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Tuesday
Jun212011

Support the Beyond Nuclear Petition to NRC to suspend operation of 23 Fukushima-style reactors in the United States

Become a co-petitioner to NRC and support the Beyond Nuclear call for the suspension of the 23 Fukushima-style reactors operating in the United States.

Co-petition with Beyond Nuclear's April 13, 2011 call upon NRC to suspend the operation of the 23 GE Mark I Boiling Water Reactors in the US and:

1) Convene public meetings in each of the Mark I Emergency Planning Zones to take public comment for incorporation into President Obama's charted review by NRC on the wisdom of continued operation of the dangerous Fukushima-style nuclear reactors here in the US;

2) Revoke a 1989 approval of an experimental venting system installed on the deeply flawed US Mark I reactor containment system as was also installed on the Fukushima nuclear power plants and failed to prevent the meltdowns of the three Japanese reactors operating at the time of the earthquake and tsunmai. Ask NRC to require all US Mark I operators to submit a license amendment request for any further modifications to the weak containment design in a process that is accorded full public hearing rights and;

3) Require Mark I operators to install emergency backup power to assure cooling of hundreds of tons of radioactive waste in storage pools located on top of each reactor builidng outside of containment in the event of loss of offsite power. NRC should further require operators to offload high-level radioactive waste (irradiated nuclear fuel assemblies) from these vulnerable densely packed storage pools to hardened onsite storage in dry casks.

Note: The Beyond Nuclear petition was amended with the US NRC on June 8, 2011 to include Brunswick Units 1 & 2 (NC). The April 13 petition identified that the Brunswick Mark I containment structures were not identical to the other 21 US Mark I units, but subsequently identified to have installed the same controversial venting system. Therefore, the two Brunswick units have been added to the call for a suspension of operations for a total of twenty-three (23).

Tuesday
Jun212011

"Bad combination: Floodplains, nuclear materials and understated risk" 

The West Lake Landfill, photo by Bob CrissThe St. Louis Beacon has posted an article entitled "Bad combination: Floodplains, nuclear materials and understated risk," about a radioactive waste dump (pictured at left) containing some of the oldest hazardous remnants of the Atomic Age, upstream of St. Louis and drinking water intakes, now put at risk by flooding in the area. The article was written by Bob Criss, a professor in the department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Washington University, and coauthor of the 2003 book, "At the Confluence: Rivers, Floods, and Water Quality in the St. Louis Region." His article also warns about the risks of Missouri River flooding at the Fort Calhoun and Cooper nuclear power plants in Nebraska.

Tuesday
Jun212011

Fukushima's "evil twin," the Cooper atomic reactor in Nebraska, also at risk from Missouri River flood

Photo of flooding at Cooper on Monday, June 20thNot only Fort Calhoun's pressurized water reactor is at risk from rising Missouri River flood waters in Nebraska. Joe Jordan at NebraskaWatchdog.org reports that the General Electric Mark 1 Boiling Water Reactor named Cooper, just south of Omaha on the Missouri River, will have to shut down if the flood waters rise just two more feet. Although Beyond Nuclear has warned that such a flood, combined with a threat to the primary electric grid, such as a thunderstorm or tornado, could plunge Cooper into station blackout and meltdown, the nuclear utility NPPD downplays the risks. NPPD assures that the reactor can be shut down within 3 seconds if need be. But the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant's Units 1, 2, and 3 did automatically SCRAM within seconds of the earthquake on March 11th. However, the unavoidable radioactive decay heat still needed to be cooled for days, so the earthquake and tsunami destruction of the primary electrical grid and even the back up emergency diesel generators plunged Fukushima Daiichi into station blackout, with no cooling, resulting in full-scale meltdowns of Units 1, 2, and 3's reactor cores within as little as several hours, or at most a few days. Whereas Fukushima Daiichi had emergency back up batteries that lasted 8 hours, Cooper's may last as little as 4 hours. And Cooper's storage pool very likely contains vastly more high-level radioactive waste than Fukushima Daiichi Unit 4's, which may have boiled dry, allowing the waste to catch fire, generate hydrogen gas, and explode, which severely damaged the secondary containment building, allowing direct radioactivity releases to the environment. NRC, which regards them as non-safety related, does not require US reactors' high-level radioactive waste storage pools to be connected to emergency back up power supplies. Several newspapers, including the New York Times, the Washington Times, the World Nuclear News, and the Omaha World-Herald, have also reported on the flood risks at Cooper and Fort Calhoun. KETV mentions that the floodwaters overflowing levees near Cooper have closed highways, roads, and bridges, even complicating nuclear workers' travel to the atomic reactor. It failed to mention the potential impacts that could have on radiological emergency evacuation for the surrounding population, however.

Monday
Jun202011

One trillion dollars to be spent worldwide on nuclear weapons

Lest anyone think we are "safer" now from the threat of nuclear weapons since the cold war is over, read on: The Financial Times reported today that, according to Global Zero, the world's nine nuclear weapons countries (US, Russia, China, France, UK, India, Pakisan, North Korea, Israel) will spend one trillion dollars on their atomic weapons programs over the next decade. Despite the much-trumpted START ratification by the US and Russia; and Obama's Nobel Peace Prize, after his famous Prague speech, more money than ever is being spent on nuclear weapons globally. This is due to the so-called weapons "modernization" programs. Global Zero founder, Bruce Blair, told the FT: "Spending will increase because of decisions by both nations [US and Russia] to upgrade and replace. Modernization is progressing at such a pace we are seeing more spending on nuclear weapons than at any time since the cold war."

Sunday
Jun192011

NRC lowers safety bar to accomodate nuke industry: Deja vu all over again

The Associated Press reported today that the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission rather than enforcing safety oversight often overlooks its own regulations to accomodate the production agenda of an aging, cracking, rusting, crumbling and increasingly brittle nuclear power industry in the United States.

The AP story comes on the heels of the ProPublica report that NRC has lowered the safety bar for fire code in the nuclear industry.  For decades, most US reactors if not all have been in violation of fire safety law for protecting vital electric circuits needed for control room shutdown of the reactor in the event of fire. Rather than enforce regulations to protect electrical cables with 3 hour and 1 hour rated fire barriers to assure that the control room has time to shut down the plant during a fire, NRC is allowing  those electric circuits to remain unprotected from fire---in violation of regulations. Instead, NRC has been busy exempting those operators from the regulation and alternately, under a newly passed regulation, in the event of fire, allow the cables to burn, lose the control room operation and instead send a worker out into the burning reactor to manually shut the system down by hand and ignore the uncertainty posed by smoke, flames, heat and radiation.

The regulatory retreat has been going on for quite some time.    For example, when NRC found out that the nuclear power plants were loaded with a combustible sealant product to plug penetrations between fire zones in the plants instead of the "non-combustible" fire barrier penetration seals required by law, rather than enforce the law, NRC changed the law to remove the "non-combustible" criterion. Presto, compliance. But what about safety?