With the help of two highly skilled translators, a South Korean public policy delegation met with Fairewinds’ Crew in September to ask questions and discuss decommissioning issues in the United States. The public panel, consisting of nuclear fuel researchers, labor union leaders, university professors, and NGO representatives, traveled from Seoul to Burlington, Vermont to visit Fairewinds Energy Education for a 5-hour, in depth briefing on the current state of decommissioning in the United States and in Vermont.
Some topics discussed included the shutdown of Vermont Yankee, the meaning and history of Vermont’s ACT 160 legislation, and the implications of decommissioning a nuclear reactor run by an LLC (Limited Liability Corporation), as well as public policy issues with the US NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission). Following their meeting with the Fairewinds Crew, the S. Korean delegation proceeded to Montpelier, Vermont to meet with Vermont's Public Service Department Commissioner Chris Recchia and State Senator Diane Snelling, followed by a meeting with Executive Director for Citizens Awareness Network Deb Katz in Brattleboro. The delegation's fast paced, week long tour of decommissioning hot spots throughout New England also included a meeting with Vermont Yankee utility owner Entergy Corp. during a guided visit of the controversial, aging, New York nuclear power plant at Indian Point.
Take a look at pictures from the meeting and learn more about what was discussed here.
An ode to teachers and educators for their dedication and service, For the Love of Kids, was written by Fairewinds' chief engineer Arnie Gundersen, and is his nod to the hard work and commitment it takes to teach and make a difference in students' lives. The article, written and published in 2003, was requested by the National Education Association magazine, NEA Today.
After being fired by Nuclear Energy Services in 1990 for notifying the company president of radiation safety violations and loss of control of radiation materials, Mr. Gundersen went from being a senior vice president of a major nuclear power consulting corporation to teaching high school by day and writing NGO commissioned nuclear expert reports by night. It was never Mr. Gundersen's intention to step into the role of head of the classroom, patroller of the halls, grader of papers and tests but it was a challenge he accepted that required more skill and pizazz, longer hours, and more initiative than any senior vice president position has ever required.
With the start of October, autumn is in full swing and school buses are packed with eager young minds ready to learn and grow. It's a time to remember that the teachers, whose work is to instill these ready brains with a lifelong love of learning, are not in it for the money, power, or prestige but rather, for the love of kids.
Teaching is my second career. I am a corporate retread. I spent 20 years in industry after graduating from college with a master’s degree in nuclear engineering, progressing from an entry-level engineer to senior vice president.
I must confess that I didn’t suddenly see the superiority of teaching and jump. No, I was pushed. Shoved. In fact, jettisoned. One day I noticed a serious safety violation in our nuclear facility, reported it to management, and was promptly fired. So I blew the whistle, got sued by my former company, lost my house, and was finally exonerated in Congressional hearings-and that’s when I landed in teaching. I took a job at a boarding school where I could get both a salary and a roof overhead for me and my wife and family.
Now I’m a public school teacher and loving it. And I’ve learned some things that very few people in the higher echelons of the business world ever find out. Eight years of teaching have taught me that teachers face significantly more challenges, play many more roles, and are paid considerably less than their corporate counterparts. Were you brainwashed into believing teaching salaries are lower because corporate employees have more demanding jobs? Don’t believe it! I have never worked harder in my life. People think that when the kids leave school, we kick back and unwind. Only our families see us grading papers on Sunday, planning lessons at 10 p.m., setting up labs at 7a.m., or using our weekends and “long” summers to take recertification courses or pursue advanced degrees. Studies prove teachers work a minimum of 50-hours each week. As teachers, we face not just long hours but also incomparable responsibility. Why is teaching so difficult? The velocity of our decision-making is one reason. Teachers must make a critical decision every 20 seconds. What direction to take a lesson when the kids don’t get it? How to discipline the student in the third row without disrupting the whole class? How to recover momentum after a public address announcement? Rarely is anyone in business under that type of minute-by-minute pressure. Corporate employees have time to mull things over, to reconvene a meeting in an attempt once again to reach a resolution, or even to sleep on an idea and finalize it the next day. Educators make more decisions in one class block than most business employees do in an entire day!
And they just keep coming. In business, if I had just dealt with a customer’s issue, I could break for coffee or talk to a co-worker to clear my brain. In teaching, after I deal with a challenging student, I look up and see 23 other faces requiring my immediate attention. Business results are tangible. Did the division or the product make money or lose money? It is usually easy to see a cause and effect relation to one’s performance.
Contrast that with the intangible results of teaching. We often leave school wondering if we made any headway that day and questioning if a different approach might have made the message clearer. If we had “Eureka!” moments in every class, we might achieve the same instant gratification that much of the private sector has. But, we don’t. Maybe several years, or even a decade later a student contacts us to say that we made a difference. Teaching is like planting an apple orchard; you must wait 25 years for the trees to finally mature and bear fruit. Psychologists claim that the longer the delay between action and results, the more challenging the task. By this standard, teaching certainly is the most demanding of jobs.
Additionally, each teacher must perform many different roles each day. In the corporate world, my role was clearly defined for me. The organization chart had a box with my name on it. I had a company car, a private parking space, and a paneled office to let other employees know their place in relation to mine. There is no organization chart to describe a classroom. Sometimes we are authority figures, but at other times we must take on the role of nurse, coach, custodian, lunchroom monitor, or mentor. We often must perform dissimilar roles to different students at the same time. Each role is critical, for it may be the one key that enables a student to achieve academic success or social integration.
Clearly in our profession, what we say and do makes an incredible impact on a young person’s self image. In business, one may fire an employee who isn’t performing, but we cannot fire a student who is not working or is not motivated to succeed. If we are at our best, we may be able to encourage, inspire, and lead. So, all of us must be at our very best every minute of each long and challenging day. But those intangible rewards outweigh the hassles. I am proud to be a teacher. And, about that career as a senior VP, I look back and marvel at how easy it was.
Lifetime Achievement Award Recognition:
The New England Coalition on Nuclear Pollution awarded Maggie and Arnie Gundersen, founders of Fairewinds Energy Education, a lifetime achievement award Saturday September 26 at its annual meeting. The Gundersens were recognized for their unceasing commitment to educate the public on nuclear power risk and hold the nuclear industry accountable on safety issues. Honored by this award, the Gundersens continue to educate and speak truth to power through Fairewinds Energy Education, by providing accessible, free, undistorted nuclear safety news, and by working with other NGOs and state governments, like the State of Vermont, to provide nuclear expert reports.
Featured Report:Lessons from Fukushima by Greenpeace, Intl.
Commissioned by Greenpeace International one year after the March 11, 2011 nuclear meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi, this report addresses the lessons that must be learned from this catastrophe. Four-years later, this nuclear disaster is far from over and continues to provide a unique opportunity for us to ask ourselves what this tragedy has taught us not only about nuclear power, but also about how vulnerable the public and environment is to industry-led political influence. Chapter 3, “The Echo Chamber: Regulatory Capture and the Fukushima Daiichi Disaster,” is Fairewinds’ contribution to this important text. This great read is available in full, for free, on-line.
Environmental scientist, chemist, and engineer Dr. Marco Kaltofen, presented his data at the September 21st Media Lab Talk at MIT that shows extremely high radiation doses emitting from dust samples he studied from Japan following the Fukushima Daiichi triple meltdown. Dr. Kaltofen, who has more than 30-years of experience in radiation and chemical safety investigations, is currently measuring such radioactive dust samples from sites located around the world.
Having already created a name for himself by providing expert witness testimony and consulting as a chemist and as an engineer in nuclear forensics work in the US, Middle East, Russia, India, Japan, and European Union countries, Dr. Kaltofen’s announcement at MIT of his in depth studies of Fukushima dust particles proves the extreme degree to which the nuclear power meltdowns at Fukushima Daiichi has destroyed and continues to wreak havoc on a land and its people. When radiation exposure occurs, many numbers and statistics are presented to the public that are little more than myth such as the one promulgated by the EPA that bananas carry radiation therefore radiation is natural and all around us. Dr. Kaltofen is a gifted teacher, who makes difficult material easy to understand for the general public, but mathematicians will also delight in the number of math equations Dr. Kaltofen throws at the audience as he moves from explaining the great harm that can be carried out by radioactive particles, even if they are miniscule, to what sort of devastating impact a large grouping of these radioactive particles can have, like those amassed on a Fukushima toddler’s shoe. By comparing these radioactive dust particles released by the triple meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi to the control samples from ‘radiation-free’ areas across the United States, the conclusions are harrowing. Fairewinds’ President Maggie Gundersen, Chief Engineer Arnie Gundersen, and Fairewinds Board member Chiho Kaneko attended Dr. Kaltofen’s groundbreaking MIT presentation.
A group comprised of researchers from Nagoya University announced that 70-100% of the fuel located in the No. 2 reactor at Fukushima Daiichi has melted. Last March, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), owner and operator of Fukushima Daiichi, told the world there was fuel remaining in the destroyed reactors at the infamous nuclear meltdown site. This latest inspection of the interior using a fluoroscopic device provided by Toshiba Corp., has uncovered a very different fuel scenario than what TEPCO relayed to the public as recently as six months ago. The report compiled by this most recent scan of the reactor interiors was released at a meeting of the Physical Society of Japan in Osaka on Sept. 26.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has formally withdrawn its approval of the combined construction and operation application for a GE-Hitachi [General Electric & Hitatchi] Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR) located in Mississippi. After submitting the combined construction and operating licence (COL) application to the NRC in 2008 for the Grand Gulf Nuclear Station, owner Entergy requested to the pull the application in February. Entergy is back-pedaling without citing specific reasons as to why, except that it found general issues with the General Electrics-Hitachi ESBWR. Major issues include potentially faulty steam drying design, and the lack of several post-Fukushima provisions on the license, including specific accident mitigation measures, provisions for instrumentation of the used fuel pool, and requirements for emergency planning and preparedness. Fairewinds testified to the NRC in 2011 regarding the extremely flawed Detroit Edison Quality Assurance Program for the Fermi ESBWR designed by General Electric-Hitachi. Given that the Fukushima Daiichi reactors are the old flawed GE boiling water reactor (BWR) design, as is the recently shutdown Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, and Entergy Pilgrim and Fitzpatrick BWR reactors also in the hot seat for safety failings and facing potential shutdown, it is wise for both the NRC and Entergy to reassess industry pressure and not rush through another flawed General Electric design.
More than half a million Americans in the San Fernando Valley, just outside of Los Angeles, are living ten-miles within the shadow of a secret 2,800-acre laboratory where secret collaboration between the U.S. government and private companies have tested the limits of nuclear power since the 1950s. Nestled atop a hill, the secret lab known as Area IV of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL) churned out everything from rocket engine tests to the first Sodium Reactor Experiment (SRE). Now abandoned, acres and acres of radioactive and chemical contamination remain right above the neighborhoods of thousands.
Very few people know the full history and truth about what went on at Area IV, and this eye opening and chilling NBC4 Southern California expose citing two whistleblowers, John Pace and Dan Parks, tells all. Back in 1959, Area IV of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL) suffered what most experts believe to be the worst nuclear disaster to occur in the United States when its sodium reactor experienced a partial meltdown much worse than Three Mile Island.
“Experts we spoke with, including a former Secretary of the California EPA, a medical doctor who studies radiation and a top government scientist told us that when the wind blows or the rains come and the water flows downhill from the site, radioactive and chemical contamination can come with it. And several studies, lawsuits and expert opinions raise serious concerns about off-site contamination as a result of what went on at the Santa Susana Field Lab,” according to the NBC4 report.
Whistleblower John Pace was working on the Sodium Reactor Experiment in 1959 when this disaster took place NBC4 noted in its three hour interview with Pace. Documents and interviews with various government officials and experts support Pace’s account, and differs greatly from the government downplayed report of the significant disaster and ongoing radiation release. Dan Parks was a health physicist monitoring radiation at the Area IV SSFL site during the 1960s. Parks’ interview unveils his first hand account of witnessing the burning of radioactive waste at the Field Lab’s burn pits in manmade lakes where waste was dumped and burned and the harrowing release of radioactive materials from various reactors into the environment. NBC4 investigators spent months researching government records and interviewing dozens of innocent victims living within the radius of SSFL’s Area IV contamination. These families have suffered greatly and have significant ongoing radiation and chemical induced illnesses due to the research conducted at Santa Susana’s Area IV.