Friday

Safety Oversight of U.S. Nuclear Reactors is Slipshod, Report Says

Assessment by Union of Concerned Scientists finds widespread safety breaches at the nation’s nuclear operations. The report said nearly one in six nuclear reactors experienced safety breaches last year due, in part, to poor oversight by federal regulators. In its third annual assessment of reactor safety, the advocacy organization cited incidents including unusual wear on steam generator tubes at Edison’s San Onofre plant north of San Diego. The Union of Concerned Scientists, long critical of the nuclear industry and the U.S . Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said 40 of the 104 U.S. reactors had experienced safety-related incidents over the past three years. But it said none of the incidents harmed workers or the public. Bloomberg, Reuters

Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled State Assembly approves mining bill. The hotly debated measure would clear the way for a possible $1.5 billion iron ore mine in the far northwest corner of the state by streamlining environmental regulations. It goes next to Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who supports the legislation and has touted it as his key job creation plan. He is expected to sign it into law early next week. Critics have said the bill will allow pollution of lakes, streams and groundwater, and reduce air quality for the sake of jobs and the economy. It’s still unclear whether the bill will survive legal scrutiny. Conservation groups and the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa are considering lawsuits. The Associated Press, Reuters

Two researchers call for installing technology to disable cellphones in moving cars. In an essay published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the two West Virginia University researchers cited the thousands of people killed every year because drivers are distracted by their phones. The researchers said state laws have been ineffective in dealing with the issue. Cellphones “must be rendered [inoperable] whenever the automobile is in motion or when the transmission shaft lever is in forward or reverse gear.” They added that auto and cellphone manufacturers “have the engineering capabilities to implement these safeguards.” Yet as FairWarning has reported, automakers keep packing new electronic gadgets into vehicles. Los Angeles Times

Report cites abuses at Alabama poultry plants. The report, by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, said many employees of the state’s 25 poultry processing plants suffer injuries because they are forced to work at “punishing speed.” The assessment by the advocacy groups also found that  workers, many of them immigrants, also often are intimidated by bosses who threaten to have them deported or fired. Based on interviews with more than 300 current and former poultry workers, the report found that 79 percent said they were “not allowed to take bathroom breaks when needed,” prompting some workers to urinate on themselves rather than ask to leave the line. WBRC (Birmingham, Ala.)

Worker’s death leads to proposed fine of $82,000 against Illinois factory. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration accused  Komatsu America’s truck manufacturing plant in Peoria, Ill., of four safety violations, including two repeat offenses, involving flawed energy control procedures and training. The charges stemmed from the death last August of a 53-year-old employee who lost an arm and suffered other injuries when a coupler failed and released pressurized hydraulic fluid while he was testing hydraulic cylinders for leaks. The accident “might have been prevented had the employer addressed previous incidents where the hydraulic coupler had failed,” an OSHA official said. The plant was hit with similar charges in 2011.  (Peoria) Journal Star, OSHA

Compiled by Stuart Silverstein

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