Hurricane Sandy: Contact Beyond Nuclear for insight on reactor vulnerability

As Hurricane Sandy lashes the east coast of the US, concerns have been raised about the status of both operating and shut down nuclear power plants in its path. In the light of the devastating effects of the tsunami on the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors in Japan, there remain many questions about the capacity of U.S. plants to withstand severe weather impacts and potential loss of electrical power.

For reporters interested in knowing more about the risks faced by the public living around nuclear plants in the path of Sandy, and about the potential for technical failure at reactors, from malfunction to meltdown, Beyond Nuclear experts are available for interview and consultation.

Please contact: 

Paul Gunter, Director of Reactor Oversight, 301.523.0201. Paul has expertise on all aspects of reactor operation and technical failures, as well as threats to public safety (including evacuation challenges.)

Kevin Kamps, Radioactive Waste Specialist, 240.462.3216. Kevin has expertise on all aspects of radioactive waste, particularly the vulnerability of reactor fuel pools and onsite waste casks during severe weather events and loss of power at nuclear plants.

Bloomberg has listed the potentially affected reactors here.


"The Rust-Bucket Reactors Start to Fall"

Harvey WassermanHarvey Wasserman, editor of and author of Solartopia, has written a blog inspired by the announced closure of the Kewaunee atomic reactor in Wisconsin. He points out that Kewaunee may be but the first domino to fall, describing the impact of "low gas prices, declining performance, unsolved technical problems and escalating public resistance" at numerous other old, age-degraded, troubled reactors across the U.S., including San Onofre, CA; Crystal River, FL; Cooper and Fort Calhoun in NE; Vermont Yankee; Indian Point, NY; Oyster Creek, NJ; and Davis-Besse, OH. But Harvey also points out the momentum applies to new reactors as well, such as at Vogtle, GA and Summer, SC, as well as overseas, in the wake of Fukushima, not only in Japan, but also India, and even Europe, led by Germany's nuclear power phase out.

Harvey, a senior advisor to Greenpeace USA and Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS), will address "From Fukushima to Fermi-3: Getting to Solartopia Before It's Too Late" in Dearborn, MI on Dec. 7th at the official launch event for the new organization, the Alliance to Halt Fermi-3.


"Aging and Expensive, Reactors Face Mothballs"

NRC file photo of the Kewaunee atomic reactor on the Lake Michigan shore in WisconsinThe New York Times has reported on the economics that have not only led to the Kewaunee atomic reactor's (photo, left) announced closure in Wisconsin, but also other pressures and forces on reactors, from Entergy's Indian Point near New York City to Vermont Yankee, Duke's Crystal River in Florida, Exelon's Oyster Creek in New Jersey, and Southern California Edison's San Onofre. The article speaks of "[t]he industry’s renewed glimpse of its mortality" and states "the nuclear industry may be nearing its first round of retirements since the mid-1990s."  Kewaunee's closure will be the first at an American atomic reactor since several (Yankee Rowe, Massachusetts; Zion 1 & 2, Illinois; Big Rock Point, Michigan; Millstone Unit 1, Connecticut) in the mid to late 1990s.  


Another one bites the dust as Dominion announces 2013 closure of Kewaunee reactor in Wisconsin

From The Washington Post: "Dominion Resources Inc. said Monday that it plans to close and decommission its Kewaunee Power Station in Wisconsin after it was unable to find a buyer for the nuclear power plant".

As nuclear power continues to crumble under the weight of its own disastrous economics, Dominion CEO, Thomas F. Farrell II,  becomes the latest industry CEO to lose confidence in the nuclear business. "This decision was based purely on economics," Farrell said. Dominion also operates the two North Anna, VA reactors, where a proposed third reactor plan looks fragile at best. It also operates Millstone, CT and Surry, VA.

Reuters also reported on this story, stating that more atomic reactors could follow suit, their bad economics forcing their closure:

"Especially vulnerable under this scenario would be small, old single reactor sites."

According to Reuters, other units that could be slated for prompt permanent closure because they fit the Kewanee economic profile include Exelon Corp's Oyster Creek in New Jersey, Xcel Energy Inc's Monticello in Minnesota, and Entergy Corp's Palisades in Michigan, Vermont Yankee in Vermont and Pilgrim in Massachusetts. 

In fact, an increasingly vulnerable and deteriorating nuclear industry under the mounting capital costs and uncertainties arising from Japan's Fukushima disaster tallies into a larger list of single unit sites under 1000 Megawatts electric in the United States that can be targeted for closure.   More.


World Nuclear Industry Status Report maps nuclear power's global decline

A new World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2012, authored by Mycle Schneider with Antony Froggatt and Julie Hazemann, maps the continuing global decline of nuclear power. The report shows that nuclear's future rests not on new construction, but that "Plant life extension seems the most likely survival strategy of the nuclear industry at this point" - a good reason to continue to block reactor license extensions. The report noted that: "Only seven reactors started up, while 19 were shut down in 2011." By July 2012, "only two were started up, just compensating for two that were shut down so far this year". Other highlights:

China is spending five times more on renewables than nuclear post-Fukushima with no new nuclear construction since 3/11; nine reactors have been listed as "under construction" for more than 20 years; four countries - Belgium, Germany, Switzerland and Taiwan - will phase out nuclear power and five more to date - Egypt, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait and Thailand - have abandoned plans to develop, or re-develop nuclear power; new builds have been canceled in Brazil, France, India and the US; certification of new reactor technologies has been delayed numerous times; in the US, of the 28 license applications received, 16 were subsequently delayed and eight were suspended indefinitely or officially canceled; of the 59 units under construction in the world, at least 18 are experiencing multi-year delays, while the remaining 41 projects were started within the past five years or have not yet reached project start-up dates.