Center for Biological Monitoring Archives

Table of Contents

Paradigm V: Maine History and the Maine Yankee Atomic Power Company

  • Environmental History Bibliography
  • Links to environmental history websites
  • Center for Biological Monitoring Archives
  • Introduction

    When the Davistown Museum was incorporated in 1999, the Center for Biological Monitoring (CBM) was made a part of the museum's missions and organizational structure as part of its environmental history department.  It's website, RADNET, Nuclear Information on the Internet, was transferred in its entirety to the museum's website.  CBM was initially started in West Jonesport, Maine, as Maine Radscan, sponsored by the now defunct West Jonesport Engine No. 9, an engine company consisting of a pair of boots, a helmet, two axes, five fire extinguishers, five indian tanks and a huge bibliography on toxic substances.  Maine Radscan and Engine Co. No. 9 in turn had evolved out of the curator's membership in the University of Massachusetts Fire Department, Stop the Draft sit-ins in California, and the New England Ecology Center's 1970 Earth Day anti-SST and Logan Airport die-in activities.  The original focus of Maine Radscan was on chemical fallout issues and the bioaccumulation of weapons testing fallout contamination in pathways to human consumption.  In 1973, the Maine Yankee Atomic Power Company (MYAPC) began operation and the focus of Maine Radscan was expanded to include all source points of anthropogenic activity including commercial nuclear power facilities such as MYAPC.  Collection of journal articles and information on all types of chemical fallout continued from 1973 to 1998.

    In 1982, Engine Co. No. 9 and the curator were charged by the Hancock County District Attorney with two felony counts of obstructing the government for furnishing fire extinguishers against the directives of Jonesport Fire Department at two house fires in W. Jonesport, Maine, one of which was adjacent to the curator's tool store in W. Jonesport.  Shortly thereafter (1983), the Jonesport Wood Company evacuated to Hulls Cove, Maine Radscan was renamed the Center for Biological Monitoring (est. 1983) and Engine Co. No. 9 went underground.  In 1984,  Radscan: Information Sampler on Long-lived Radionuclides was issued.  Additional CBM publications were issued in 1986, 1993, 1994, 1995 and 1997 (see Brack in the bibliographies.)  RADNET was issued in a series of eBooks from 1996 to 2002.  Between 1995 and 1999, the focus of CBM was on constructing its website, posting its extensive database of references on the internet and documenting the various safety issues and debacles that continued at the Maine Yankee facility without interruption.  In 1999 CBM and its archives became a component of the Davistown Museum.  At the time the internet became an alternative to Maine media's entrenched nuclear information gulag (e.g. Maine Public Broadcasting Network, Ellsworth American, Bangor Daily News, Portland Press Herald and Courier Publications since plant closure.)  RADNET was conceived as both a world wide web freedom of information (free library) resource as well as an electronic conceptual arts project (entry # 56) of the Hulls Cove Sculpture Garden (est. 1989.)

    The age of nuclear fallout (1945 - 1986) is a now nearly forgotten chapter of Maine's environmental history.  Barring further nuclear disasters or significant acts of terrorism, it will fade from our memory as we now confront the ubiquitous threat of chemical fallout, its vast multitude of components, and the certainty of biological effects and climate change that accompany this fallout.  The mission of the Davistown Museum's environmental history department is the continued documentation of the growing threat of chemical fallout as it impacts Maine's environment and the communities living in our fragile bioregion.  It is our fervent hope that no future wars, accidents or acts of terrorism will spread another plume of radioactive fallout over Maine.  Nonetheless, the construction of a high-level radioactive waste storage facility at Wiscasset is an ongoing chapter of Maine's environmental history.  Still unresolved is the question of the environmental impact of Maine Yankee and its operations and decommissioning.  Remaining unanswered is this fundamental question: what quantity of long-lived spent fuel radioisotopes were released during episodes of fuel cladding failure (1973, 1997) and what are the pathways and current locations of this contamination?

    Paradigm V: Maine History and the Maine Yankee Atomic Power Company

    As noted, the construction, operation, closure and decommissioning of the Maine Yankee Atomic Power Company (MYAPC) is one of the most important events in Maine history in the second half of the 20th century.  At least two significant nuclear accidents in the form of fuel cladding failures are known to have occurred at MYAPC.  The first was at onset of operations in 1973, the second resulted in the closure of the plant in 1997.  These episodes of fuel cladding failures contaminated the reactor vessel with fuel pellets and spread spent fuel derived long-lived isotopes throughout reactor water systems.  A 1984 reactor water tank leak resulted in the largest documented incident of soil contamination at any US reactor.  Many larger accidents are likely to have occurred but remain undocumented.  The problems of contaminated reactor water systems, damaged spent fuel assemblies, accident debris and contaminated vacuum filters in the spent fuel pool greatly complicate the decommissioning of the Maine Yankee facility as well as construction of its on site high-level waste storage installation (Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation: ISFSI).  The Maine Yankee facility is, in fact, the first reactor to undergo decommissioning that has experienced significant episodes of spent fuel failure.  The fact that Maine's media has declined to report these fuel failures or their significance and consequences despite information made available to them (albeit indirectly) by the licensee (Maine Yankee) and its contractor GTS Duratek constitutes one of the most bizarre episodes in Maine history.  The fuel cladding failures at Maine Yankee are an important component of Maine history: why wouldn't they be more thoroughly reported by the media and demands made that the amounts of spent fuel wastes released, their pathways and their current location be tracked and reported as required by current federal law?

    The decommissioning of the Maine Yankee facility remains a highly experimental test run for deconstructing commercial reactors that have experienced fuel cladding failure - a process which urgently needs much more public scrutiny than has been the case at Maine Yankee.  These components, at least, of the environmental history of Maine in the 20th century appears to be too controversial to be the topic of scrutiny and debate in Maine.  Will they be permanently forgotten?

    CBM Anthropogenic Radioactivity and Maine Yankee Publications

    All of the CBM reports and postings on anthropogenic radioactivity and Maine Yankee are on the RADNET website with the exception of:  Brack, H. G., ed. Radscan: Information Sampler on Long-lived Radionuclides. Hulls Cove, ME: Pennywheel Press, 1984. and Brack, H. G., ed. A Review of Radiological Surveillance Reports of Waste Effluents in Marine Pathways at the Maine Yankee Atomic Power Company at Wiscasset, Maine--- 1970-1984: An Annotated Bibliography. Hulls Cove, ME: Pennywheel Press, 1986.  All remaining CBM reports are contained within the RADNET website, now a part of the Davistown Museum website.  Visitors to RADNET interested in reviewing the MYAPC archives please consult the RADNET button index to get to MYAPC postings and/or specific issues highlighted on the button index.  All of the RADNET archives and publications are available in hard copy in the fourth floor library of the Davistown Museum.

    Comments, corrections, additional information, suggestions and volunteer assistance is solicited by the Environmental History Department of the Davistown Museum.  If you would like to participation in the compilation of this historic site assessment, please contact Skip Brack.

    Continue on to the environmental history bibliography by following this link.

    Links to the sections of RADNET

    Section 3: Major Nuclear Accidents-in-Progress
    Section 4: Definitions and Conversion Factors
    Section 5: Biologically Significant Radionuclides
    Section 6: Radiation Protection Guidelines
    Section 7: Plume Pulse Pathways
    Section 8: Anthropogenic Radioactivity: Baseline Data
    Section 9: Anthropogenic Radioactivity: Dietary Intake
    Section 10: Chernobyl Fallout Data: Annotated Bibliography
    Section 11: Anthropogenic Radioactivity: Major Plume Source Points
    Section 12: Maine Yankee Atomic Power Company: Paradigm of the Twilight of the Nuclear Era

    1. Introduction
    2. Public Safety Issues
    3. Economic Issues
    4. Legal Issues
    5. Decommissioning Debacle
    A. Introduction
    B. Decommissioning Chronicle: August 1997 - September 1998
    C. Patterns of Noncompliance
    D. Unresolved Issues
    E. Decommissioning Chronicle Continued: January 1999 - December 1999
    F. Decommissioning Chronicle Continued: January 2000 to May 8, 2000
    G. Decommissioning Nightmare
    H. Decommissioning Debacle Bibliography
    Section 13: RADLINKS: Internet Links to Nuclear and Environmental Information Sources
    Section 14: Bibliography: Ancient Hard Copy Information Sources
    Section 15: Alerts, Notices, Requests for Assistance and Public Comments

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