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.




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.”


Entergy announces early closure of Pilgrim nuclear power station in 2019 but continued operation means a more dangerous nuke in the interim

Entergy announced that because its Pilgrim nuclear power station in Plymouth, MA is losing more than $40 million annually, it has decided to close the reactor no later than June 1, 2019 rather than 2032 as relicensed. That's not half the story. Beyond Nuclear issued its statement the same day Entergy announced the project closure. 

Now that the profit motive is increasingly lost upon nuclear power's misadventures, the danger from the continued operation of reactors like the  Pilgrim  is amplified.

The New Orleans-based nuclear utility is closing  the 728 megawatt General Electric boiling water reactor early not only because of its failing economics but also the mounting  costs of operating a  fixer-up Fukushima-style reactor. However, in order to run the reactor nearly four more years with one more refuleing, Entergy would have to get permission from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to operate the reactor without a major required safety modification that is now part of Pilgrim's operating license put there by a federal Order issued by the Commission on June 6, 2013 and finalized on August 19, 2015.

Entergy's effort to stanch Pilgrim's financial hemorraghing means that the company will try to avoid a costly upgrade (in the range of $15 million) to its fatally flawed GE Mark I containment system; a system identical to those that failed under severe accident conditions at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station. The first  modification (Phase 1) for a "severe accident capable" containment vent is required to be installed before the reactor would be allowed to restart following its May 2017 refueling outage. Entergy may in fact permanently close sooner (Summer 2017) rather than risk a fight.

Stay tuned.



A Fukushima Lesson Unlearned: NRC scraps public rulemaking on weak GE containments

The United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) typically begins its narrative on the “lessons learned” from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe with Japan’s March 11, 2011  accident. Not surprisingly, the agency has avoided addressing the most critical lesson recognized in the accident’s official investigative report by Japan’s National Diet. In their finding, the unfolding radiological catastrophe is “manmade” and the result of “willful negligence” of government, regulator and industry colluding to protect Tokyo Electric Power Company’s financial interests.  Likewise, here in the US, addressing identical reactor vulnerabilities remain subject to a convoluted corporate-government strategy of “keep away” with public safety as the “monkey in the middle” going back more than four decades and, for now, three nuclear meltdowns later.

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