BEYOND NUCLEAR PUBLICATIONS

Search
JOIN OUR NETWORK

     

     

DonateNow

 

 

Decommissioning

Although it is imperative that we shut down nuclear plants, they remain dangerous, and expensive even when closed. Radioactive inventories remain present on the site and decommissioning costs have been skyrocketing, presenting the real danger that utilities will not be able to afford to properly shut down and clean up non-operating reactor sites.

.................................................................................................................................................................................................................

Thursday
Nov222012

Vermonters urge State Public Service Board to deny Entergy Vermont Yankee a Certificate of Public Good

Vermont State HouseAs the Vermont Yankee Decommissioning Alliance makes clear in its very name, and as the SAGE Alliance makes clear with a rally at the Vermont State House in Montpelier (pictured, left) on the 1st of every month, "We Are Not Going Away Until VT Yankee is Shut Down and Safely Decommissioned!"

And, with a rally at the State House in Montpelier on Sat., Nov. 17th, and state-wide public testimony to the State of Vermont Public Service Board (PSB) on Mon., Nov. 19th, the people of the Green Mountain State made clear their ongoing, strong opposition to any grant of a renewed Certificate of Public Good (CPG) to Entergy Nuclear for the continued operation of the Vermont Yankee atomic reactor. The grassroots efforts were organized by such groups as the SAGE AllianceCitizens Awareness Network (CAN), and the Vermont Yankee Decommissioning Alliance (VYDA).

Debra Stoleroff, a key organizer with VYDA, shared "Nine Good Reasons for the Public Service Board to Reject Entergy's CPG Request." Debra also provided instructions on how to submit comments, including in writing, to the PSB. Comments by persons from out-of-state are not precluded. (Debra served as a coordinator of an exhibition of Chernobyl photographs by Gabriela Bulisova, which opened on St. Patrick's Day, 2011 at Montpelier City Hall. The exhibit was organized to mark the 25th anniversary of the beginning of the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe on April 26, 1986. The exhibit then moved to Dartmouth College on 4/26/11, hosted by the Upper Valley Sierra Club chapter. Beyond Nuclear co-sponsored the exhibits.) 

Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps was in Vermont and attended both the rally and the hearings, as well as Vermont Public Interest Research Group's (VPIRG) annual Environmental Summit in Randolph at the Vermont Technical College, where Vermont Yankee shutdown workshops were also held. At the conference, Kevin met Richard Watts, author of Public Meltdown: The Story of Vermont Yankee. 

Kevin also discussed the expansion of the Entergy Watch network with staff from the Toxics Action Center in Boston. Recently, a number of municipalities near Entergy Nuclear's Pilgrim power plant in Plymouth, MA have passed resolutions opposed to the operations of the atomic reactor. Toxics Action Center is 25 years old, formed in response to the W.R. Grace toxic chemical pollution of drinking water in Woburn, MA, made famous by the book and film A Civil Action.

Chris Williams, a key organizer of VYDA as well as VCAN, served as spokesman on the Vermont Yankee issue at the VPIRG Environmental Summit. Chris traveled to west Michigan on Oct. 11th, to educate Michiganders on the rogue corporation (a phrase oft repeated by political leadership in Vermont) Entergy, which operates the Palisades atomic reactor in Covert on the Lake Michigan shoreline. 

Vermont Yankee and Pilgrim are both General Electric Mark I boiling water reactors, identical in design to Fukushima Daiichi's Units 1 to 4. Entergy also own the Mark I at FitzPatrick, NY, and operates (on behalf of owner Nebraska Public Power District) the Mark I at Cooper, NE. Altogether, Entergy owns or operates a "dirty dozen" atomic reactors of various designs across the U.S.

The Barre Montpelier Times Argus reported on the rally, as well as on the state-wide hearings.

A gentleman sitting near Kevin at the hearing session in Brattleboro kept count of the number of those favoring and opposing a Certificate of Public Good for Vermont Yankee's continued operations. The grand tally was 68 opposed to a CPG, with 26 in favor. The man had also attended another PSB hearing in Vermont Yankee's hometown of Vernon on November 9th. There, 37 persons who testified were in favor of the CPG, while 34 were opposed.

Without a CPG, Vermont Yankee cannot continue operating, under state law. Entergy Nuclear actually signed a Memorandum of Understanding recognizing the Vermont PSB's authority in this regard, when it purchased Vermont Yankee a decade ago. Despite Entergy's subsequent lawsuit contesting the Public Service Board's authority, it was upheld in a federal court decision last January.

Monday
Nov122012

"Reading Radioactive Tea Leaves": Kewaunee reactor to shut down

John LaForge of Nukewatch in Luck, WIJohn LaForge of Nukewatch in Luck, WI (pictured left) has penned an op-ed,"Reading Radioactive Tea Leaves: Without a Buyer for Old Kewaunee Reactor, Owner Chooses Shut Down." In it, he details the many radioactive bullets Wisconsin has dodged, and has not dodged, at Kewaunee, just in recent years, including: "...a 2009 emergency shutdown caused by improper steam pressure instrument settings; a 2007 loss of main turbine oil pressure; an emergency cooling water system design flaw found in 2006; [the August 2006 discovery of radioactive tritium leaking into groundwater, for an unknown period, from unidentified pipes somewhere beneath the reactor complex]; a possible leak in November 2005 of highly radioactive primary coolant into secondary coolant which is discharged to Lake Michigan; a simultaneous failure of all three emergency cooling water pumps in February 2005, etc.".

Regarding Kewaunee's decommissioning, John also wrote:

"...The industry’s early advertising dream of electricity “too cheap to meter” has become a radiation nightmare too costly to quantify. Initial shutdown expenses for the creaking, leaking 39-year-old monster — waste management and reactor dismantling, containerizing and transporting to dump sites — are roughly predictable. According to the Associated Press, Dominion, which bought Kewaunee in 2005 for $220 million, will “record a $281 million charge in [2013’s] third quarter related to the closing and decommissioning.” But that’s just the earnest money. Literally endless expenditures will be required to keep Kewaunee’s radioactive wastes contained, monitored and out of drinking water for the length of time the federal appeals courts have declared is the required minimum— 300,000 years. 

The Green Bay Press-Gazette reported that Dominion has 60 years to see that Kewaunee’s giant footprint is “returned to a greenfield condition.” Just don’t dig under that “greenfield,” Virginia. In August 2006 radioactive tritium was found to have been leaking for an unknown period, from unidentified pipes somewhere beneath the reactor complex. With a radioactive half-life of 12.5 years, those unnumbered tankers of tritium will be part of the groundwater for at least 125 years..."

Nukewatch has watchdogged Kewaunee for decades. On April 23, 2011, Nukewatch organized a "Walk for a Nuclear-Free Future" from Kewaunee to Point Beach's two reactors -- a distance of seven miles, the same as the distance between Fukushima Daiichi and Daini nuclear power plants -- to commemorate the 25th year since the Chernobyl atomic reactor exploded and burned beginning on April 26, 1986. The event took place just six weeks after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe had begun. Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps took part in the walk, and as a keynote speaker along with Natasha Akulenko, a native of Kiev, Ukraine and surivor of the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe.

Wednesday
Oct242012

Dominion Nuclear's claim that $392 million in decommissioning funds is sufficient are dubious

Reporting on Dominion Nuclear's decision to shut down and decommission the Kewaunee atomic reactor on the Lake Michigan shoreline in Wisconsin (photo, left), World Nuclear News has reported:

"Some $392 million in decommissioning funds for Kewaunee were transferred to Dominion at the time it bought the plant. The company said that Kewaunee's decommissioning trust is currently fully funded, and it believes that the amounts available in the trust plus expected earnings will be sufficient to cover all decommissioning costs expected to be incurred after the plant shut down."

This claim is quite dubious. The Big Rock Point atomic reactor, nearly due east of Kewaunee on Michigan's Lake Michigan shoreline, itself cost $366 million to decommission. But Big Rock Point, at 70 Megawatts-electric, was an order of magnitude smaller than Kewaunee (574 MWe). In addition, although Big Rock Point's owner Consumers Energy has declared its decommissioning completed, and even the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has approved "un-restricted re-use" for the supposedly "greenfield site," plutonium and other radioactive poisons remain in the soil, groundwater, and very likely flora and fauna. The sediments of the discharge canal, used to dump Big Rock Point's radioactivity into Lake Michigan for 35 years, have not even been checked for radioactive contamination levels, let alone cleaned up. (See the top six entries at NIRS' decommissioning website section for more information about Big Rock Point's inadequate decommissioning).

Thus, Dominion's assurances that $392 million will be sufficient to truly clean up Kewaunee's contaminated site may very well prove false.

Wednesday
Oct242012

"Aging and Expensive, Reactors Face Mothballs"

The Kewaunee atomic reactor on Wisconsin's Lake Michigan shorelineAtomic reactor shutdowns, and the resultant beginning of decommissioning projects, may grow more commonplace soon. The New York Times has reported on the economics that have not only led to the Kewaunee atomic reactor's (photo, left) announced closure in Wisconsin, but also other pressures and forces on reactors, from Entergy's Indian Point near New York City to Vermont Yankee, Duke's Crystal River in Florida, Exelon's Oyster Creek in New Jersey, and Southern California Edison's San Onofre. The article speaks of "[t]he industry’s renewed glimpse of its mortality" and states "the nuclear industry may be nearing its first round of retirements since the mid-1990s."  Kewaunee's closure will be the first at an American atomic reactor since several (Yankee Rowe, Massachusetts; Zion 1 & 2, Illinois; Big Rock Point, Michigan; Millstone Unit 1, Connecticut) in the mid to late 1990s. 

Tuesday
Oct232012

Nearly half of the atomic reactors on Lake Michigan's shores have closed over the past 15 years

NRC file photo of KewauneeFrom The Washington Post: "Dominion Resources Inc. said Monday that it plans to close and decommission its Kewaunee Power Station in Wisconsin after it was unable to find a buyer for the nuclear power plant".

As nuclear power continues to crumble under the weight of its own disastrous economics, Dominion CEO, Thomas F. Farrell II,  becomes the latest industry CEO to lose confidence in the nuclear business. "This decision was based purely on economics," Farrell said. Dominion also operates the two North Anna, VA reactors, where a proposed third reactor plan looks fragile at best. It also operates Millstone, CT and Surry, VA.

A buyer could not be found, even though the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) had already rubberstamped a 20 year license extension at Kewaunee. Today, Dominion notified NRC that it plans to decommission Kewaunee.

Reuters also reported on this story, stating that more atomic reactors could follow suit, their bad economics forcing their closure:

"Especially vulnerable under this scenario would be small, old single reactor sites.

Other units that could be on the hit list because they fit the profile include Exelon Corp's Oyster Creek in New Jersey, Xcel Energy Inc's Monticello in Minnesota, and Entergy Corp's Palisades in Michigan, Vermont Yankee in Vermont and Pilgrim in Massachusetts."

In 1997, Big Rock Point in Michigan was permanently closed, as were Zion 1 & 2 in Illinois in 1998. Kewaunee's closure in 2013 will be the fifth reactor shut down on Lake Michigan's shores in 15 years. This will leave Point Beach 1 & 2 in WI, Palisades in MI, and Cook 1 & 2 in MI still operating on Lake Michigan's shores. Lake Michigan is a headwaters for the Great Lakes, 20% of the world's surface fresh water, providing drinking water for 40 million people in 8 U.S. states, 2 Canadian provinces, and a large number of Native American First Americans.

Several years ago, Kewaunee had more NRC "yellow findings" (the second highest category of safety violation) than the other (at the time) 102 operating reactors in the entire country. The very same year, Point Beach had more "red findings" (NRC's worst category of safety violation) than the rest of the industry combined. Kewaunee and Point Beach are a mere seven miles apart, the same distance as between Fukushima Daiichi and Daini in Japan. Daiichi and Daini's proximity, as well as their proximity to Tokai nearer Tokyo, led the Japanese federal government to prepare worst case scenario plans to evacuate 30 million people from Tokyo in the event of a "demonic chain reaction" of reactor melt downs and radioactive waste storage pool fires.

An NRC daily event report revealed that Dominion's announcement to decommission Kewaunee caused a security incident, as reporters descended on the reactor to cover the story.

The New York Times and Greenwire have also reported on this story.