Nuclear fuel at 11 Westinghouse PWRs at risk of dangerously overheating

As reported by Reuters, the NRC has issued a media release admitting that 11 pressurized water reactors (PWRs) using Westinghouse nuclear fuel are at risk of "thermal conductivity degradation" -- that is, they could dangerously overheat during an accident. The 11 PWRs are located at the following nuclear power plants: FirstEnergy's Beaver Valley in Pennsylvania, Exelon's Byron in Illinois, Duke Energy's Catawba in South Carolina and McGuire in North Carolina, American Electric Power's Cook in Michigan, and Dominion's Kewaunee in Wisconsin.

The NRC release stated:  "The NRC alerted the industry to this problem in 2009, and Westinghouse needs to do more to account for thermal conductivity degradation in its fuel performance codes," said Eric Leeds, director of the NRC's Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation. "We need assurances from a few nuclear power plants licensees to maintain assurance that they can continue to operate safely with sufficient margin." Despite already having given industry three years to respond, NRC is still giving them another month to do so now.

However, NRC's current limit of 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit for nuclear fuel cladding has been challenged by 10CFR2.206 emergency enforcement petitions filed by concerned citizens. They pointed to data from Germany that showed that ziroconium in fuel rod cladding is dangerously unstable at a significantly lower temperature

Along these lines, the NRC mentioned cryptically at the end of its release: "An additional 23 plants that use Westinghouse performance models also received information copies of the RFI [Request for Proposal], to ensure that they are aware of their obligations to address this error."

In early 2006, Toshiba of Japan acquired Westinghouse. In the early to mid-1970s, Toshiba was the reactor supplier and architect for Fukushima Daiichi Unit 3, the atomic reactor that suffered the worst explosion during the catastrophe; its reactor building now resembles a pile of twisted ruins.


Beyond Nuclear to co-present "Into Eternity" with BetterWorld Happenings in Livonia, Michigan for 3/11 commemoration of Fukushima Nuclear Catastrophe

On Sunday, March 11, 2012, the first anniversary of the beginning of the still ongoing Fukushima Nuclear Catastrophe, Beyond Nuclear is joining with BetterWorld Happenings to co-present the film "Into Eternity" about the proposed Finnish high-level radioactive waste repository (see the trailer, above). The event will take place at 7:30 p.m. at Unity Church of Livonia, Michigan. Keith Gunter, Promoter and Producer of BetterWorld Happenings, and a Beyond Nuclear Launch Partner, has organized the event. Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps will speak at the screening. A media release has gone out, as well as a flyer.

Nukewatch of Wisconsin just showed "Into Eternity" in Duluth, MN on Feb. 20th. Nuclear Energy Information Service is planning to show it on March 22nd in Chicago (see their press release and "Know Nukes" film series schedule). And yet another screening is in the works for the Blue Water region of Michigan near Port Huron in mid-March, again with Kevin Kamps as a speaker. If you would like to host a screening, learn more here.


CNN links growing concerns with Vermont Yankee to Fukushima tragedy

CNN Presents featured a segment on the growing controversy around the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant which is one of the  23 GE Mark I boiling water reactors operating in the United States that is the same design as the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power stations that exploded and melted down in Japan following the  March 11, 2012 earthquake and tsunami. The Vermont legislature voted to permanently close the reactor on March 22, 2012 while the NRC voted to extend the reactor operating license by 20 years, just days after the Fukushima accident.

Here is the February 17, 2012  news account of the TV feature.

Beyond Nuclear was part of the Breaking News story from the CNN Situation Room on March 11, 2011 warning that the GE reactors were in danger of exploding into a nuclear catastrophe.

Watch the CNN Presentation February 18, 2012 televised story:

Part 1

Part 2


State of Vermont appeals federal district court ruling allowing Vermont Yankee reactor to operate past March 21, 2012

State of Vermont Attorney General William H. SorrellAs reported by Reuters, the State of Vermont's Attorney General, William Sorrell, has appealed U.S. federal district judge Garvan Murtha's Jan. 19, 2012 ruling allowing Entergy Nuclear to continue operating the Vermont Yankee atomic reactor past the expiration of its original 40 year license on March 21, 2012.

In a media release posted on his website, Vermont AG Sorrell stated  “We have strong arguments to make on appeal. The district court’s decision improperly limits the State’s legitimate role in deciding whether Vermont Yankee should operate in Vermont beyond March 21, 2012. The court’s undue reliance on the discussions among our citizen legislators, expert witnesses, advocates, and their constituents has the potential to chill legislative debates in the future. Left unchallenged, this decision could make it harder for ordinary Vermonters to clearly state their views in future legislative hearings.”

Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin expressed support for the appeal, stating: 

“As I said when the court opinion was issued, I do not agree with Judge Murtha’s decision.  We as a state have had many important and legitimate concerns with Entergy Louisiana and its operation of Vermont Yankee that are not reflected in the opinion.  I support the Attorney General’s work in getting a positive result on appeal.  Meanwhile, my administration will be focusing on the state’s continuing authority over Vermont Yankee.”


Weeks of activities ahead in Vermont & New England, commemorating Fukushima, protesting Vermont Yankee & other atomic reactors

Citizens Awareness Network has sent out an action alert, listing numerous events and activities from now till the end of March, including marches, teach ins, rallies, and more. Events will commemorate the Fukushima Nuclear Catastrophe as its first anniversary approaches on March 11th, and many actions will shine a spotlight on the radioactive risks of Vermont Yankee, an identical twin to Fukushima Daiichi Units 1 to 4 (a General Electric Mark I Boiling Water Reactor), as well as other New England atomic reactors, such as Pilgrim near Boston (also a Mark I), and Seabrook on the New Hampshire coast. See the poster for a Feb. 21 CAN event at UMass-Amherst here.