Environmental coalition defends contentions against Fermi 3 proposed new reactor, challenges adequacy of NRC FEIS

Environmental coalition attorney Terry LodgeTerry Lodge (photo, left), Toledo-based attorney representing an environmental coalition opposing the proposed new Fermi 3 atomic reactor targeted at the Lake Erie shore in Monroe County, MI, has filed a reply to challenges from Detroit Edison (DTE) and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) staff.

The coalition's reply re-asserted "no confidence" in DTE's ability to safely stored Class B and C "low-level" radioactive wastes on-site at Fermi 3 into the indefinite future, due to the lack of sure access to a disposal facility. it also again emphasized the lack of documented need for the 1,550 Megawatts of electricity Fermi 3 would generate. And the coalition alleged that NRC has failed to fulfill its federal responsibilities under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), as by the illegal "segmentation" of the needed transmission line corridor from the rest of the Fermi 3 reactor construction and operation proposal.

This legal filing follows by a week upon the submission of public comments about NRC's Fermi 3 Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS). The comments, commissioned by Don't Waste Michigan and prepared by Jessie Pauline Collins, were endorsed by a broad coalition of individuals and environmental groups, including Beyond Nuclear. The FEIS comments included satellite images of harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie in 2012, and in 2011 to 2012, attributable in significant part to thermal electric power plants such as Detroit Edison's Monroe (coal burning) Power Plant, at 3,300 Megawatts-electric the second largest coal burner in the U.S. Fermi 3's thermal discharge into Lake Erie will worsen this already very serious ecological problem.

In the very near future, the environmental coalition intervening against the Fermi 3 combined Construction and Operating License Application (COLA) will submit additional filings on its contentions challenging the lack of adequate quality assurance (QA) on the project, as well as its defense of the threatened Eastern Fox Snake and its critical wetlands habitat. The State of Michigan has stated that Fermi 3's construction would represent the largest impact on Great Lakes coastal wetlands in the history of state wetlands preservation law. 


NRC Commissioners vote down their staff recommendation for filtered vent on unreliable Mark I and II containment


For Immediate Release:  March 19, 2013

Contact: Paul Gunter, 301-523-0201 (mobile)



Nuclear Regulator Majority Vote Disregards Agency Staff Safety Recommendation on Unreliable Mark I and II Containment.    Decision requires hardened vent without filter

Takoma Park, MD — The United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has voted to disregard a recommendation from its own Japan Lessons Learned Task Force and professional staff that nuclear reactor operators should be ordered to install high-capacity radiation filters at 23 Mark I and 8 Mark II nuclear power reactors in the United States.

“These are inherently dangerous and flawed reactors but radiation filters installed on more robust vent lines would at least provide a significant additional layer to the defense-in-depth,” said Paul Gunter, Director of Reactor Oversight Project for Beyond Nuclear, based in Takoma Park, MD.

“This is fundamentally a Fukushima lesson unlearned,” Gunter added. “We all watched the Fukushima accident in horror as Japanese operators were unable to manage one containment failure after another. This was in large part because TEPCO was not prepared to manage the release of pressure, heat, hydrogen gas and high levels of radioactivity from the damaged fuel cores,” he said.

The NRC staff had recommended the agency issue an Order to require high capacity filters be installed on severe accident capable vents on the Fukushima-design unreliable reactor containment systems by December 31, 2017.

The Commission vote allows for upgrading accident capable vents on the Mark I and II reactors but falls seriously short of the staff recommendation to restore a significant measure of containment integrity by requiring radiation filtration systems as have been installed for many years on most European reactors.

The NRC Commissioners voted 4-1 against installing the filters by Order. Chairwoman Macfarlane supported the filter installation by Order. Commissioners Ostendorf, Magwood, Apostolakis voted in favor of the filter strategy but by a lengthy process of rulemaking that portends years more delay with an uncertain future. Commissioner Svinicki voted against the Order for a filtered vent.

“The Commission’s majority vote potentially ties reactor operators’ hands behind their backs if an accident were to occur in the coming years,” Gunter said. “Venting an accident without a filter will mean fire-hosing downwind communities with massive amounts of radiation.

While the NRC and industry are spinning the outcome of this vote as a ‘delay’ on a decision on the filtered vent, in fact, it is a flat out denial of public safety in the interest of saving the nuclear industry some money,” Gunter continued.

"The nuclear industry will score financial gains from this decision but the cost should be paid by the loss of NRC's regulatory integrity,” he concluded.

In voting for the filtered vent, NRC Chairwoman Allison Macfarlane was the only Commissioner supporting her technical staff’s judgment and recommendation to move forward with an ORDER to industry. She concluded that “all of the available data suggests that the installation of hardened vents is a prudent and appropriate safety enhancement that is within the NRC’s current regulatory framework.” The Commission vote and notation sheet can be read at:

There are 23 Mark I boiling water reactors in the US and 8 Mark II boiling water reactors that are subject of this Commission vote.


Beyond Nuclear works to end nuclear power and nuclear weapons. With a strongly rooted commitment to citizen action - and in the wake of the devastating Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan - Beyond Nuclear is empowering grassroots communities around the country to shut US nuclear reactors. This summer, through our campaign to “Freeze our Fukushimas,” we will organize town hall meetings, media campaign, actions, petitions and protests to ensure that the 23 US reactors identical in design to those at Fukushima are closed. More at


UK government plunges into EPR nuclear quagmire

The UK has chosen to throw itself into the French nuclear quagmire masterminded by EDF. The UK government has given planning permission to EDF to build two boondoggle EPR reactors in Somerset. The Hinkley site has been given planning permission when no long-term solution exists for the radioactive waste these new nuclear reactors will generate - which contradicts the UK position on new reactor build. Beyond Nuclear's Linda and Paul Gunter will be in Somerset with the Stop Hinkley coalition at the beginning of April for strategy meetings and public presentations. We will also be in Suffolk where two more EPRs are in the pipeline for the Sizewell nuclear site.


Blackout at Fukushima - continued peril at stricken nuclear plant

The Associated Press reports: "The operator of Japan's tsunami-damaged nuclear plant says a power failure has left three fuel storage pools without fresh cooling water for hours. Tokyo Electric Power Co. says the blackout Monday night at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant was brief at its command centre but continued for hours at three of the seven fuel storage pools and a few other facilities. TEPCO says the reactors were unaffected, and it plans to restore power to the pool cooling systems as soon as it determines the cause. It says the nuclear fuel stored in the pools will remain safe for at least four days without fresh cooling water. The March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami destroyed the plant's power and cooling systems, causing three reactor cores to melt and fuel storage pools to overheat. The plant is now using makeshift systems."


US solar installations grew by 76% in 2012

Solar panel installations last year rose by 76 percent in the United States compared with 2011, and the cost of the associated equipment continued to drop, according to an annual report by a solar trade group.

The panels installed last year are capable of generating 3,313 megawatts of peak electricity, according to the report from the Solar Energy Industries Association. That electricity is about the same amount produced by a medium-sized coal plant and is enough to supply 400,000 U.S. homes.

Abundant financing programs and a 27 percent drop last year in the average cost of solar panel systems helped spur the growth.

The solar industry expects installations will continue rising in 2013, but at a slower pace. SEIA and GTM Research predict installations will rise 29 percent to 4,300 MW this year.

Solar energy accounts for 0.1 percent of the nation's total electric power generation, according to the Energy Department (Jonathan Fahey, AP/Albany Times Union, March 14)