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Wednesday
Jan252012

Palisades: "It's an accident waiting to happen"

Don't Waste Michigan board members Michael Keegan, Alice Hirt, and Kevin Kamps call for Palisades' shut down at the 2000 Nuclear-Free Great Lakes Action Camp; Lake Michigan, and Palisades' cooling tower steam, are visible in the backgroundOn January 15th, Tina Lam of the Detroit Free Press published an exposé on the long problem-plagued Palisades atomic reactor in Covert, Michigan on the Lake Michigan shoreline. Owned by Entergy Nuclear (which operates such other controversial reactors as Vermont Yankee, and Indian Point near New York City), Palisades suffered 5 "un-planned shutdowns" in 2011 alone, the most serious of which involved a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) "Yellow finding" of "substantial safety significance" regarding an "electrical fault." Translated from euphemisticly misleading Nukespeak, this meant the near electrocution of a worker, and the loss of half of the control room's functions, figuratively leaving operators half-blinded, half-deaf, and half-paralyzed as they raced to adequately cool the hot reactor core. Both the pressurizer and the steam generators were a mere 9 minutes away from "going solid" -- filling completely with liquid water -- and thus losing their ability to cool the hot reactor core. One more mistake, or break down in systems, structures, or components, could have spelled disaster. Incredibly, as reported by the Freep, "It began with a light bulb...". Lam also broke the story on Palisades' five year overdue replacement of its severely corroded reactor lid.

The article quoted Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps, 20-year watchdog on Palisades, as saying: "If all these failings and accidents line up in just the right way, we could have a very bad day at Palisades," said Kevin Kamps, a Kalamazoo native and staff member at Beyond Nuclear near Washington, D.C. ...Kamps said opponents of the plant wanted it shut down instead of winning a 20-year extension. "It's an accident waiting to happen," he said.

A large coalition of Michigan and Great Lakes environmental groups, led by Don't Waste Michigan and Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS), opposed the Palisades 20 year license extension. It was rubberstamped nonetheless by NRC in 2007, despite Palisades having the worst embrittled reactor pressure vessel in the United States, at risk of a pressurized thermal shock "hot glass under cold water" fracture and consequent loss of coolant accident.

In addition to the front page article, the Freep linked to a 101 page long NRC inspection report on the "electrical fault"; an NRC "White finding" of "low to moderate risk significance" involving "the improper greasing of a knife edge on the overspeed trip mechanism which contributed to a failure of the turbine driven auxiliary feedwater pump (pump P-8B) during surveillance testing on May 10, 2011"; yet another NRC "White finding" regarding the August 9, 2011 failure of "a safety-related service water pump (P-7C)," a repeat of a 2009 incident; a listing of "Recent problems at the Palisades nuclear plant," including one in which "A supervisor walks off the job in the control room without permission, apparently after an argument, which leads to a violation notice"; and finally, an article about new proposed reactors, including Fermi 3 in Michigan (Beyond Nuclear has helped lead an environmental coalition in opposition to that plan).