Investigative journalist, and Beyond Nuclear board of directors member, Karl Grossman (pictured, left), has published an article entitled "Nuclear Rubberstamp Commission" which has appeared at the Huffington Post and elsewhere. In it, Karl reports that U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Chairman, Dr. Gregory Jaczko, has been pressured to resign over a year early due to withering attacks by the nuclear power industry and its friends within the NRC and on Capitol Hill, due to his safety advocacy. Karl points out that NRC has never, in its nearly 40 years of existence, denied a license to construct or operate a commercial atomic reactor. It has also rubberstamped 73 license extensions for 20 additional years of operation at U.S. atomic reactors, with 13 other license extensions already applied for.
In a May 25th editorial, the New York Times lauded outgoing U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman, Gregory Jaczko, for his devotion to safety -- such as his call for clear and ambitious deadlines for "Fukushima lessons learned" to be applied at U.S. atomic reactors -- and called on his nominated replacement, Dr. Allison Macfarlane, to keep holding NRC's and the nuclear power industry's feet to the fire.
But, as Beyond Nuclear board of directors member Karl Grossman has put it in his article "Nuclear Rubberstamp Commission," the New York Times "misses the institutional point": Jaczko was crucified by the nuclear power industry, and its friends within the NRC and on Capitol Hill, for his safety advocacy, a fate that could easily befall Macfarlane as well.
PBS NewsHour has posed this question, focusing on Entergy Nuclear's River Bend, Louisiana and Indian Point, New York nuclear power plants, featuring the Union of Concerned Scientists' recent report "Living on Borrowed Time: The NRC and Nuclear Power Plant Safety in 2011" (which documented that 5 of the 15 most serious "near-misses" last year took place at Entergy nuclear plants: 2 at Palisades, MI; 2 at Pilgrim, MA; 1 at Cooper, NE), and interviewing outgoing U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko, forced out of the agency by his fellow Commissioners' reluctance to expedite "Fukushima lessons learned" safety upgrades at U.S. atomic reactors.
Environmental coalition, concerned residents, met with NRC Chairman Jaczko after his tour of problem-plagued Palisades
On May 25th, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Chairman Gregory Jaczko toured Entergy Nuclear's Palisades atomic reactor in Covert, MI on the Lake Michigan shoreline. NRC lowered Palisades' safety status to one of the four worst-run reactors in the U.S., out of 104 operating, after five euphemistically termed "unplanned shutdowns" in 2011 alone. After Jaczko's tour of the plant, he held a press conference with area media, then met with representatives of environmental groups from Michigan and Illinois, as well as concerned local residents. The environmental coalition included Beyond Nuclear, Clean Water Action, Coalition for a Nuclear-Free Great Lakes, Don't Waste Michigan, League of Women Voters, Michigan Land Trustees, and Nuclear Energy Information Service. The environmental movement of Michigan, and beyond, has long called for Palisades' permanent shutdown, for a multitude of safety and environmental reasons.
The single greatest safety concern, of many afflicting Palisades, is embrittlement of its reactor pressure vessel, the worst in the U.S. Michael Keegan of Coalition for a Nuclear-Free Great Lakes (pictured, left) warned about this in 1993; a year ago, the Associated Press exposed NRC's weakening of embrittlement safety regulations in order to allow Palisades to keep running. But Palisades' replacements of age-degraded steam generators (for the second time in the plant's history) as well as its reactor lid -- in the aftermath of the Davis-Besse, Ohio "Hole-in-the-Head" near-disaster -- are more than five years overdue. Palisades is thus deep into its "break-down" phase of increased reactor accident risk, as termed by David Lochbaum of Union of Concerned Scientists on his "Bathtub Curve" graphic (so named because of the curve's shape). Citizens Nuclear Information Center-Tokyo has just reported alarming news about reactor pressure vessel embrittlement/pressurized thermal shock risks at Japanese reactors.
Beyond Nuclear issued a statement, as did Don't Waste MI's Alice Hirt (pictured, left): "We do not want a Fukushima here on the shore of Lake Michigan...We plead with you to help us close down this plant NOW." Area summertime resident Gail Snyder also issued a statement.
WMUK, the NPR radio station in Kalamazoo, MI, interviewed Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps (pictured, left) about reactor risks at Palisades. Kevin warned that NRC should shut Palisades down, before it melts down (the Associated Press quoted this as well), because the reactor is the worst embrittled in the U.S., with age-degraded steam generators and reactor lid, and vitally needs fire protection upgrades. Entergy promised to make these repairs over five years ago when it took over ownership from Consumers Energy at Palisades, but has broken these promises. Michigan Radio also quoted Kevin. The Kalamazoo Gazette also reported on this story, as did the St. Joe Herald-Palladium.
Kalamazoo News Channel 3 interviewed Maynard Kaufman and Barbara Geisler of Michigan Land Trustees in Bangor, less than 10 miles from Palisades. They warned of risks to west Michigan's vibrant shoreline agriculture from a Fukushima- or Chernobyl-like disaster. Grand Rapids TV 8 also reported on this story. TV 57 in South Bend, IN also briefly reported on Jaczko's visit.