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.




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.

More on Enformable



Press release: Public health and safety issues of U.S. "Fukushimas" unresolved

TAKOMA PARK, MD -- The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has rejected a Beyond Nuclear petition signed by 10,000 members of the U.S. public that called for the agency to suspend the operation of the country’s vulnerable “Fukushima” style nuclear reactors. The emergency enforcement petition asked the NRC to suspend operating licenses at the country’s now 22 remaining General Electric Mark I boiling water reactors identical to Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors units 1, 2 and 3 that exploded and melted down following the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

The petition was originally filed on April 13, 2011. It took the agency four years of deliberations behind closed doors before issuing its decision, which is published in today’s Federal Register.

Read the full press release in PDF here. Feel free to circulate to your media outlets and activist lists.


Four years later, NRC rejects Beyond Nuclear and 10,000+ co-petitioners' call to close Fukushima-style reactors

After nearly four years of behind closed doors deliberations, on January 15, 2015, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued its “Final Director’s Decision” rejecting the April 13, 2011 emergency enforcement petition filed by Beyond Nuclear along with more than 10,000 co-petitioners from around the country. The public emergency enforcement petition called for the immediate suspension of the continued operation of the General Electric Mark I boiling water reactors in the U.S. that are identical to Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors units 1, 2 and 3 that exploded and melted down following the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

The NRC makes its best case for dismissing the petition by arguing that “each of the Petitioner’s requests has been addressed through other actions.”  We acknowledge that after four years a portion of the actions that we requested in April 2011 have been taken at some of these reactors. However, we strongly disagree with the NRC’s overall conclusion that each and every action request is addressed and that the public health and safety hazard is resolved such that the petition can be legitimately dismissed in total. We remain concerned that the agency is not capable of effective regulation and enforcement given the long standing nature of the Mark I reactor hazards and a recalcitrant nuclear industry that first considers its financial margins over public safety margins.

Regrettably, we recognize that under existing NRC provisions (Chapter 10 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulation Part 2.206) the public has absolutely no recourse to appeal a Director’s Decision to the Commission level or legally challenge Mark I design vulnerability and its operational hazards in a court of law. This denial of due process comes in spite of the fact that agency orders and industry corrective actions referenced in dismissing the petitioner are inadequate half measures that need not be fully implemented for years still to come, if ever. In critical safety areas for the Mark I, the proposed corrective actions credited in the Director’s Decision are not even conceptually finalized nor approved by the regulator as we approach the fourth anniversary of the nuclear catastrophe. Moreover, there are numerous agency staff non-concurrences on how to even proceed with post-Fukushima action plans.

Realistically, the expenditure of public interest time and resources in preparing and arguing these emergency enforcement petitions needs to be seen as an effort to build a public record of the NRC’s extreme bias to promote and protect the nuclear industry agenda. Even one of the NRC’s own Administrative Law Judges, Alan S. Rosenthal, after looking into agency claims that any public petitioner can make their case through the emergency enforcement petition process acknowledged, “at least where truly substantive relief is being sought (i.e., some affirmative administrative action taken with respect to the licensee or license), there should be no room for a belief on the requester’s part that the pursuit of such a course is either being encouraged by Commission officialdom or has a fair chance of success.”  [See “Additional Opinion of Judge Rosenthal,” Memorandum and Order (Denying Petitions for Hearing), ASLBP No. 12-918-01-EA-BD01, July10, 2012, at page 10 of 20].

In a post-Fukushima Japan, public and political opposition continue to maintain “zero nuclear” power in the country. Most recently, rather than face the mounting economic costs of safety backfits, the Japanese nuclear industry has chosen to permanently close and decommission two of its remaining four Mark I reactors, not counting Fukushima Daiichi Units 1 through 5 and the now permanently closed Unit 6 ( a Mark II boiling water reactor). Conversely, here in the U.S., the NRC has again distinguished itself with the dubious justification for the continued operation of the oldest and most dangerous class of nuclear reactors in the world---the majority here in this country.

Any one of the hazards cited for suspension of the operating licenses in the April 2011 petition serves as ample reason for why the GE Mark I reactors need to be promptly and permanently shuttered.  But a primary focus remains on the threat of catastrophic failure of the Mark I containment under severe accident conditions.

The petitioners remain concerned that because the GE Mark I containment system is only 1/6th the size by volume of a typical pressurized water reactor like Three Mile Island it will not reliably serve to "contain" the tremendous pressures, extreme heat, explosive hydrogen gas and highly radioactive releases associated with an accident involving reactor core damage. In fact, this was demonstrated by a 100% failure rate of the Mark I containment systems for Fukushima Daiichi Units 1, 2 and 3 which were operating at full power at the time of the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The current action plan is  a rehash of a 1989 "fix" to deliberately vent a nuclear accident to the environment by temporarily defeating the containment concept to save it from permanent rupture. Moreover, the current NRC order to improve the reliability of containment venting systems similar to those that failed Fukushima, need not be fully implemented by industry until 2019.

Ironically, when the NRC's Japan Lessons Learned Task Force reviewed the nuclear catastrophe for recommending modifications to the U.S. Fukushima-style reactors, the staff concluded that what was really needed was not only an enhanced hardened containment vent for the controlled release of heat, pressure and explosive gas but requiring the re-institution of the defense-in-depth concept to more reliably contain the high-level radioactive releases that would also be generated by the nuclear accident. On November 29, 2012, the Japan Lessons Learned Task Force recommended that the Commission issue an Order to all GE Mark I and Mark II boiling water reactor operators to promptly install hardened containment vents with the engineered radiation filters as a "cost-benefited substantial safety enhancement." The nuclear industry vigorously opposed the additional radiation filter concept on economic grounds and "unintended consequences" and successfully lobbied the five-member Commission by majority vote to reject the filter recommendation on containment vents. The Commission instructed the NRC staff to take up consideration of the installation of radiation filters  in a proposed rulemaking and gather independent scientific expert experience as well as public and industry comments. However, in December 2014, the NRC rulemaking staff reversed course for considering the addition of external radiation filters and now seeks to abandon the rulemaking process effectively locking out public and independent expert input.

Our common struggle for real public safety, environmental protection and energy independence remains to permanently closing down an inherently dangerous atomic power industry.

Keep your eyes on the prize and hold on.