Annual Fundraising Appeal
 Here’s an important message from John Pilger on why the Left needs CounterPunch:
Pilger
John Pilger is one of the world’s most courageous journalists. He’s been contributing to CounterPunch for years. But as he notes, the old media establishment is crumbling around us, leaving precious few venues for authentic voices from the Left. This collapse makes CounterPunch’s survival an imperative. We’re not tied to any political party or sect. Our writers are free to speak their minds. Let’s keep it that way.  Please donate.

Day12Fixed

Yes, these are dire political times. Many who optimistically hoped for real change have spent nearly five years under the cold downpour of political reality. Here at CounterPunch we’ve always aimed to tell it like it is, without illusions or despair. That’s why so many of you have found a refuge at CounterPunch and made us your homepage. You tell us that you love CounterPunch because the quality of the writing you find here in the original articles we offer every day and because we never flinch under fire. We appreciate the support and are prepared for the fierce battles to come.

Unlike other outfits, we don’t hit you up for money every month … or even every quarter. We ask only once a year. But when we ask, we mean it.

CounterPunch’s website is supported almost entirely by subscribers to the print edition of our magazine. We aren’t on the receiving end of six-figure grants from big foundations. George Soros doesn’t have us on retainer. We don’t sell tickets on cruise liners. We don’t clog our site with deceptive corporate ads.

The continued existence of CounterPunch depends solely on the support and dedication of our readers. We know there are a lot of you. We get thousands of emails from you every day. Our website receives millions of hits and nearly 100,000 readers each day. And we don’t charge you a dime.

Please, use our brand new secure shopping cart to make a tax-deductible donation to CounterPunch today or purchase a subscription our monthly magazine and a gift sub for someone or one of our explosive  books, including the ground-breaking Killing Trayvons. Show a little affection for subversion: consider an automated monthly donation. (We accept checks, credit cards, PayPal and cold-hard cash….)
cp-store

or use
pp1

To contribute by phone you can call Becky or Deva toll free at: 1-800-840-3683

Thank you for your support,

Jeffrey, Joshua, Becky, Deva, and Nathaniel

CounterPunch
 PO Box 228, Petrolia, CA 95558

Without a Buyer for Old Kewaunee Reactor, Owner Chooses Shut Down

Shutting Down an Ancient Nuke

by JOHN LaFORGE

With its October decision to end the 39-year-old Kewaunee nuclear power experiment on Wisconsin’s Lake Michigan shore, Dominion Resources has shown the over-hyped “nuclear renaissance” to be a “reactor reassessment.” Calling its decision final, Dominion said it will close the pressurized water reactor permanently next spring, store tons of ferociously radioactive waste onsite indefinitely, and send its workforce of 655 to unemployment lines in “phased layoffs.” Dominion’s chief job creator Thomas Farrell, unable to find a buyer for the clunker said the closure is “based purely on economics.”

The industry’s early advertising dream of electricity “too cheap to meter” has become a radiation nightmare too costly to quantify. Initial shutdown expenses for the creaking, leaking 39-year old monster — waste management and reactor dismantling, containerizing and transporting to dump sites — are roughly predictable. According to the Associated Press, Dominion, which bought Kewaunee in 2005 for $220 million, will “record a $281 million charge in [2013’s] third quarter related to the closing and decommissioning.” But that’s just the earnest money. Literally endless expenditures will be required to keep Kewaunee’s radioactive wastes contained, monitored and out of drinking water for what federal appeals courts have declared is the required minimum — 300,000 years.

The Green Bay Press-Gazette reported that Dominion has 60 years to see that Kewaunee’s giant footprint is “returned to a greenfield condition.” Just don’t dig under that “greenfield” Virginia. In August 2006 radioactive tritium was found to have been leaking for an unknown period, from unidentified pipes somewhere beneath the reactor complex. With a radioactive half-life of 12.5 years, those unnumbered tankers of tritium will be part of Kewaunee’s groundwater for at least 125 years.

Considering Wisconsin’s nuclear power history, Kewaunee’s extremely hot and highly radioactive waste fuel will need expensive management for decades. The La Crosse Boiling Water Reactor near Genoa, Wis. was closed in 1987, and 25 years later its deadly waste fuel is still there, on the banks of the Mississippi.

Governor Scott Walker announced his disappointment with Kewaunee’s termination and said it “highlights the need to decrease unnecessary federal regulations.” Walker’s de-regulation agenda has caused disasters like Three Mile Island and Fukushima, and wouldn’t save nuclear power in any case because the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) rules are hardly ever enforced.

According to a year-long investigation of reactor aging problems by the Associated Press last year, when operators are found violating federal rules, the NRC routinely just weakens the requirements. (Jeff Donn, AP, “Safety rules loosened for aging nuclear reactors,” June 20-28, 2011) For example, in the ‘60s and ‘70s, the industry and regulators said unequivocally that U.S. reactors were built to operate for a maximum of 40 years. Today they insist the nukes can run for 100 years. True to form, the NRC rubber stamped a 20-year license extension for Kewaunee in March 2011 — like it’s done previously with 71 other 40-year-old reactors.

The AP’s four-part series found that such relicensing often lacks independent safety reviews, and that paperwork of the NRC sometimes matches word-for-word the language used in a reactor operator’s application.

As reactors age, the AP investigation showed, wear and tear, corrosion and radiation-caused “imbrittlement” of high-pressure steam tubes increase the frequency and likelihood of accidents. Kewaunee won its license extension in spite of a string of age-related accidents and outages that put the public and the Great Lakes in harm’s way: a 2009 emergency shutdown caused by improper steam pressure instrument settings; a 2007 loss of main turbine oil pressure; an emergency cooling water system design flaw found in 2006; a possible leak in Nov. 2005 of highly radioactive primary coolant into secondary coolant which is discharged to Lake Michigan; a simultaneous failure of all three emergency cooling water pumps in Feb. 2005, etc.

As author and senior Greenpeace consultant Harvey Wasserman concluded, “The real worry is that one or more of these old reactors might just blow before we can get it decommissioned. In that light, the shut-down of Kewaunee and the rest of its aging siblings can’t come soon enough.”

John LaForge has been on the staff of the nuclear watchdog group Nukewatch since 1992, and edits its Quarterly newsletter.