Japan to restart 1st reactor under new rules since crisis

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Japan to restart 1st reactor under new rules since crisis

TOKYO (AP) — A power plant operator said it will restart a reactor in southern Japan on Tuesday, the first restart under new safety requirements following the Fukushima disaster and a milestone for the nation’s return to nuclear power.

Kyushu Electric Power Co. said Monday that it will restart the No. 1 reactor at its Sendai nuclear plant Tuesday morning.

Sherwood-Randall, Baran, Burns advance in Senate

President Barack Obama’s nominee for the No. 2 spot at the Energy Department easily advanced through a Senate committee on Thursday, but Republicans lined up in another panel against his two picks to join the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee passed the nomination of Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall for deputy secretary to the Senate floor by voice vote, with no stated opposition, setting her up for a confirmation vote as soon as next week. She would replace Dan Poneman, who is stepping down.

Most Republicans, however, voted against NRC nominees Jeffery M. Baran and Stephen G. Burns, in a vote held by the Environment and Public Works Committee off the Senate floor.

Senator questions Hanford legal fees

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Private contractors for the U.S. Department of Energy have spent at least $3.5 million in legal expenses to battle two critics of a massive construction project at the nation’s most polluted nuclear site, according to a letter obtained Thursday by The Associated Press.

The letter is from the chairwoman of a U.S. Senate subcommittee that is investigating whether there was retaliation against two Hanford Nuclear Reservation workers who raised safety concerns and then lost their jobs at the former nuclear weapons production site.

“The Department of Energy may be providing an incentive to contractors to engage in protracted litigation with whistleblowers by reimbursing the contractors’ legal expenses,” said the letter from Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, to Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.

Obama’s NRC picks present another dilemma for environmental groups

The machinations the Obama administration has needed to stock two key independent energy oversight bodies haven’t been entirely consistent with the president’s professed “no-drama” approach to governing.

Last week it won Senate confirmation of energy markets enforcement chief Norman Bay to join the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, but to do so it had to agree to an unusual deal to keep Acting Chairman Cheryl LaFleur in place for nine months while he gets experience as a regulator. She was also confirmed to a second term.

Now the administration has put environmental groups in something of a box over one of its nominees to fill two Democratic slots on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Nuclear industry raises flags over Baran, Burns nominations to NRC

The head of the nuclear power industry’s trade group raised questions Tuesday about President Barack Obama’s two nominees to the fill one current and one expected vacancy on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The White House said earlier in the day that President Barack Obama would nominate Jeffery M. Baran, a congressional staffer, and Stephen G. Burns, a former longtime NRC official who rose to general counsel before leaving in 2012 to become head of legal affairs at the Paris-based Nuclear Energy Agency

Mystery drones fly over French nuclear sites

PARIS (AP) — French security officials are investigating a spate of mysterious and illegal flights by drone aircraft over more than a dozen nuclear power stations in France, raising security concerns in a country that largely lives off atomic energy.

In what environmental activists call a worrisome development, authorities have tallied at least 15 overflights of nuclear sites since early October, culminating Friday with five at separate sites, government and utility officials said Monday.

Congress returns to NRC nominations, GOP energy bills

Congress returns to Washington on Monday for a brief session before leaving later this month to campaign in advance of the November elections, with senators to start work on President Barack Obama’s two nominees to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Much of the pre-election posturing on energy will come in the Republican-led House, which is to take up a group of bills and hold hearings to highlight its anti-regulatory agenda, according to a memo to GOP members by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.

Boxer, Markey move to defend Obama’s NRC nominees

A day after the nuclear industry raised concerns about President Barack Obama’s two new nominees to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, key Senate Democrats endorsed the picks, a sign that they could move quickly through the chamber this fall.

Obama on Tuesday nominated House staffer Jeffery M. Baran and former longtime NRC staffer Stephen G. Burns, both attorneys, to the commission, to replace two Democrats. George Apostolakis had left on June 30 at the end of his term, and William D. Magwood is to depart from his post 10 months early, on Aug. 31, to head the Paris-based Nuclear Energy Agency.

Baran, Burns put on fast track for confirmation to NRC

President Barack Obama’s nominees to fill two vacant Democratic seats on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission are to be sent quickly to the full Senate, with a committee vote scheduled on Thursday.

The vote by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is to come just two days after the panel’s Tuesday confirmation hearing, and reflects an agreement between ranking Republican Sen. David Vitter, R-La., and Chairman Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., to advance the nominations rapidly.

Baran, Burns nominated for Nuclear Regulatory Commission

The White House said Tuesday that President Barack Obama will nominate Jeffery M. Baran and Stephen Burns to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Baran is a senior Democratic staffer on the House Energy and Commerce Committee and aide to retiring Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif.

Burns is a former NRC general counsel who is currently head of legal affairs at the Paris-based Nuclear Energy Agency, a unit of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

If confirmed by the Senate, they will fill two Democratic vacancies on the five-member commission, which oversees U.S. nuclear power safety.

Commissioner William D. Magwood said Tuesday that he will depart on Aug. 31 to become director-general of the agency on Sept. 1, a move he previously announced. George Apostolakis was not nominated by Obama for a second term and departed the commission at the end of June.

Baran, Burns confirmed to NRC

The Senate on Tuesday confirmed President Barack Obama’s two Democratic nominees to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which will bring the five-member safety regulator back to full strength.

Senators approved Jeffery M. Baran on a 56-44 vote, and Stephen G. Burns on a 60-40 vote.

Regulators close case questioning California reactor repairs

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Federal regulators have closed a case that questioned whether Southern California Edison violated government rules when it installed faulty equipment at the now-closed San Onofre nuclear power plant.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission ruling Thursday concluded the issue is no longer relevant since the coastal reactors, located between Los Angeles and San Diego, are retired.

Hanford waste storage tanks continue to deteriorate

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Underground nuclear waste storage tanks on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation continue to deteriorate, raising questions about how the wastes will be managed in the future, according to a report released Tuesday by the Government Accountability Office.

Hanford, located near Richland in eastern Washington, contains 177 nuclear waste tanks, some of which have leaked. The nation’s largest collection of radioactive waste is left over from the production of plutonium for nuclear weapons.

House Republicans force Moniz to defend Yucca termination

House Republicans sought to put Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz on the defensive Wednesday over President Barack Obama’s nuclear waste blueprint that would start a new, decades-long process to choose interim and permanent storage sites.

Moniz argued Obama’s proposal to seek out states and communities willing to host the sites will be more fruitful than pursuing the Yucca Mountain repository in Nevada, which Obama terminated in 2009. He ran into skepticism, however, that new sites will ever be opened and that spent fuel will be removed from nuclear power plants.

3 ex-TEPCO execs to face criminal charges in nuclear crisis

TOKYO (AP) — A Japanese judicial committee has decided that three former utility executives should face criminal charges and stand trial for their alleged negligence in the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

A document released Friday showed the committee of independent citizens voted in favor of indicting Tsunehisa Katsumata, 75, who was chairman of Tokyo Electric Power Co. at the time of the crisis, along with then-vice presidents Sakae Muto, 65, and Ichiro Takekuro, 69.