Backyard Talk

Where Is Piketon Ohio? & Why Is The US Department of Energy Making Them Accept A Radio Active Waste Dump? By Sharon Franklin

In Piketon, Ohio, David and Pam Mills who have grown tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and okra on their property for about 18 years, now say they can’t trust their soil anymore.  Why? Because less than a 5-minute walk from their property a short metal fence marking where the Mills property ends, there is a sign that reads, “U.S. PROPERTY, NO TRESPASSING,” in big, bold letters with red, white, and blue borders, where the US government is constructing a 100-acre landfill for radioactive waste. Piketon, Ohio is a rural, low income, and largely white county and home to more than 28,000 people across a number of small towns and cities.  When you drive through neighborhoods behind Piketon’s main highway, lawn signs covered in red stating “NO RADIOACTIVE WASTE DUMP in Pike County” can be seen everywhere.
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The US Department of Energy (DOE) owns the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant, and now, the agency is trying to clean it up.  When construction is finished, it will be one of the largest nuclear waste dumps east of the Mississippi, and waste could begin entering it as soon as the Fall of 2019.
The clean-up and construction of the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant spurred the 2,000 strong Village of Pike community members, to pass a resolution in August 2017 opposing the landfill.  The Mills say “It’s gonna contaminate everything,” “It’s just a matter of time.”
However, the problem for Piketon residents, is there is nothing technically illegal about the landfill. The US DOE, though the polluter, is taking the lead on cleaning up the facility, and the Ohio EPA supports its plan. Whether their decision is morally right given local opposition is another matter. But this is what often happens when a corporation or governmental entity needs to dispose of toxic waste: It gets dumped in an overlooked town, like Piketon, Ohio, that doesn’t deserve it.
When contacted by the reporter, the Trump Administration’s US Department of Energy (DOE) wouldn’t comment on why it chose this site despite the nearby streams nor would it say how that impacts environmental risk.
As reported by Yessenia Funes, May 16, 2019 


Celebrating Janet Marsh Zeller International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day adopted in 1975 by the United Nations. Today, CHEJ is honoring and celebrating an extraordinary women Janet Marsh Zeller who changed our world and made the lives of so many safer, healthier and joyful.

“One person speaking alone may not be heard, but many people speaking with one voice cannot be ignored.“- Janet Marsh

In 1984, when the Department of Energy announced that Ashe County, NC, was being considered as the site of a high-level nuclear waste dump, Janet Marsh organized her friends and neighbors, holding the first meetings at the Holy Trinity Church of what would become the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League. At the time, she was raising young children and farming in Glendale Springs, and shared concerns about the Federal Government’s plans with other parents, farmers, teachers and merchants in the area. A study group was formed, and the example that has served as the model for BREDL and its chapters was born. Janet served as BREDL’s Executive Director for over two decades, 1986 until 2012. From July 2012 until her death, Janet acted as strategic adviser to the BREDL Board Executive Committee.
In her early adult life, Janet was a successful teacher and a rising star in the educational establishment of North Carolina. Blinded by a congenital disorder in her twenties, Janet’s career was cut short. Nevertheless, she founded the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League to fight a national nuclear waste dump near her home in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The community group was successful in stopping the dump, and the fight brought together the founding members of BREDL. The principal organizers, recognizing an ongoing need, stayed together to form a 501(c)3 nonprofit. The community organizing strategies, vision, and tactics which helped win BREDL’s first victory guide us today. Today BREDL is a league of more than fifty community-based chapters serving the Southeast with the founding principles of earth stewardship, public health protection, environmental democracy and social justice.
A woman who shouldered much responsibility without fanfare, Janet poured herself into the organization she founded. Under Janet’s leadership, BREDL received numerous awards and accolades including the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund National Award for Environmental Activism in 1989, CHEJ National Award for Outstanding Work in 1993, the NC Governor’s Conservation Achievement Award for air quality protection in 1999, and the Bob Sheldon award in 2014, in honor of BREDL’s thirtieth anniversary.
In December 1988, the Winston-Salem Journal featured Janet in the paper’s Tarheel Sketch series. In the article, she stated “We think in the short term. We think of the quarterly ledger sheets or of the next sales profit – but not of the consequences of our actions.” Janet was also featured in an article in The Independent from the December 19, 1986-January 15, 1987 edition. That article was titled “She has the vision to see we can live without fear”. Sandy Adair, the BREDL administrator at the time, had this to say about Janet: “Her mind is like a steel trap, as far as reading official documents and reading between the lines. She sees shortcomings and she sees places where they’ve tried to gloss over an issue. She can see the empty loopholes.” Most recently, an interview with Janet appeared in the May 2014 issue of All About Women, a lifestyle magazine that recognizes women in leadership in the high country of western North Carolina.
Janet was a role model to many activists and organizers in the environmental justice movement. She served on the board for the Center for Health, Environment, and Justice, and achieved countless grassroots victories through her work with BREDL. Janet’s words and work will continue to inspire people with her belief that, “One person speaking alone may not be heard, but many people speaking with one voice cannot be ignored.”- Janet Marsh
The BREDL family, Center for Health, Environment & Justice and communities throughout the Southeast have lost a true friend and advocate.

Backyard Talk

Nuclear Energy: Sucking America Dry or Filling Our Pockets with Energy?

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Photo credit to Inhabitat New York City. Photo of Indian Point Nuclear Site on the Hudson River. Indian Point has been leaking radioactive material into the Hudson for several months and has had many operating issues in recent years. Located 24 miles north of New York City.

The struggle for natural gas and oil continue each day. While we deplete our oil resources we look for new ways of finding oil such as fracking and importing more oil, but this oil flow is slowly, but surely drying up too. Our nation is looking to divest our energy production in other facets such as green energy, wind, water and solar and even nuclear energy, that uses uranium rods as a fuel source.
Nuclear energy has been used for decades and over that time we have seen many catastrophes and accidents such as Three Mile Island Nuclear Plant, in Pennsylvania or Fukushima Nagasaki Power Plant explosions in Japan, where residents are still threatened by toxic pollution and mass amounts of radiation. Not to mention, possibly the most famous disaster, Chernobyl Nuclear Site which is still abandoned and must be constantly monitored. Regardless of these disasters governments around the world claim nuclear is still very safe and good option to divest money away from natural gas.
In the US many states have chosen to renew expiring nuclear plant licenses and will continue to operate under federal standards. However, some are choosing to close their doors. In New Jersey, Oyster Creek Nuclear Facility has faced several difficulties and has determined the cost of updating safety standards and fixing operating issues would be more costly than just to end their licenses and permits early and close by 2019. In other states such as New York more and more nuclear power sites are feeling the same pressures. Exelon said the R. E. Ginna and Nine Mile Point nuclear plants will need to be shut down unless it receives financial help from NY state.  Entergy, another nuclear power company, said that it would close the James A. FitzPatrick plant, which neighbors Nine Mile Point on the shore of Lake Ontario in Oswego County, by early next year. The costs are too high to remain open, but could cost the state and nation more if an accident happens or operating standards cannot be met. 
The subsidies needed to keep these pants open will be immense and large in monetary value as well as impact. If these sites were to close the state will need to bring more energy from oil, coal and natural gas energy. Thus adding to the release of carbon emissions and pollution. Cuomo is all for these subsidies and bailouts in order to keep our energy consumption of oil and gas low. He even praised this work saying, “This Clean Energy Standard shows you can generate the power necessary for supporting the modern economy while combating climate change.”
So, the question stands, is nuclear power sucking America dry or is it filling our pockets with energy? You be the judge.
To find out more about current subsidies for New York nuclear plants click here: and to stay up to date with more environmental justice issues make sure to continue reading Backyard Talk- CHEJ’s Blog. [/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

Backyard Talk

We Are Winning With Renewables

The U.S. electric grid added more than 70 times as much renewable energy capacity as natural gas capacity from January to March 2016. According to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) reports no new capacity of coal, oil, or nuclear power were added in the first quarter of the year. I know there are many factors in addition to our efforts at the street that makes this possible but you – our grassroots field fighters – can take some credit for this accomplishment.
Today, renewables make up 18 percent of total U.S. installed generating capacity. This is a low number as FERC doesn’t include solar energy on rooftops across America. They only include large scale solar units.
According to an article in Climate by Joe Romm, “There is increasingly clear that we don’t need to add significant amounts of any new grid capacity that isn’t renewable for the foreseeable future. In part that’s because demand for utility power generation has been flat for almost a decade — and should continue plateauing for quite some time — thanks to rapidly growing energy efficiency measures (and, to a much lesser extent, thanks to recent increases in rooftop solar).  We also know that renewable power — both new wind and solar — is now winning bids for new generation around the world without subsidies.  Some bids are coming in at under four cents per kilowatt hour!
This is all good news. What isn’t is that the oil and gas industry still wants to drill, frack and export our fossil fuels. In New Bedford, Texas, Maryland, Oregon and other ports along our coasts are export terminals planned to take America’s resources and ship them overseas. What ever happened to our energy security? So that big oil and gas can increase their profits, the American people lose not only energy security but also the destruction of our water, land and the public’s health.
This is an election year and we – the people – have an opportunity to ask all candidates as they knock on our doors or rally in the park where they stand on destroying our environment and harming public health to export our resources and make big oil/gas richer. I personally think it is un-American hurt our families, environment and not keep the fossil fuels in the ground until just in case Americans need them.

Backyard Talk

Nuclear Reactor Shut Down Because Sea Water Can't Cool?

Why isn’t this front page news! Are people really still questioning Climate Change’s impacts? I’m in shock! The sea water . . . the ocean is too warm to cool the reactors, it’s not even believable. I only believe it because the huge energy corporations would never shut a reactor down unless they had too. Waterford, CT is not alone, a number of reactors across the country have been temporarily shut down in the past few days for safety reasons.

In Waterford, Conn., a reactor at the Millstone Nuclear Power Plant was shut down because the water in Long Island Sound was too warm to cool it. According to the reactor’s safety rules, the cooling water can be no higher than 75 degrees Fahrenheit. The plant has three reactors. The first began operation in 1970 and is now retired. The third was still running yesterday, but engineers have been monitoring the temperature in case that one also needs to be shut down. Temperatures this summer are the warmest we’ve had since operations began here at Millstone,” Dominion spokesman Ken Holt said (Matthew Wald, New York Times, Aug. 13).

At the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant in southern Maryland, operators shut down one of the site’s two reactors because a control rod unexpectedly dropped into the reactor core on Sunday.

The plant’s staff is fixing the malfunction, said Kory Raftery, spokesman for operator Constellation Energy Nuclear Group.

Control rods are used to limit the fission taking place among a reactor’s fuel rods. An unplanned insertion of a control rod into a reactor core can “create an imbalance in the fissioning and pose challenges for reactor operators,” Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman Neil Sheehan said. It happens infrequently at U.S. nuclear plants, he said (Timothy Wheeler, Baltimore Sun, Aug. 13).

The Palisades Nuclear Generating Station in Covert Township, Mich., was taken offline after officials discovered a “very small, very minor” cooling water leak. The leak, which has been monitored by officials for a month, is being repaired inside a containment building at the plant. No radioactive materials were released, spokesman Mark Savage said Sunday. “Palisades is taking this conservative measure at this time because of our unrelenting commitment and focus on nuclear safety,” he said in a release. “Palisades will be returned to service when repairs are completed.”

Backyard Talk

Know Nukes Y'All Summit

Learn about all aspects of nuclear energy and network with activists by attending the Know Nukes Y’All Summit in Chattanooga, TN from June 28th to 30th.  National experts, such as David Freeman and Dave Lochbaum, will be speaking at this Southern regional grassroots gathering.  The event is sponsored by 15 national and regional groups.  To register ($40 including meals), go to or call 828-252-8409.

Backyard Talk

MI Nuclear Reactor Hurts Everyone

Michigan is pushing – not just supporting – another nuclear reactor, Fermi 3, on the banks of the Great Lakes. And the state and Detroit Edison are picking the pockets of tax payers and utility rate payers to pay for it. This makes no sense, especially if you look at the history and the need for such a reactor. Fermi 1 was shut down because of a partial meltdown; Fermi 2 is operating with serious problems including an accidental turbine missile mechanical explosion that resulted in millions of gallons of radioactive water being discharged into Lake Erie.

Fermi 3 is a new proposed reactor that Detroit Edison and the state are supporting. At stake, the tax payers and rate payers will pre-pay for the nuclear reactor. That’s right — pre pay for a reactor that is not needed nor is there any guarantee that it will even be built! The median income of households in the city of Detroit is $28,000 and the percentage of people below the poverty level is 26.1%. Unemployment is at 13%.

This is criminal. The city is near bankrupt, the population is barely hanging on, while Detroit Edison is forcing people to pay for the construction of a new nuclear reactor that may never be built to generate energy that is not needed and to place at risk Lake Erie which provides a solid economic base for jobs and businesses in the region.

This past weekend CHEJ facilitated a workshop in Detroit, on media training, framing the group’s messages, speaking to the media and finding other ways to reach the public about their issue. Twenty six community and group leaders, from across the region came together to fight this insane proposal. CHEJ worked with the leaders to help them come up with winning strategies to right the wrong and give the honest hard working citizens back their taxes and funds paid to the utility.

Leaders were very clear that Michigan does not need another nuclear reactor but does need economic opportunities and alternative energy. Recently a solar and wind turbine plants open in Michigan providing long term jobs, economic benefits and safe energy. The leaders strategies included encouraging subsidies be given to the alternative technologies like those that have already begun to build plants in the state and stop supporting dangerous technologies that place people and the environment at risk. Stay tuned as the efforts build.

Backyard Talk

No Nuclear Nirvana

As we approach the one year anniversary of Fukushima on March 11th, Robert Alvarez reports that there is “No Nuclear Nirvana” and nuclear power remains expensive, dangerous and too radioactive for Wall Street. ( Huffington Post, 3/5/12)

“Is the nuclear drought over? When the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) recently approved
two new nuclear reactors near Augusta, Ga., the first such decision in 32 years, there was plenty of hoopla.It marked a “clarion call to the world,” declared Marvin S. Fertel, president of the Nuclear Energy Institute. “Nuclear energy is a critical part of President Obama’s all-of-the-above energy strategy,” declared Energy Secretary Steven Chu, who traveled in February to the Vogtle site where Westinghouse plans to build two new reactors.

But it’s too soon for nuclear boosters to pop their champagne corks. Japan’s Fukushima disaster continues to unfold nearly a year after the deadly earthquake and tsunami unleashed what’s shaping up to
be the worst nuclear disaster ever. Meanwhile, a raft of worldwide reactor closures, cancellations, and postponements is still playing out. The global investment bank UBS estimates that some 30 reactors in several countries are at risk of closure, including at least two in highly pro-nuclear France. And Siemens AG, one of the world’s largest builders of nuclear power  plants, has already dumped its nuclear business…”

To view the rest of the article, go to