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Thursday
Sep062012

NRC's Nuke Waste Confidence EIS will delay reactor licenses for at least two years!

Cover of Beyond Nuclear's pamphlet "A Mountain of Radioactive Waste 70 Years High"The five Commissioners who direct the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) have just ordered NRC Staff to carry out an expedited, two-year long Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process to revise the agency's Nuclear Waste Confidence Decision (NWCD) and Rule. Critics have charged the NWCD is a confidence game, which for decades has prevented environmental opponents of new reactor construction/operation licenses, as well as old reactor license extensions, from raising high-level radioactive waste generation/storage concerns during NRC licensing proceedings, or even in the federal courts. This EIS process and NWCD revision will thus delay any final NRC approval for new reactor construction/operation licenses, or old reactor license extensions, for at least two years.

The "Mountain of Radioactive Waste 70 Years High" conference in Chicago Dec. 1-3 will serve as a launch pad for generating public comments to NRC on this EIS, as well as to push back against proposals to begin "Mobile Chernobyl" irradiated nuclear fuel shipments by road, rail, and waterway to "consolidated interim storage." See Beyond Nuclear's pamphlet on high-level radioactive waste (cover reproduced at left). More.

Wednesday
Sep052012

NRC: loss of offsite power at Catawba Unit 1 last April was potentially of substantial significance to safety

NRC's file photo of the Catawba nuclear power plant in South CarolinaThe U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has just announced that on Sept. 11th, it will conduct a post-incident review with Duke Nuclear to discuss an April 2012 loss of off-site power at Catawba Unit 1 atomic reactor in South Carolina (picture, left). NRC's preliminary review has determined that the incident may be designated a "yellow finding" (in NRC's green, white, yellow, red system of increasingly significant incidents), meaning "of substantial significance to safety." Off-site power is the primary power source for running safety and cooling systems.

While General Electric Mark Is (such as the Fukushima Daiichi Units 1 to 4) and IIs are Boiling Water Reactors with too small, too weak "pressure suppression" containments, ice condenser containments, as at Catawba Unit 1, are a form of "pressure suppression" containment -- again too small and too weak -- at a Pressurized Water Reactor design. The ice condeners in the U.S. include two units at Catawba in SC, two units at McGuire in NC, two units at Sequoyah in TN, one unit at Watts Bar in TN, and two units at Cook in MI.

Ice condensers were originally desiged for floating atomic reactors on barges, where the containment, of necessity, would have to be smaller and lighter, so it wouldn't sink under its own weight. Once licensed by NRC or its predecessor, the Atomic Energy Commission, however, nuclear utilities took advantage of the certified reactor design, by building them on land, in order to save money on the containment structure. 

Thanks to revelations by Tennessee Valley Authority whistleblower Curtis Overall, and nuclear safety advocacy by David Lochbaum at Union of Concerned Scientists, the Cook ice condensers in southwest Michigan were shutdown from 1997 to 2000 for major safety violations, resulting in one of the biggest fines in NRC history up to that point.

Wednesday
Sep052012

C.A.N. Rally for a Nuclear-Free Future, D.C., Sept. 20-22

The Coalition Against Nukes has called for a convergence in the nation's capital. Events listed include a Capitol rally, congressional briefing (at which Beyond Nuclear's Paul Gunter will speak), fundraiser at Busboys and Poets, film screenings (including "Atomic States of America"), "Occupy the NRC" rally, and strategy session. See C.A.N.'s website and Facebook page for more information.

Tuesday
Sep042012

"Entergy Watchers" needed to "Occupy" NRC meetings: 9/10 on ANO, Grand Gulf, River Bend, Waterford; 9/12 on Palisades!

Kendra Ulrich stands with "No Nuke Business As Usual" banner at "Occupy Entergy" action on 3/22/12 at Entergy HQ in New Orleans. The civil disobedience was held in solidarity with Shutdown Vermont Yankee actions on the first day of the license extension there."Entergy Watch" and "Occupy Entergy" advocates of the world, unite! The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is holding two meetings next week, regarding half of Entergy Nuclear's "dirty dozen" atomic reactors across the country. If you can attend in person, great! If not, you can still call-in toll-free. More.

Tuesday
Sep042012

Long-awaited NRC "supplemental inspection" at problem-plagued Palisades, Sept. 17-28

Entergy Nuclear's Palisades atomic reactor, with a century-old resort community immediately to the right, and a state park immediately to the left.On Valentine's Day, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announced that Entergy Nuclear's Palisades atomic reactor in Covert, MI on the Lake Michigan shoreline (pictured, left) is one of the four worst-run atomic reactors in the U.S. This came after a problem-plagued 2011, including: an accident, designated a "yellow finding" by NRC ("of substantial significance to safety"), on Sept. 25th, involving the near-electrocution of an electrician, and loss of half the power to the control room, which stressed multiple age-degraded safety-critical systems (a steam generator, many years in need of replacement; the reactor pressure vessel, admitted by NRC to be the worst-embrittled in the U.S.) to the breaking point, risking multiple pathways to Loss of Coolant Accident (LOCA); and an August 9th service water pump coupling failure, due to inter-granular stress corrosion cracking, a repeat of an identical 2009 breakdown (to mention but two of five "un-planned shutdowns" in 2011!). 

Last February, NRC announced that the downgrade of Palisades' safety status would result in a "supplemental inspection," at Entergy's convenience, which has finally been scheduled, seven months later. The NRC supplemental inspection will take place from September 17 to 28. The agency has requested numerous relevant documents in advance.

An NRC meeting on Entergy Palisades' lack of safety culture is scheduled for Sept. 12th in South Haven, MI, although those unable to attend in person can still call in. Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps will speak about "The Radioactive Catastrophe Waiting to Happen at Palisades, and What You Can Do To Prevent It" at the Peace House in Kalamazoo, MI on Sept. 13th. Learn more about these events here.