CO2, all other parts do. Emissions of greenhouse gases and chemical discharges into the environment are kept secret.

All other processes of the nuclear process chain, comprising construction of the nuclear power plant, , the mining, milling and transportation of uranium and subsequent production of nuclear fuel from uranium ore, power plant construction, generators, waste storage, decommissioning, transportation and storage of high-level waste, accidents and many others are all CO2 producing activities.

Releases of radioactive substances into the human environment occur in all phases of the nuclear process chain. Particularly the processes of the back end are potential sources of substantial emissions of radioactivity, for these involve a billionfold of the amounts of radioactivity compared to the front end. The nuclear reactor and the back end processes discharge considerable amounts of radioactivity into the environment on routine basis. These emissions are going on day after day, year after year. Radioactive contamination is cumulative and irreversible.

“Nuclear power has more than just a little greenhouse gas attached to it, when mining uranium ore, refining and enriching fuel, building the plant, and operating it are included. A big 1,250 megawatt plant produces the equivalent of 250,000 tons of carbon dioxide a year during its life.” – Ewe R Fritsche

Radioactive emissions are concealed, or played down as 'harmless' when they are disclosed. Even emissions of radioactive materials classified as 'weakly' radiotoxic turn out to be harmful for people living near nuclear power stations. Not to speak of the massive radioactive contaminations after large accidents, such as Chernobyl and Fukushima .



Nuclear Power, Energy Security And CO2 Emission, Jan Willem Storm Van Leeuwen, Independent Consultant, Ceedata, Chaam, May 2012

Valuing the greenhouse gas emissions from nuclear power: A critical survey Benjamin K. Sovacool, Energy Governance Program, Centre on Asia and Globalisation, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore, June 2008

Comparison of Greenhouse-Gas Emissions and Abatement Cost of Nuclear and Alternative Energy Options from a Life-Cycle Perspective Uwe R. Fritsche, Coordinator, Energy & Climate Division, Öko-Institut (Institute for applied Ecology), Darmstadt, Germany, January 2006

Evaluation of lifecycle CO2 emissions from the Japanese electric power sector in the 21st century under various nuclear scenarios Tokimatsu, K., Kosugi, T., Asami, T., Williams, E., Kaya, Y., 2006.. Energy Policy 34, 833–852

Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Energy Systems: Comparison and Overview. Dones, R., Heck, Thomas, Hirshberg, S., 2004a. In: Cutler, Cleveland (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Energy, vol. 3, pp. 77–95.

Too Hot to Handle? The Future of Civil Nuclear Power. Barnaby, Frank, Kemp, James, 2007a. Oxford Research Group, Oxford July 2007.