Freeze Our Fukushimas

"Freeze Our Fukushimas" is a national campaign created by Beyond Nuclear to permanently suspend the operations of the most dangerous class of reactors operating in the United States today; the 23 General Electric Mark I Boiling Water Reactors, the same flawed design as those that melted down at Fukushima-Daiichi in Japan.




Commissioners deny Beyond Nuclear hearing over scheduled compliance with Fukushima Order at FitzPatrick

On June 9, 2017, the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) denied a hearing to Beyond Nuclear and New York's Alliance for a Green Economy (AGREE) to challenge the delay of scheduled safety compliance with an Order by more than a year at the FitzPatrick nuclear power plant in upstate New York on Lake Ontario.

FitzPatrick is a GE Mark I boiling water reactor like those that exploded and melted down at Fukushima Daiichi in Japan's catastrophic March 11, 2011 nuclear meltdown. The NRC issued an Order (EA-13-109) on June 6, 2013 which modified the operating licenses of  all GE Mark I and Mark II boiling water reactor operators to require the installation of a severe accident hardened containment vent by date certain in the FitzPatrick's case following the refuelling outage of January 2017.

The hardened vent was to be designed to withstand a severe accident and reliably vent extreme heat, high pressure and explosive gases to keep the weak containment structure from destruction. After the Order was issued in 2013, FitzPatrick's operator, Entergy Nuclear, determined that it was no longer going to operate the uneconomical nuclear power plant and instead of installing the safety upgrade it would be permanently closed before the scheduled refueling in January 2017. All work on the required public safety feature stopped. In 2016, the State of New York passed controversial legislation to financially bailout the failing reactor through the ratepayers. Entergy then sold FitzPatrick and transfered the NRC license to Chicago-based Exelon Generation who vowed to complete the installation and keep the reactor running. Entergy asked the NRC to waive the scheduled compliance and extend it by more than a year to June 2018.

Beyond Nuclear and AGREE had requested to intervene in the request for the extension to comply given the change to the modified license required a license amendment request and openned an opportunity for a public hearing. Throughout the modifications the NRC and industry have played keep away from the public due process. The regulator and the industry have colluded to deny transparency to their malleable process.

True to form, the Commission once again denied the public a hearing on changes and delays that significantly impact public safety. "Stop" does not mean "stop" where the nuclear industry's financial agenda again supercedes the public safety agenda and its due process. Two other GE Mark I reactors, Oyster Creek in New Jersey and Pilgrim nuclear power station in Massachusetts, have avoided compliance with the Fukushima Order altogether, where these Fukushima-style reactors will be allowed to continue full power operation until their announced  permanent closure in December and June 2019.


NRC relaxes Fukushima orders for Pilgrim then asks staff for relaxation “criteria” 

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in a unanimous vote (3-0) on April 6, 2017 decided to relax orders for Pilgrim nuclear power station in Plymouth, MA. On April 10, the NRC issued a request to staff to develop the criteria for relaxing agency Orders essential to protecting public safety from a nuclear accident. The Orders would have required the operator, Entergy Nuclear, to install a severe accident capable hardened containment vent on its vulnerable GE Mark I boiling water reactor’s containment system and to upgrade its flooding and seismic protections. The NRC orders were issued in response to the March 11, 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe in Japan where an earthquake followed by a large tsunami damaged reactor cooling systems for Units 1, 2 and 3 followed by the operator’s inability to vent the extreme heat, pressure and explosive gases resulting in three reactor meltdowns. Entergy had requested that NRC issue an “extension to comply” until after Pilgrim permanently closes in June 2019.

Pilgrim Watch, a Duxbury, MA-based public safety advocacy group, and Beyond Nuclear had challenged Entergy's "extension-to-comply" by requesting that the NRC first hold a public hearing allowing the groups an intervention to determine if the extension was legally required to go through the agency's license amendment process including a safety review. The Orders explicitly modified the safety specifications of the reactor's operating license and established scheduled compliance deadlines. The NRC essentially ignored the groups' filings and proceeded on an internal review. When the groups challenged the staff decision to grant the waiver, the groups appealed  before the Commission and were denied.

The staff approval for relaxation of orders without first establising the criteria of such action and the Commission's denial a citizens request for safety hearings is tantamount to gambling with public health and safety for the remainder the operating license. More worrisome, it is reflective of the same collusion of government, regulator and utility determined as the origianl root cause of the "man-made" nuclear disaster at Fukushima Diaiichi.

The NRC had previously granted relaxation of its Orders issued in the aftermath of Japan's nuclear catastrophe to the similarly vulnerable GE Mark I boiling water reactor at Oyster Creek (NJ) which is scheduled to permanentlyly close December 31, 2019. Additionally, the NRC granted an extensiont to its Fukushima Orders from January 2017 to June 2018 at Entergy's Fitzpatrick nuclear station, a GE reactor in Oswego, NY. Exelon's Quad Cities Unit 1 and 2, two more GE Mark I boiling water reactors in Cordova, IL, have similarly asked for relaxation from scheduled compliance with the Orders.


Beyond Nuclear & AGREE challenge Entergy plan to delay compliance with NRC Orders at FitzPatrick

Beyond Nuclear and the Alliance for a Green Economy (AGREE) have petitioned the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to convene a public hearing on procedural violations and safety issues raised New Orleans-based Entergy Corporation’s plan to delay compliance with three NRC Fukushima-related Orders for its upstate New York FitzPatrick nuclear power plant. Entergy has asked the NRC to grant FitzPatrick an “extension-to-comply” with Orders so it can restart after a January 2017 refueling FitzPatrick without first implementing the required fixes. Beyond Nuclear and AGREE have charged that Entergy is trying to circumvent NRC standard rules and procedures to avoid submitting a license amendment request that would trigger the opportunity for a public hearing.

Following Japan’s 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe, the NRC issued two Orders in March 2012 to require immediate follow-up operator actions for the loss of electrical power to safety systems that can cause a severe nuclear accident by: 1) increasing the availability and reliability of cooling capability to both the reactor core and the high-density irradiated nuclear fuel storage pools, and; 2) increasing the reliability of monitoring of water levels in the spent fuel pools packed with extremely hot nuclear waste.  The third NRC Order was issued in June 2013 to require the installation of reliable, severe accident-capable, hardened containment vents on all Fukushima-style GE boiling water reactors with vulnerable MARK I and Mark II containment systems. Hardened vents give operators the option to temporarily open containment rather than permanently rupturing them although radiation will be vented in the same process. All three Orders, as issued “immediately effective,” required that U.S. reactor operators begin the design, installation and implementation of the safety fixes for vulnerabilities in U.S. reactors exposed by the 2011 nuclear catastrophe. It was these same vulnerabilities that resulted in three reactors melting down, massive hydrogen explosions and the rupture of the containment structures with significant radioactive contamination to roughly 8% of the Japan’s land mass and coastal water of the Pacific Ocean.

In the case of Entergy’s FitzPatrick nuclear plant, which is identical to the Fukushima Daiichi units, the NRC Orders require the power company to complete the installation and implementation of the outlined fixes by December 31, 2016 before the reactor is allowed to restart from the scheduled refueling outage. Entergy consented to implement the Orders but by November 2015 announced that it would instead permanently shut down FitzPatrick in January 2017 because it was not economical to operate the reactor. Entergy effectively cancelled scheduled work on the ordered upgrades.  In August 2016, New York Governor Mario Cuomo announced his plan for the financial bailout of four financially troubled upstate nuclear power stations including FitzPatrick. At the Governor’s direction, the New York Public Service Commission approved $7.6 billion in public subsidies through the state’s Clean Energy Standard to bailout the New York reactors. The subsidies were enough to attract Chicago-based Exelon Corporation, who already owns the other three failing nukes, into the possible sale and license transfer of FitzPatrick.

On September 8, 2016, Entergy requested that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) grant it an “extension-to-comply” with the three Fukushima lessons learned Orders until June 30, 2017 for  first two Fukushima Orders and June 30, 2018 for the third.

Beyond Nuclear and AGREE filed a petition to NRC requesting that the agency hold a hearing to require that Entergy adhere to NRC standard rules and procedures for making changes to an operating license that impact public safety through the license amendment process. The three Orders modified, i.e. amended, the FitzPatrick operating license requiring scheduled compliance by December 31, 2016.

The Beyond Nuclear petition to the NRC charges that if Entergy wants to change the licensing specifications for the compliance deadline Entergy must instead request a license amendment which triggers the hearing opportunity for any adversely affected parties according to NRC safety rules. The hearing that Beyond Nuclear seeks would scrutinize Entergy’s plan to restart and operate FitzPatrick for at least another 18 months relying upon non-compliant containment with “beyond design and design bases vulnerabilities” identified in a NRC post-Fukushima inspection report issued in May 2011.

FitzPatrick is just one of 22 operating MARK I Boiling Water Reactors in the United States that were built with a containment now demonstrated to be too small to actually contain the extreme pressure and temperature, explosive gases and radiation generated by a severe accident. The three Fukushima reactors that melted down, exploded, and released massive amounts of radiation into the air and water, were all GE boiling water reactors with the MARK I containment system. The lack of a reliable severe accident capable vent at the Fukushima reactors is one of the factors identified as causing the catastrophe, which is still ongoing, with large amounts of radiation still leaking uncontrollably from the plants. 

The NRC 2012 and 2013 Orders were issued "immediately effective" for scheduled completion as  part of the reactor's operating license for a reason. The NRC staff recognizes the risk to public safety  without the fixes is greater. The NRC technical safety staff viewed the fixes important enough to explicitly require scheduled compliance. Entergy's request for "relaxation" now puts the NRC public safety mandate into the spotlight for just how complascense the regulator is willing to go. That has to be done on the public recors with all due process afforded to the at-risk affected population.


Beyond Nuclear & Pilgrim Watch challenge Entergy attempt at evasion of federal law established by Fukushima Order 

On September 7, 2016, Beyond Nuclear joined with Pilgrim Watch and six other Massachusetts safe energy groups to oppose an effort by the New Orleans-based Entergy Nuclear Corporation to quietly evade the economic consequences and legal compliance with a critical Fukushima Lessons-Learned Order. The groups are requesting a public hearing before the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Atomic Safety Licensing Board.

The Order was issued by NRC on June 6, 2013. Acknowledging the demonstrated gross containment failure of the three Fukushima reactors that were at power on March 11, 2011, the NRC Order modified the operating licenses of all operators of the U.S. Fukushima-style reactors, including Entergy’s Pilgrim GE Mark I boiling water reactor in Plymouth, MA to require the installation of a reliable hardened containment vent capable of withstanding a severe accident. This includes where the reactor core has already been damaged and begun to melt down.

The Order explicitly mandates that the operator responses and actions be within the required time frames for which in Pilgrim’s case the safety upgrade is scheduled for completion following its next refueling outage in Spring 2017. On June 24, 2016, over three years later, Entergy filed “A Request for Extension to Comply” with the NRC Order to postpone compliance until after Entergy’s announced early closure date of June 1, 2019. Entergy will then seek relief from the Order altogether.

The joint petition requests that the NRC deny Pilgrim an extension for many reasons.  First, an "extension" is disgenuous because Entergy blantanly has no intention of ever complying with the public safety Order. In fact, Energy intends to continue operation, avoid the Fukushima's economic consequences for US reactors and hide the very real public health and safety risks of non-compliant operation behind closed doors from public disclosure. Entergy’s filed its request for an extension years well after the Order’s own timeline required all licensees to notify the agency if there was going to be a compliance problem. Of more concern, there is the  central legal issue that Entergy’s request is really to attempt to evade the fact that its operating license was amended by the Order which requires Pilgrim to instead submit a license amendment request and the opportunity for full disclosure and review of the safety risks in an open public hearing under the NRC’s own rules and regulations.

If Entergy refuses to legitimately seek avoid compliance with the Order through the license amendment process by submitting to full disclosure  in a public hearing as required by law, then Pilgrim should not be allowed to refuel in 2017 and the NRC must revoke this GE Mark I boiling water reactor's operating license for failure to comply with an Order.

“Entergy's request for an 'extension to comply' with the NRC Order is a disingenuous attempt to evade Fukushima's economic consequences and the public's scrutiny of the risks of continued operation in violation of federal law from behind closed doors," said Paul Gunter, Director of the Reactor Oversight Project at Beyond Nuclear based in Takoma Park, Maryland in its press release.  "This simply has to be challenged, in an open public hearing," he said.



NRC unlearns lesson from Fukushima at Oyster Creek

Beyond Nuclear has disclosed that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has given Exelon Generating Company a pass on operating its Oyster Creek nuclear generation station in Lacey Township a pass on compliance with the  agency’s  2013 Fukushima "lessons learned" Order requiring critical safety upgrades to vulnerable GE Mark I and Mark II containment systems.  The world's oldest Fukushima-style Mark I boiling water reactor is being allowed to operate at least four more years outside of compliance with its modified operating license for a "severe accident capable" containment venting system. The NRC Order was issued to all 30 remaining Mark I and II boiling water reactor units for scheduled upgrades of the undersized containment systems to reliably manage and protect the containment systems under severe accident conditions that would exist after the reactor core starts to melt. These conditions include extremely high steam pressure spikes, runaway temperatures, large volumes of non-condensable explosive gas and deadly radiation fields generated by a melting reactor core.    

The June 6, 2013 NRC Order was already significantly whittled down by a majority Commission vote more intent on company financial protection than public health and safety. The Commission had rejected its technical staff’s earlier recommendation to also order that external engineered radiation filters be installed in the hardened vent lines  to maintain the containment intended function to keep radioactivity in while temporarily venting heat, pressure, explosive gas in an effort to persevere the components design-flawed structural integrity.

The NRC’s enforcement waiver at Oyster Creek and the Commission's undermining the staff’s effort to fortify “defense-in-depth” is symptomatic of a deeper “nuclear regulatory capture” that willing risks public health and safety to promote and protect the industry’s production and profit agendas. This is the same type of collusion of government, regulator and industry that Japan’s independent investigative commission into Fukushima found was the principle cause of “a profoundly manmade disaster.”