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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.

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Thursday
Dec272012

INVITATION to CELEBRATE: The Nuclear Age in Quebec is Over! Gentilly-2 is SHUT DOWN!

"Rest in Peace, Gentilly-2"This tremendous good news just came in from Dr. Gordon Edwards, chair of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, and co-chair of the Great Lakes United Nuclear-Free/Green Energy Task Force:

28 December: The Nuclear Age in Quebec is Over! 

Join us, in Montréal, at 1 o'clock in the afternoon

On this occasion, Sonomi and her two children-- refugees from Fukushima, Japan -- will be our special guests.

P.S. Québec will be truly out of the nuclear age only when we achieve a permanent moratorium on uranium mining, as has been done in two other provinces -- Nova Scotia and British Columbia!

(Nuclear utility Hydro-Quebec announced Gentilly-2's permanent shutdown and beginning of decommissioning, to occur tomorrow, last October. Gentilly-2 is a CANDU atomic reactor which has operated since 1982.)

Saturday
Dec152012

Protest against NRC's absurd rush to restore Entergy Palisades to top-notch safety status, call for reactor's decommissioning

Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps testifies at NRC public meeting in South Haven, MI on 12/11/12 regarding catastrophic risks at Entergy's Palisades atomic reactor. Credit Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio.The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) held a public meeting in South Haven, MI on Tuesday, Dec. 11th in order to explain to the public its oversight role, Entergy's corrective actions at Palisades, and the reasons why the problem-plagued atomic reactor has been suddenly restored to top-notch safety status. Despite environmental resistance, NRC rubberstamped Palisades' 20-year license extension in 2007, enabling the now 45-year-old, age-degraded, troubled reactor to operate till 2031.

NRC designated Palisades one of the four worst-run reactors in the U.S. last February, but restored its top-notch safety status on Nov. 9th -- under pressure from powerful U.S. Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), who chairs the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee -- despite ongoing leaks, and a complete collapse of safety culture. The safety culture collapse was covered up by Entergy and NRC for months, but was recently revealed by Palisades' whistleblowers, their attorney Billie Pirner Garde, and U.S. Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA). The public isn't buying NRC's and Entergy's flip assurances, and marked the dog and pony show with a game of "Nukespeak Bingo," or "Blinky B'Lingo."

The coalition of concerned local residents and environmental groups put out a press release, as well as a "Blinky B'Lingo" board with 25 Nukespeak words or phrases, and a listing of their translations into plain English. The coalition included in its press packets an article entitled "No Word for Meltdown: The Return of Nukespeak," written just days after the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe had begun, by Rory O'Connor and Richard Bell. Along with Stephen Hilgartner, the three co-authors had published the book Nukespeak: Nuclear Language, Myths, and Mindset in 1982, and re-issued an updated version several months after Fukushima began.

Also included in the press packets and on Beyond Nuclear's info. table were pieces calling for Palisades' decommissioning: an opinion piece published in MLive by Mark Muhich, chairman of the Central Michigan Group Sierra Club; and Sierra Club's nuclear power plant decommissioning policy.

Michigan Public Radio reported on the Nukespeak bingo game in an article. Michigan Radio's "Environment Report" also published an on-air "Palisades: Year in Review." There have been so many "unplanned shutdowns" in 2011 (five safety-significant equipment breakdowns that required emergency shutdowns of the reactor) and "leaks" in 2012 (three so far), Michigan Public Radio created a timeline to keep track of it all.

South Bend's ABC57 television news also reported on this story, as did the Kalamazoo Gazette newspaper.

On the very same day as the NRC meeting in South Haven, David Lochbaum, the Union of Concerned Scientists' Nuclear Safety Project Director, published an "All Things Nuclear" blog entitled "Palisades Reprises Davis-Besse."He compared the primary coolant leaks from Palisades' control rod drive mechanisms to Davis-Besse's infamous Hole-in-the-Head fiasco of 2002.

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.