Protester Gets Jail Time for Non-violent Protest of Nuclear Plant in Virginia

Three of the six protesters arrested at the Dominion Resources North Anna Nuclear Power Plant were found guilty of trespassing today in the Louisa County Courthouse. The charges stem from conducting an alternative tour and sit-in at the Dominion Power Nuclear Information Center on August 7th.
The judge rejected their defense of necessity and sentenced Paxus Calta to 30 day in jail with 15 suspended. He reports to jail on September 29 pending his appeal and is available for interview until then. Sue Frankel-Streit and Spot Etal were fined $1,000 with $700 suspended. All three are banned form entering Dominion property for a period of two years. About 20 supporters gathered in front of the courthouse with signs displaying their anti-nuclear message.

“What is a greater harm here? That Dominions nuclear information center was inconvenienced and had to close 30 minutes late or that an untested new nuclear reactor will overheat Lake Anna when it is already getting to over 100 degrees most summers?” asks Paxus Calta, one of those arrested and a member of the People’s Alliance for Clean Energy (PACE) a group of concerned Louisa and Albemarle County residents who want real renewables and efficiency solutions instead of the proposed new reactor.

“Dominion wants to build a dangerous new reactor when it has no place to put the waste for the current two. These plants are already a toxic nightmare and we don’t need anymore in this area,” Says defendant Sue Frankel-Streit. “Dominion and the State are failing to address the problems of climate change and of nuclear toxins. We need a different way to make decisions about energy, because the solutions being proposed are failing to serve the people.”

Three other protestors from this action pled guilty last month and were fined $1,250, given a ninety day suspended sentence, two years of probation and a stay-away order from Dominion. Prosecutor Tom Garrett justified the harsh sentence (he had requested $2500 fines), saying the protestors should pay for overtime served by police monitoring a five-day climate change convergence held in Louisa from Aug.5-10th. The defendants have filed an appeal.

The planned new reactor at Lake Anna is one of the first of many nationwide being touted as a solution to global climate change. The protestors maintain that nuclear power is a false solution to the climate
change problem with costs and dangers that far outweigh any benefits. They cite enormous costs requiring massive government subsidies to construct the plant, dangers to the community caused by the lack of any viable plan to safely transport and store the toxic nuclear waste and project that construction of the plant could take ten years or more. The Louisa County protest is part of a series of international events calling for safe and renewable energy solutions.

For more information about the events visit

34 Responses to “Protester Gets Jail Time for Non-violent Protest of Nuclear Plant in Virginia”

  1. 1 Michael Stuart Sep 30th, 2008 at 7:51 am

    “The charges stem from conducting an alternative tour and sit-in at the Dominion Power Nuclear Information Center on August 7th.”

    I don’t have a problem with your opinion of nuclear power (even though I happen to disagree). But I do have a problem with statements that are simply not true, such as the one quoted above.

    Paxus was taking part in a demonstration of civil disobedience. His *goal* was to sit there until he was arrested. He was warned that the visitor’s center was closing and that if he chose to stay that he would be trespassing and they would have to call the police. That is exactly what happened.

    What were the visitor’s center employees supposed to do? Just sit there and baby sit Paxus and Pals until they got tired and decided to leave?

    No. They followed the letter of the law, called the police, and Paxus and Pals were arrested – just like they wanted. It had nothing to do with their alternative tour and “sit in”.

    And if they were so afraid of nuclear power, why would they even want to sit around them anyway? There were two that have been safely and cleanly operating for 30 years not 2 miles from where they were trespassing.

  2. 2 R Margolis Sep 30th, 2008 at 7:54 am

    While I support everyone’s right to protest, the argument of “untested” does not wash. An all renewable portfolio controlled by a “smartgrid” has never been tested, so does that mean that this option should be rejected as well? The only way to figure out which technologies would be the most economic alternatives to carbon fuels is to build and test them.

  3. 3 Michael Stuart Sep 30th, 2008 at 9:02 am

    Senator Obama has a web site called “Fight the Smears”. When his campaign discovers that a lie is being perpetrated, they attempt to set the record straight. And why shouldn’t they?

    Similarly, when a lie is being perpetrated about nuclear power, why shouldn’t the experts in the field be allowed to correct the misinformation?

    Here’s some items that I’d like to point out to help “fight the smears”:

    Smear: “an untested new nuclear reactor will overheat Lake Anna”
    Truth: The reactor will not add a bit of heat to Lake Anna. It was redesigned with cooling towers to prevent ANY heat addition to the lake, but anti’s still use this smear to try to scare people.

    Smear: “[Dominion] has no place to put the waste for the current two”
    Truth: The “waste” is stored in dry casks, which have proven to be safe and effective. Waste storage is not much of a problem for nuclear, especially since if all of the electricity you used in your lifetime were generated by nuclear power, the amount of “waste” would occupy about the size of a golf ball. Dominion has been storing this so-called waste for 30 years now. Why should it be any more difficult in the future?

    Smear: “These plants are already a toxic nightmare”
    Truth: The word “toxic” means deadly or poisonous. Since no one has been harmed by these reactors – not even the people working there for 30 years – it can hardly be described as toxic. Conversely, the exhaust pipe of your car (just like a coal plant) really IS toxic, yet you probably don’t have much of an issue with driving it around.

    Smear: “project that construction of the plant could take ten years or more”
    Truth: Construction is currently projected to be 48 months from first concrete to core load. Japan routinely does it in 42 months or less.

  4. 4 Kev Sep 30th, 2008 at 10:46 am

    Michael– you sure know a lot about Dominion’s nuclear program. Are you citing info from Obama’s website, Dominion’s website or some other source. Could you post your sources please?

  5. 5 amy Sep 30th, 2008 at 2:05 pm

    wow. I love the pro nuclear lobby. Of course, if the folks who were such huge advocates of this “solution” had to deal with a nuclear power plant sitting in their back yard, or having the waste stored on their land, or seeing their homelands mined for uranium and bearing those toxic burdens…they probably wouldn’t trumpet the benefits of nuclear so much.

    Before you continue to push nuclear, why don’t you go try to talk to some of the people who are impacted by nuclear power, and gain very little from it? The good folks in Jenkinsville South Carolina or Dine people in the Four Corners area of the U.S. probably have a very different perspective. I’m also not super excited about leaving more deadly toxic waste that will have to be dealt with for the next couple thousand years.

  6. 6 R Margolis Sep 30th, 2008 at 2:28 pm

    Amy –

    Since I have been an engineer for 22 years, I and my family have always lived in the vicinity of a nuclear plant. I believe it is a safer place for my family than other types of industrial facilities (e.g., chemical plants, coal plants, oil refineries, etc.). I would also accept a dry cask storage site in my neighborhood too, though I will admit that my knowledge makes that easier for me to say than my neighbors.

    As for mining, yes it was not done properly back in the Cold War days and we need to exercise greater care today. However, every energy source has a point where there are emissions or toxics that need to be managed. China makes PV cells and dumps the silicon trichloride into their water table instead of processing it as is done in the west (can send you the NYT article if you need it). What about the Chinese citizens whose health is compromised by this practice? Should PV be banned because the Chinese are not yet exercising proper controls? When handled properly, nuclear provides the 24/7 baseload without the need for large scale energy storage.I guess I have never seen the reason why there cannot be more than one method of low carbon generation.

  7. 7 R Margolis Sep 30th, 2008 at 2:31 pm

    My mistake(s)… The chemical is silicon tetrachloride and the article was in the Washington Post:

    My apologies for the errors.

  8. 8 Matt Leonard Sep 30th, 2008 at 3:27 pm

    Just to make things clear – Michael Stuart (commentor above) does indeed work for Dominion, and is the Public Information Chair at Lake Anna. Does this mean his opinion is invalid or unwelcome? Not necessarily – but recognize that despite his “credentials” – his opinion is as someone who is paid to convince the public about how great nuclear power is. His perspective will reflect his paycheck.

    His bio is below.

    Mr. Michael Stuart

    Michael Stuart has been working in the nuclear energy field for 17 years. His experience includes 12 years in Radiological Protection as both a Health Physics and Chemistry Technician. For the last 6 years, Michael has served as a Senior Instructor for Dominion, where he teaches classes for Engineering and designs computer-based training for new nuclear employees.

    In 2005, Michael was elected as the Public Information Officer for the North American Young Generation in Nuclear, an organization of more than 2000 young professionals across North America working in all fields of nuclear technology.

    Michael has been instrumental in public outreach activities in support of new nuclear plants in Virginia, Illinois, and Mississippi. He has also presented papers and conducted workshops in public outreach and education at various sites across the US, and at the International Youth Nuclear Congress in Stockholm.

  9. 9 R Margolis Sep 30th, 2008 at 4:15 pm

    Matt –

    Just a reminder that many of us entered the nuclear profession when it looked like there would be ZERO chance of new plants (I graduated in 1987) because we believed in the technology (and still do). You will not believe how many of my high school friends thought I was crazy not to go into computers since that’s where the money was in the late 80’s and early 90’s.

    As for my paycheck, my experience also includes dry cask storage, so I will be employed whether there is new nuclear or not. I have remained in the profession because I believe that nuclear has a role to play in a post-carbon world. And yes, I know Mike and am sure he feels the same (salary or no).

    Robert Margolis

  10. 10 Kelly Taylor Sep 30th, 2008 at 5:01 pm


    Michael is an employee of Dominion in their nuclear business unit, but realize while he was the Public Information Chair at NA-YGN, he was elected to officer position in a volunteer organization. He was selected for his passion about the issue and his support of it.

    He is, in fact, no longer the NA-YGN Public Information Chair, having finished his elected term and passed on the torch. You can confirm that at the NA-YGN website,, under “Meet the Core.”

    So he’s still passionate about his support of nuclear. But he’s not paid any more or less for his support than he ever was. He just gave up his title, is all. ;-)

    Kelly Taylor

  11. 11 willie Sep 30th, 2008 at 5:48 pm

    i for one want to thank everyone who got arrested that day. in response to michael’s first statement. it’s not untrue to say that the charges stemmed from the tour and sit-in. we were having a self-tour and sit-in. several folks refused to leave when the place closed continuing their sit-in. the charge was trspeassing but a “sit-in” was the tactic used. and yes it was civil disobedience. it was canned arrest for the purpose of drawing media attention to the nuclear industry’s false claim as being a solution to climate change.

    i can’t talk in scientific engineer terms so i realize my opinion and the points i raise are easily dismissed by stuart and margolis but here’s why i protest nuclear energy. 1) the waste is deadly and will last (remaining deadly) for eons. 2) the ghg emissions from the fossil-fuel energy required to mine, process and ship uranium are a significant contribution to global warming. 3) various stakeholders including dominion and gov’t people have been attempting to mine uranium in my grandparents’ community for decades. i believe that if this happens it will hurt the area’s ecology. 4) the popular action and common wisdom of previous generations informs me to be wary of nuclear anything. 5) nuclear energy is only viable in the market because of massive gov’t subsidies. neither stuart or margolis or anyone else refutes this.

    thanks north anna six.

  12. 12 R Margolis Sep 30th, 2008 at 7:22 pm

    Willie –

    I am refuting it now (actually again?). :-)

    Solar and wind get bigger subsidies (including the current tax credit of 1.8 cents per kwh) vs energy generated than nuclear. The biggest subsidies in dollar terms over the past 50 years are with oil and gas. As for your other points, I believe I have refuted them before (e.g., waste, mining, etc). The major studies in the field (which I have posted before) show that nuclear CO2 emissions are about that of wind (even the IPCC concludes the same).

    My opinion (and I differ with some of my nuclear colleagues) is that nuclear’s biggest problem is that, while it relatively safe and economic at the MW level, it cannot be downscaled to regular consumer application (i.e., no “consumer neutronics”). People accept gasolene which is carcinogenic, explosive, used during wartime in flamethrowers and napalm, and subsidized, but is familiar to everyone. The fact that nuclear is “stuck” as a large-scale technology means you need large corporations and government to operate and regulate them. This does not make for a “friendly” energy source. Solar and wind can be made smaller scale (it is actually the scaling up to thousands of MW where they have their issues) so everyone has seen solar panels on a house. It is the lack of public familiarity, not real dangers of nuclear, that are the problem.

  13. 13 Matt Leonard Sep 30th, 2008 at 8:28 pm

    Whoa R Margolis – can’t let that one slide. The nuclear industry has seen OVERWHELMING subsidies, tax breaks, handouts, loan guarantees, regulatory generosity and beyond. Grossly more wind or solar. Grossly.

    I’m not sure how you are defining subsidies – but it seems your language of “energy generated” distorts reality. Any realistic assessment should address levelized energy costs and comprehensive subsidies or taxpayer impacts – looking at capital costs, construction, maintenance, fuel, operation, and ESPECIALLY for nuclear – safe waste disposal. And Since safe waste disposal does not exist, this is a social cost we all share the burden of, but not quantifiable and thus easily ignored by the nuclear industry. We shouldn’t even mention the the Price-Anderson Nuclear Industries Indemnity Act – which is estimated to be worth billions annually to the industry.

    I’ll refer readers to a great post by Charles Komonaff over on Gristmill – – Charles estimates that in 2007 dollars:

    * Reactor subsidies, 1950-1990: $154 billion, or $3.75 billion a year.
    * Wind power subsidies, 1983-2007: $3.75 billion 25-year total.

    or Joseph’s Romm (who doesn’t identify as anti-nuclear) at

    NOBODY can argue with any seriousness that nuclear energy makes a drop of economic sense. Even McCain dodges that question.

  14. 14 Mary Olson Sep 30th, 2008 at 10:07 pm

    Robert — Hi — how are you? I guess I don’t get this “blog” culture of “refuting” — I am not logging on to refute — but rather to engage and say “hey, isn’t this site supposed to be about working together to avert the Climate Crisis?”

    If so, how can you with a straight face assert that nuclear is capable of a meaningful contribution in the critical 10 year period of “turning the big ship” that we are already part way through? Come now, the world supply-chain for reactor pressure vessels (a part you cannot build an AP 1000 without) is what? Four in 2007. I know you will say “we are ramping up — China is bringing a forge on line” — no doubt you are putting your own hard-earned money into US interests who are looking to do the same — but really, given the amount of time it takes to bring a reactor on-line — everything included — and then the size of the carbon footprint debt that has to be has to be “paid back”… there is not a single carbon atom that will be “offset” by a new nuke during this 10 year period. This is ever more the case if the aging issues we are seeing in the current fleet take any of the existing reactors off-line. SO I understand you love your career, I understand that you are committed and we will never ever change your mind about how great nukes are — but please, stop making out that new nukes have any role whatsoever in the critical crisis period at hand.

    Energy efficiency is the # 1 opportunity that we all have — but unfortunately IT is in direct conflict of interest for utility corporations — which I guess some of you folks work for. Power production companies make more money by two means: investing huge sums of money in generating capacity and “earning” a guaranteed rate of return on that investment — AND — by selling more power. It is not likely that energy efficiency will be seen as a means of doing business for these folks. I now there are utility sponsored “fig leaf” programs out there — but they are pretty trivial compared to the amount of efficiency potential that exists!

    On the subject of subsidies, the recent report released by the Nuclear Energy Institute does not adequately reflect the forms of assistance that the nuclear industry enjoys such as government sponsored insurance and government administration of the high-level waste program — with the promise that the high-level irradiated fuel will be transferred to taxpayer possession. Given that the period of hazard is in the millions of years, that is quite a bail out! How do you put a dollar value on that one? You can’t but you can say “Wow! What a gift to the nuclear industry!”

    So that leaves it to the rest of us to say to anyone reading this — DO NOT FALL FOR THE NUCLEAR CLIMATE-FIX SCAM! It is just that: An excuse to justify massive social re-investment in a failed technology. Now, I know you are going try and “refute” my use of the term “failed.” So I ask you — why was there not a single order for a new nuclear power reactor since Watts Bar that was not subsequently canceled. In addition, more than 98 reactors were officially canceled after entering licensing — some after billions were spent but never came on line.

    You might consider saying it was all those “smearing” protesters — (my heroes) — and you might say it was Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, and you might say it was that coal interests were more better at politics, and I would not disagree with you — but you might want to be more careful with your answer. The additional, and I believe the determining force in the cessation for over 30 years of nuclear reactor orders in the USA, and for the most part Western Europe as well, was the Financial Vice Presidents of the nuclear corps. Indeed — those same folks elected to unload reactors over those intervening years for dimes on the dollar. Why? Because nukes just plain cannot compete. AH, you say, but we are not paying for the true cost of carbon… but it is not just coal that nukes cannot compete with. Nukes cannot compete with Net Zero and other efficiency design programs, nukes cannot compete with micro-power — the whole portfolio of scaled power production from co-gen to appropriate renewables to fuel cells. You will never be able to scale nukes –why? Because of that waste.

    Finally: it is not appropriate to compare nuclear waste to gasoline. I agree that gasoline is dangerous, nasty, that we need to get beyond its use. Nonetheless, the damage that gasoline can inflict is not comparable to high-level nuclear waste (an unavoidable by-product of atomic power); gasoline cannot contaminate soil and other materials for millennia; gasoline cannot inflict genetic damage at the level of ionizing radiation that can hurt one generation to the next; spilled gasoline does not create “sacrifice zones.”

    Mary Olson

  15. 15 Paxus Oct 1st, 2008 at 5:09 am

    Well, the climate of this conversation is certainly heating up. So what shall we start with. Oh, why not subsidies. I am sure my friends working for Dominion will help educate me (seriously) about subsidies. But my understanding is that the DOE dollars have been going to nuclear in a big way for a long time. But this only starts the nuclear subsidy discussion.

    Biggest on the list is Price Anderson, which takes an individual nuclear operator off the hook for accident insurance after the first $300 million. After this the industry as a whole has an obligation (under very low annual commitments – like $15 million/year each) up to $10 billion and then the accident costs go to the government. An insurance obligation i dont think the government is putting any money away for. Does you subsidy accounting include the $9 billion spent on Yucca so far for storage? And since our decommissioning experience world wide and in the US is that it is very pricey, where will this money come from since decommissioning funds from electricity charges are pretty clearly not going to be enough?

    When i finished college i went to work for the oil industry, specifically for a company working on the North Slope of Alaska oil field. My boss was a great guy and he believed in the industry. We talked about environmental issues, tho this was long before anyone was talking about climate change and he was always eloquent defending the industry. I visited him some years after his early retirement (they wanted him to move to Alaska or Houston, he preferred San Francisco). He said that he still got the Oil and Gas journal, but now, off the payroll, that he recognized that much of what they were saying was nonsense. That there was a huge environmental problem and that the industry did not want to deal with it because of the tremendous costs.

    With all due respect to Margolis and Stuart, they are paid by Dominion to advance nuclear power and part of this is shift the public perception of nuclear power so that new reactors can come back into the mix. This does not mean they are bad people or that they are lying. But like my old boss, it means they are surrounded by people who want and need their side to be right, whose livelihoods depend on the nuclear industry and they are inclined to support and advance those arguments.

    Perhaps as an example of cherry picking data to support their case – why should we be looking at Japans track record for completing reactors. We have over 100 data points for reactors being built in the US. And that data is not very impressive for on time construction or within budget. Last time i worked the DOE numbers it was about 350% over budget and 4 years late in start up. And if you take the last 50 reactors, it is much much worse (early reactors like North Anna 1 and 2 helped these averages stay lower). If we want to talk about third generation reactors, the only ones (i am aware of) being built are in France and Finland – both significantly delayed, both significantly over budget.

    If we want to talk about environmental problems associated with energy generation technology, my guess is that the increasingly difficult process of uranium mining and the associated tailings rivals PV cell fabrication. Though we must recognize that nuclear produces far more energy per unit mass of uranium than PV panels do. My colleague Dr Gordon Edwards from Canada once told me that if he could just get the nuclear industry to put a fence around the over 100 million tons of uranium mining tailings in Canada it would break the industry.

    I do appreciate Robert Margolis’ reflections on scalability. My concerns about nuclear are different. First off is fairness. The current generation enjoy the benefits and many future generations have to deal with the waste, which we have done a bad job of handling. Every “low level” dump site in this country is leaking. None of the 30 plus countries operating civil nuclear programs has a “high level” waste solution. We have gotten lots of failed promises from nuclear industry. At Hanford, they said nuclear contamination would not make it to the Columbia river for a thousand years, it took 3.

    I am sure Mr Stuart knows that the dry cask storage near North Anna is supposed to be temporary and that even if Yucca were opened today, there is a space problem with spent fuel storage, especially if more reactors are built.

    I will say, Mr Stuart right about our intentions at the Information Center, we sat in with the intention of getting arrested. But we are not afraid of nuclear power, we are enraged by it and inspired to action.

    Looking forward to the continued discussion.

  16. 16 R Margolis Oct 1st, 2008 at 8:28 am

    Mary –

    I am fine. Hope you are well. :-)

    Let me address what sound like your main concerns. First, I agree that efficiency should be used. Most of the studies I read (e.g., McKinsey, LBL) say we can replace about 30% of our electric demand. That leaves 70% that would have to be replaced with an all renewable portfolio in your 10 year timeframe. In the current state and federal regulatory regimes, I cannot imagine that you can get approvals, build, and test an all renewable smartgrid (including energy storage since you also want to eliminate nuclear baseload) for the entire US in 10 years. Besides the regulatory issues, solar thermal plants and windmills require the same skilled craft that are already in short supply for the petroleum and utility sectors (e.g., welders, pipefitters, eletricians, etc.) In fact, the skilled labor is probably a greater challenge for nuclear than the vessel issue the media reports [incidentally, the AP-1000 vessels are being built by Doosan. They use smaller forgings than the EPR or ESBWR.]

    Second, on gasolene, it is a carcinogen and emissions from gasolene contain mutagens as well. I would infer from this that the use of gasolene can inflict genetic damage. The fact that most of us breathe gasolene fumes and emissions would tell me that the risks (while small) are likely more than those from the small amounts of radiation from nuclear energy. Besides its familiarity, the public receives a tangible and unique benefit from using gasolene vs nuclear which people do not use directly. As for sacrifice zones, I often read about abandoned oil tanks causing cleanup problems. Radiation must be respected, but it is not a fearsome unnatural phenomenon. It is easier to control and isolate the small volumes of nuclear waste vs the immense volumes of waste generated by the use of fossil fuels. If we really want to, we can go with the MIT idea of deep boreholes (5 km holes in crystalline granite) where even the NRDC rep on the panel thought the waste would stay put.

    Third, I will be the first to say that nuclear fizzled out due to cost, not safety. Especially in the 80’s and 90’s with low natural gas prices and technological improvements in gas turbines, it was cheaper and easier to build gas plants than anything else. With EPRs and AP-1000s under construction overseas we will find out if they are easier and cheaper to build than the current generation. After all, plants in Japan and South Korea are built in less than five years.

    To conclude, I agree that carbon is a significant issue. I agree we should use efficiency and renewables where we can. I also think that nuclear can be part of the solution principally because I do not believe you can convert the grid to all renewables in ten years or less. The risks of radiation, while real, are manageable. A nuclear backup plan sounds a lot more reasonable than the carbon sequestration backup option provided in Dr. Makhijani’s “Carbon Free, Nuclear Free” report.

  17. 17 Michael Stuart Oct 1st, 2008 at 9:15 am

    Smear: Michael Stuart is just a stooge who is paid to be a pro-nuclear propaganda spreader.
    Truth: I get paid to teach engineers and new workers how to safely perform their work at a nuclear power plant. All this pro-nuclear stuff I do for fun – voluntarily. I don’t get a dime for it. ☺

    Mary, Do you believe that all the power plants that are on line today (coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear, hydro, and renewables) will last forever? Sure, conservation is our best strategy to reduce carbon in the next five to ten years (you can quote me on that), but you make a critical (and possibly grave) error: The average coal plant is about 40 years old. What do we do to replace the aging power stations that will eventually have to be taken off line? In order to keep whatever gains there are to be made in conservation, we have to have scores of new baseload power plants in the supply chain. If it will take ten years to get a slough of new nuclear plants online then we had better get busy, because one day all the existing coal, gas, and nuclear stations will have to be retired. We have to plan for the future today.

    It would be miraculous indeed if new nuclear power plants could just keep up with the demand alone, but with the inevitable plant retirements occurring over the next two decades, it will take every windmill, solar panel, and nuclear power plant we can build – and then some. Have no misconception: even under the most optimistic nuclear and/or renewable builds, along with conservation, we will still have to build new coal plants.

    Mary, do you really believe we can meet all of that demand with just conservation and renewables? If so, then you are a person of amazing hope. But please realize that although hope is a good thing, it is not a plan, and if your amazing hopes are not realized then what do we do? By then it will be too late to say: “We sure wish we had started building these things ten years ago.”

  18. 18 Michael Stuart Oct 1st, 2008 at 9:56 am

    Willie, I do refute some it. But some of it I agree with.

    As for #1, I’ve already posted about the “waste.” It doesn’t matter what I say if your mind is already made up.

    Smear #2: “the ghg emissions from the fossil-fuel energy required to mine, process and ship uranium are a significant contribution to global warming”
    Truth: No. They are not. Google: “life cycle emissions” nuclear wind coal

    As for your third point, you’re right about companies wanting to mine for uranium. I don’t think Dominion was one of them, though. Some of the uranium mining policies of the 1950’s were indeed pretty bad. I’m no uranium mining expert, but I know it can be done ecologically and safely – just like the heavy metals that have to be mined for use in solar panels. There’s no free lunch, willie.

    Point #4: “the popular action and common wisdom of previous generations informs me to be wary of nuclear anything”
    Advice: The popular action and common wisdom of today are tomorrow’s folly. We shouldn’t base our decisions on what’s “popular” or “common” but on what is factual and scientifically valid – even if it isn’t popular. Nuclear isn’t perfect, but I believe the alternatives are worse.

    Point #5: “nuclear energy is only viable in the market because of massive gov’t subsidies”
    Response: If coal is allowed to continue to use the atmosphere as it’s waste container then you might be right. If not, then you’re flat wrong. But wind and solar definitely cannot compete without massive gov’t subisidies! This is such a double standard! If you’re not going to apply this reasoning to them, then your point is completely irrelevant.

    I’m not trying to argue with you, Willie. It seems that your heart is in the right place. If so, I can’t fault you for that. It’s OK that you can’t talk in scientific engineer terms, but that doesn’t mean that science and engineering are to be dismissed. Science and engineering are an important (dare I say “essential”) part of the solution to this climate mess.

  19. 19 Danawv Oct 1st, 2008 at 12:07 pm

    While I may have missed a few key points in the soup here, it seems that no one is addressing the fact that a person got 30 days in jail for peacefully sitting in a waiting room for 30 minutes.

    Umm…this is crazy. What possible harm could this person have done to the facility? It was a simple, short lived, utterly harmless media stunt, and whether you agree with the philosophy behind it, I don’t feel comfortable in a world that is squashing such mild forms of dissent so incredibly harshly.

    There rapists and murderers and CEO’s collapsing our economy through crap loans and DOE officials doing cocaine and fornicating on tax payers dollars. (THere’s a Washington Post article about that for sure).

    I can think of a lot of things that deserve the money and resources that it takes to keep someone imprisoned, but sitting in a waiting room isn’t one of them.

  20. 20 mountaingirl Oct 1st, 2008 at 12:29 pm

    “And if they were so afraid of nuclear power, why would they even want to sit around them anyway? There were two that have been safely and cleanly operating for 30 years not 2 miles from where they were trespassing.”

    To me, it goes both ways…. Paxus and Pals trespassed onto Dominion’s property to make a point, but I would say that the radioactive waste that Dominion’s station is creating is also trespassing onto Paxus and Pals’ property. So what do we do?

    From an environmental justice perspective, some communities don’t have the luxury to “sit-in”. I’m from South Carolina, where lots of nuclear waste is stored. The neighborhoods near the storage sites are typically low-income and/or people of color, though not always. Those folks sit near the radioactive plant day in and day out.

    Nuclear power isn’t so clean. The mining still damages ecosystems and dealing with waste transport and storage is still a problem we’ve yet to solve. There are other, cheaper, safer, cleaner alternatives to nuclear power. Why not go for them? The only reason nuclear power is even competitive is because their industry gets subsidized by government agencies. If solar and wind got millions and billions kicked down to them, they might have a fighting chance too.

  21. 21 R Margolis Oct 1st, 2008 at 12:43 pm

    Paxus –

    While I was a Dominion employee a few years back, I am not one now. As I said previously, much of my current job deals with dry cask storage. New nuclear or not, I do not have to worry about employment. I can honestly say that I joined the nuclear profession due to my ideals (in 1987 there were not many who thought there would be any building boom).

    I use South Korea and Japan as examples for two reasons. One is that I was a startup test engineer in South Korea and can speak from personal experience. The other is that they build plants using dedicated crews and a standard design. Will the EPR get through its first of a kind issues and become cheaper? Yes we will have to wait and see. Both AP-1000 and ESBWR are simpler designs than the ones I worked on in Korea, so I believe they will be cheaper after the first few are built. These countries show that you can build nuclear plants quickly and safely.

    I do wonder if the “fairness” argument is a little one-sided. Whose communities will have the cadmium processing plants for the PV panels? Whose communities will have the chemical plants to make the working fluid oil used in the solar thermal plants? For large-scale application, nuclear is probably less of an environmental hazard. For all of the “leaks” that I hear about, they are typically very low in radioactivity (i.e., you would get less than a millirem). If we are going to worry about these miniscule doses, what about the minute mercury doses that could come from compact fluorescents? I do not mind comparing risks, but I am concerned when different standards are applied. Is one more dead if killed by radiation instead of mercury or cadmium?

  22. 22 Michael Stuart Oct 1st, 2008 at 3:25 pm


    I know a lot about Dominion’s nuclear program because I work for Dominion.

    There are some here who believe that because I am employed in the nuclear field that it somehow disqualifies my opinion on the subject. Isn’t that sad? I mean, if nuclear power were unsafe, wouldn’t I and MY FAMILY be THE FIRST ONES AT RISK? I mean, do you think they give us nuclear workers some magic anti-toxicity pills or super-suits or something? If nuclear power is so bad then why aren’t the workers who have spent the last 30 years at the power station dropping like overripe grapefruits?

    It is in *my best interest* to make safety MY top priority, and part of my job is to make sure that not only the employees are safe, but the public as well. I’m not some sinister villain who’s trying to lie to you. I don’t work for the PR department. I don’t get paid to defend nuclear power. I’m a real person just like you, who wants to help make the future better for myself, my children, and my community.

    Just because people stage sit-ins and tell you it’s dangerous doesn’t make them right. Just because I say nuclear power is a safe, clean, and reliable energy source doesn’t make me right either. Educate yourselves.


    France is 80% nuclear, so…
    • Why isn’t France in a financial meltdown with so many nuclear power plants?
    • Why are they building more in France and Finland, with plans for more in the US, China, and England?
    • Why does France have the lowest infant mortality and the longest average life span in Europe?
    • Why does France have about the lowest cancer rates in Europe?
    • Why are the French paying less for electricity than just about anyone else in Europe?
    • How can France export 15 Billion dollars worth of electricity per year to neighboring Germany and Italy?

    It’s OK to be against something, but at least make sure you understand why and most importantly, but often overlooked, what the alternatives are before you make up your mind.

  23. 23 Michael Stuart Oct 1st, 2008 at 4:57 pm


    Per your request, here is a breakdown of federal subsidies from 1950-2006:

    Oil – $335 Billion
    Natural Gas – $100 Billion
    Coal – $94 Billion
    Hydro – $80 Billion
    Nuclear – $65 Billion
    Renewables (primarily wind and solar) – $45 Billion
    Geothermal – $7 Billion

    Source: Management Information Service, Washington, DC, September 2008

    Here is a breakdown of electricity supply for 2006:

    Oil – 3%
    Natural Gas – 18%
    Coal – 50%
    Hydro – 7%
    Nuclear – 20%
    Renewables (wind, solar) – 1%
    Renewables (municipal solid waste) – 1%

    Source: Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration

  24. 24 Paxus Oct 1st, 2008 at 7:56 pm

    Okay, lets play fair here. Electricity is not the end of the energy equation. Saying oil gets lions share of the federal subsidy and only produces 3% of the electricity is like saying General George Washington was a patriot for not taking his salary for 8 years, which would have been been a bit less than $16K and failing to mention he submitted an expense account for just shy of $500K for the same period. While there is no need for oil subsides, they are responsible for a huge fraction of the energy delivered – including going to the much maligned gasoline.

    Similarly, it seems a bit disingenuous to pull hydro out of renewables, but perhaps that is not your breakdown. What i know is that the latest DOE EIA monthly report (Sept 24, 2008)
    Domestically-produced renewable energy (biomass/biofuels, geothermal, hydropower, solar, wind) totaled 3.606 quads — an amount equal to 10.56% of U.S. electricity consumption that is domestically-produced. The nuclear share for the same period was 11.98%.

    And nuclear power dropped by one percent during the first half of 2008, compared to the same period for 2007 (4.091 quads, down from 4.119 quads), renewable energy’s share increased by five percent (3.606 quads, up from 3.439 quads).

    Michael, i am not saying you are not a real person or that you work for Dominion’s PR department. The purpose of my story was to point out that people who are in industries which are under attack (like the oil industry i used to work for) often find themselves defending their industry even when the right thing (from a justice or economics perspective – or what ever value set you might choose) would be to shut it down.

    I am sure you place the safety of your family highly. I am sure you want North Anna to run safely, not just because it is your job, but because you believe in nuclear power. All fine. I am also sure this is true of almost all of the engineers who work at Davis Besse which came within 1/2 an inch of breaching its pressure vessel in 2002.

    We disagree on how to make the lives of our kids and our communities best.

    Thanks for the info on France, i’ll get back to you on that one.

    Robert – the fairness argument is not just about routine releases and leaks at waste sites (tho i am quite convinced my radwaste colleagues have quite something to say about this) it relates to the scale of accidents and the longevity of the problems. We have a 30 km exclusion zone around Chernobyl, we could have had one which included much Toledo if Davis Besse had a beyond design basis accident in 2002. NRCs position is that terrorist with airplanes need to be stopped at airports, unfortunately the airports might well not succeed in this and reactors – despite some terrible studies to the contrary, can’t handle jet liner crashes.

    I believe you joined the nuclear industry because of your ideals. I also recognize you took a risk in choosing this profession and i appreciate people who take risks. And i agree that you will have work for your entire life being in the cask business. And you would certainly prefer new reactors and to be part of a vibrant nuclear industry. But one huge problem, from my perspective, is that the safety of these plants is increasingly be pushed away from the NRC and onto the industry which is very uneven in its self policing practices. Dominion does a great job at North Anna of running a safe and inexpensive plant. I really believe this – i hear it not just from the folx who work at North Anna, but from my friends at Union for Concerned Scientists, who regularly rank US reactors and North Anna is often in the top 5 plants. Congratulations.

    Sadly, it is not just the operation of North Anna which we are talking about. Uranium tailings, high level waste transport, terrorist attacks, degrading of civil liberties (we have seen this especially clearly in Europe, where nuclear protesters have been spied on in violations of those countries constitutions), decommissioning and long terms waste storage problems are all part of nuclear power. For me it is unfair, despite your careful cask designs to give 10, 20 and 50 generations from now the uniquely toxic problem of high level rad waste. Theoretically it will all be stored safely. Theoretically the industry will regulate itself – we’ve seen how well that worked in the financial markets these last weeks.

    Reactors are part of an increasingly competitive energy business. Profits to shareholders and cutting expenses are what managers get bonuses for. One way you can can increase this quarters profits is by telling your safety engineers that you want to run longer between inspections. As you well know these reactors make so much electricity and thus money every day even small increases in performance factor are very valuable. The gravity is towards pushing this hard. Every reactor operator says safety is job number 1. But in reality, profits are job 1, that is how capitalism works and unfortunately, our form of it rewards most highly this quarters profits.

  25. 25 R Margolis Oct 1st, 2008 at 10:33 pm

    IMHO, George Washington earned every penny on his expense report. :-)

    Your mention of airliner attacks supports my original point: airplanes were used to kill almost 3000 people, but nobody called for the permanent shutdown of air travel. We increased security and continued to fly because regular people feel a tangible benefit to using airplanes. Nuclear’s benefits (abundant fuel supply, cleaner air) are not something that the average person really feels.

    By the way, light water reactors cannot undergo the type of large-scale contamination accident that Chernobyl or Windscale had. A LOCA at the vessel head at Davis-Besse would not have caused any release because the leak was above the core and easy to replentish. As for taking out a nuclear plant with an airplane, you would need higher speeds than those that hit the Pentagon, a pilot with much more training than those of 9-11, and the right weather conditions (don’t forget all those disaster scenarios the computers cook up assume much stronger and more stable inversion layers than exist at the plants).

    As for the push away from safety, the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO) is actually pushing more inspections on the utilities, not less. When I talk to my colleagues, they are all busy increasing their inspection regimes. There are a lot of misconceptions about the nuclear business.

  26. 26 Michael Stuart Oct 2nd, 2008 at 9:47 am

    Hydro is not listed alongside of renewables for two reasons:

    1) All of the major hydro projects are done. It is not scalable. In fact, hydro projects are actually being decommissioned. When looking to replace baseload electricity or meet increased demands, it is a dead-end street. To include it only serves as a distraction.

    and most importantly,

    2) That’s the way it’s listed on DOE’s web site. No disingenuousness intended.

    Now, speaking of disingenuous…

    “Domestically-produced renewable energy (biomass/biofuels, geothermal, hydropower, solar, wind) totaled 3.606 quads — an amount equal to 10.56% of U.S. electricity consumption that is domestically-produced. The nuclear share for the same period was 11.98%.”

    Isn’t this the proverbial apples to oranges comparison? Here’s the breakdown of your “renewable” list:

    • Biomass – 53% (predominantly transportation)
    • Hydroelectric – 36%
    • Geothermal – 5%
    • Wind – 5%
    • Solar – 1%

    [Source: DOE/EIA, 2008]

    You call this conglomerate list of “renewables” equal to 10.56% of the US electricity consumption, yet most of it is NOT being used for electricity production. It’s being used in the *transportation* sector. In case you didn’t notice, I’ve been talking about the various technologies that are available to meet our *electrical* needs – not our transportation needs. As I have heard you mention before, nuclear cannot [yet] be included in a comparison of energy sources used for transportation. When you lump them all together, as you did in that statement, you give renewables a 90% boost and make it look like wind and solar are competitive with nuclear for electrical production, which simply isn’t true.

    Ironically though, nuclear is going to play a pretty significant role in transportation in the coming years, as it does already in France. (For your research project be sure to check out France’s zero-emissions commuter rail system, which is made possible by nuclear power.) GM and other companies are expected to roll-out the first, mass-produced, plug-in-electric hybrid cars by 2010. When that happens, the lines between transportation and electrical production will finally be blurred. Unfortunately, that will mean we need EVEN MORE electricity generation, which brings us back to these sobering facts: 91% of our current electrical supply comes from fossil fuels and nuclear power. We not only need to replace fossil fuels, but also meet the future demands. In order to do this, we’ll need ALL of the scalable forms of electricity we’ve got, including wind, solar, AND nuclear.

    You seem to be an educated person who should have a firm grasp on the current energy situation. But here’s what you don’t seem to get (and for the life of me I don’t understand why): Even WITH renewables and nuclear we won’t be able to cover the demand, so as much as neither you nor I like it, we will need more coal power too. But wait! You’re steadfastly against nuclear, so it would mean a LOT more coal. You and many others here just can’t comprehend the magnitude of the energy shortage we will face without nuclear as part of the mix. That is why I am even bothering to post here. Ignorance is not an incurable condition. It’s not a bad thing to be ignorant. What is bad is ignoring the facts when they are made painfully clear.

    So Paxus, thank you for not resorting to character assassinations as part of your message. But I would like to know: How does *your* energy plan address the replacement of 91% of our electrical supply AND meet the future demands as we shift from oil to electricity for transportation? Renewables and conservation alone? As an educated person, you must know that this idea is untenable.

  27. 27 Paxus Oct 3rd, 2008 at 7:13 pm

    Dearest Michael:

    You final question is easy: – i have not even personally read the entire Exec summary – but i know these smart folx and trust them.

    i assume you track this type of stuff. There is a less ambitious plan by Amory Lovins and the folks out at Rocky Mountain Institute:

    The European Renewable folx have numerous plans.

    i personally believe we need to dramatically change consumption patterns. I think it turns out that the environment cant handlethe demands we are collectively putting on it and we are going to have to do some pretty radical scaling back of our individual personal ownership of things (most of which are laying idle 90+% of the time) and actually figure out how to share things. But this is a bigger topic than we are going to get at in this fading Blog entry.

    I’m in Am*dam now, with my old boss and dear friend Honza Beranek, who now heads Greenpeace’s International Nuclear unit. We have been talking abotu France – partly inspired by your praises.

    i find it amazing that the leaks at 4 Avera reactors in France this summer did not make it to the US press at all. At one of which the regional governor closed off recreational access to the local body of water. Greenpeace was flooded with calls about whether it was safe to go to different parts of France.

    But the real nuclear black eye is the construction of the EPRs in Finland and France. You must know these numbers. Huge overruns at both plants,significant delays already and they are barely started – oddly it seems to me over similar concrete mixing problems and welding problems. Clearly they shouldbe studying under the Japanese and Koreans. But this is the biggest nuclear construction company in the world. Promising 3rd Gens are not going to have the same cost overruns and delays at the last generation – and getting it dead wrong.

    And ultimately,the whole thing maybe going up in smoke anyway, as the financial crisis dries up the extraordinary lending options needed to finance nuclear power.

    good chatting.

    Paxus in Am*dam
    4 Falling Leaves 2K8

  28. 28 Paxus Oct 4th, 2008 at 11:30 pm

    funny, i just wrote a longsih reply and seems stalled with the moderator – or something

  29. 29 Michael Stuart Oct 6th, 2008 at 3:18 pm

    That’s OK, Paxus. You can send it directly to me, if you want. My email name is: stuartmj
    and the domain is: yahoo dot com.

    I doubt anyone’s still reading this thread besides us anyway.

  30. 30 R Margolis Oct 6th, 2008 at 10:14 pm

    I guess only a few of us laggards left… ;-)

    It seems that the Greenpeace folks have never worked a lead plant startup. The first one or two have problems, but if you stick with essentially the same design and crew, you get better. Yonggwang 3 (lead plant for that design, YGN 1 and 2 were older plants) had all kinds of issues to work out. However, Yonggwang 4 did much better, as did the others. EPR is certainly having issues and delays, but I am willing to wait and see how they do at Taishan (3rd EPR) before making any judgement. I have never said that nuclear is easy, but it is more manageable than most folks think.

  31. 31 Michael Stuart Oct 7th, 2008 at 1:21 pm

    “Dominion does a great job at North Anna of running a safe and inexpensive plant. I really believe this – i hear it not just from the folx who work at North Anna, but from my friends at Union for Concerned Scientists, who regularly rank US reactors and North Anna is often in the top 5 plants.” – Paxus Calta, October 1, 2008

    I’ll take you at your word on this, Paxus. So I have to ask: Why protest? If Dominion does this well with 60’s era technology, what makes you think Dominion won’t do just as well with a third, more modern nuclear unit at North Anna?

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