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NRC dismisses Beyond Nuclear et al. interventions against Entergy Palisades RPV risks; environmental coalition vows to fight on

NRC file photo of Entergy's Palisades atomic reactor on the Lake Michigan shore in Covert, MIAn environmental coalition (Beyond Nuclear, Don't Waste MI, MI Safe Energy Future, and Nuclear Energy Information Service of IL, represented by Toledo attorney Terry Lodge, and served by expert witness Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds Associates) has been officially intervening against yet further regulatory rollbacks at Entergy's Palisades atomic reactor since Dec. 1, 2014. Entergy Nuclear has applied to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for weakened safety regulations, to accommodate Palisades' continued operations, despite having the single worst embrittled reactor pressure vessel (RPV) in the U.S., and other forms of severe, and worsening, RPV age-related degradation. Palisades has operated for nearly 45 years. It is located on the Lake Michigan shoreline in Covert, MI (see photo, left).

The NRC Commissioners have been considering dueling petitions filed by the environmental coalition and Entergy. On June 2, 2015, the coalition appealed an Atomic Safety and Licensing Board Panel (ASLBP) rejection of its contention regarding RPV embrittlement, and risks of pressurized thermal shock brittle fracture due to suddenly decreasing temperatures. On July 13, 2015, Entergy appealed the same ASLBP's granting of a hearing to the environmental intervenors on the technical merits of their contention, regarding other forms of RPV age-related degradation, and risks of ductile tearing failure even at hotter normal operating temperatures. Either form of failure of the RPV would lead to Loss-of-Coolant-Accident, and reactor core meltdown, and likely containment breach and release of catastrophic amounts of hazardous radioactivity.

Today, the NRC Commissioners ruled Entergy's way in both overlapping proceedings, denying the environmental coalition's appeal, while ruling in favor of Entergy's appeal.

The coalition, working in alliance with groups like the Sierra Club Nuclear-Free Michigan Committee, has vowed to fight on, to demand Palisades' shutdown, before it melts down. It has issued a press release. (See the word version for functional links to relevant documents.) Matthew Bandyk at SNL has reported on this story.