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Tuesday
Jan222013

"Bad math" dating back 40 years adds to long list of problems at idled Fort Calhoun, NE atomic reactor

Ft. Calhoun during the worst of the summer 2011 floods, Photo credit: AP.As reported by the Associated Press, a design flaw dating back to the early 1970s raises concerns about heavy equipment support structures at the Omaha Public Power District-owned/Exelon-operated Fort Calhoun atomic reactor in Nebraska. Both the utility, and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), missed the flaw, both during initial licensing four decades ago, as well as during the rubberstamp of a 20-year license extension in 2003.

The article lists the many woes which have kept the reactor shutdown since before historic floods on the Missouri River in summer 2011, which inundated the Fort Calhoun site, doing untold damage to underground structures, systems, and components, including safety-significant electrical cables, as well as pipes which carry radioactive materials (see photo, left):

"...Among the violations cited by regulators was the failure of a key electrical part during a 2010 test, a small electrical fire in June 2011, several security issues and deficiencies in flood planning that were discovered a year before the river spilled its banks.

Still to be addressed: the repair of flood damage at the facility; the replacement of fire-damaged equipment; strengthening the management of the plant; improving the safety culture among workers; the removal of the Teflon insulation; and the strengthening of heavy equipment supports...".

As Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds is quoted, "If Fort Calhoun were being run by a business, it would have been shut down a year ago."

Friday
Jan182013

GSN: "Industry, Activists at Odds Over Security Risks of Interim Waste Storage"

TOW anti-tank missiles can be fired by vehicles, or even shoulder-fired. Large numbers of TOW missiles are reportedly loose and unaccounted for on the international black market.In a Global Security Newswire article entitled "Industry, Activists at Odds Over Security Risks of Interim Waste Storage," Douglas P. Guarino quotes Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps about the risks of high-level radioactive waste, including during both on-site storage, as well as during transportation. Kevin referred to a 1998 test conducted at Aberdeen Army Proving Ground in Maryland, which showed that even the so-called "Cadillac of dry casks," the German CASTOR, could not withstand an anti-tank TOW missile attack (TOW is an acronym which stands for "Tube-launched, Optically-tracked, Wire command data link, guided missile"). Most U.S. dry cask systems have much thinner metallic walls than the CASTOR. Kevin reiterated the call by over 150 environmental groups, for Hardened On-Site Storage of irradiated nuclear fuel, rather than a risky, rushed radioactive waste shell game on the roads, rails, and waterways.

Friday
Jan182013

GSN: "Watchdog Groups Add to Legal Criticism of Nuclear Waste Review"

Dr. Arjun Makhijani, President of Institute for Energy and Environmental ResearchAs reported by Douglas P. Guarino at Global Security Newswire in an article entitled "Watchdog Groups Add to Legal Criticism of Nuclear Waste Review," a coalition of two dozen environmental groups (including Beyond Nuclear), as well as three states (Massachusetts, New York, and Vermont) are keeping the pressure on the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to do a thorough Environmental Impact Statement on the on-site storage risks of high-level radioactive waste, not to mention the transport, off-site storage, and permanent disposal risks of irradiated nuclear fuel. The article quotes one of the environmental coalition's attorneys, Diane Curran, as well as one of its expert witnesses, Dr. Arjun Makhijani (photo, left).

Friday
Jan182013

Arnie Gundersen: "REPAIRS AT FOUR NUCLEAR REACTORS ARE SO EXPENSIVE THAT THEY SHOULD NOT BE RESTARTED"

Fairewinds' nuclear engineer Arnie GundersenIn the most recent Fairewinds Energy Education weekly podcast, "REPAIRS AT FOUR NUCLEAR REACTORS ARE SO EXPENSIVE THAT THEY SHOULD NOT BE RESTARTED," Fairewinds' nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen (photo, left) lays out the case as to why the atomic reactors at Fort Calhoun, Nebraska on the Missouri River, Crystal River in Florida, and San Onofre Units 2 & 3 in southern California should all be permanently shutdown.

In the second half of the program, Arnie also discusses a recent letter to U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu, and an accompanying press release, from U.S. Representative Ed Markey (D-MA), which expressed strong opposition to U.S. Department of Energy plans to "recycle" radioactive metals and other materials from its nuclear facilities (such as nuclear weapons complex sites, uranium enrichment facilities, national labs, etc.) into consumer products.

Thursday
Jan172013

Rating agencies: cracked Crystal River 3 may be down for the count

The magnitude of cracking in Crystal River's containment shellAs reported by SNL, Fitch and UBS have indepenently cast doubt on the likelihood, given the cost (into the billions of dollars), that Duke/Progress Energy's Crystal River Unit 3 in Citrus County, Florida will ever be repaired and returned to operations. Crystal River has been shutdown ever since severe cracking (see photo, left) was discovered in its concrete containment shell, nearly three and a half years ago. The utility accidentally cracked the containment itself, while attempting an in-house steam generator replacement.

The article reports that ratepayers will not be charged $388 million for replacement power, but "a settlement agreement with the Florida Office of Public Counsel and several interest groups...stipulates the parties will not oppose Duke's full recovery of all plant investment should it decide to retire the plant," meaning that the public could still get stuck with the bill for a disastrous engineering mistake the nuclear utility itself made.

Duke/Progress Energy has variously attempted to foist repair or cost recovery bills on its insurance provider, its ratepayers via the Florida Public Service Commission, and even the rest of the nuclear power industry.

Beyond Nuclear has helped lead environmental coalition efforts to block Davis-Besse's 20-year license extension, due to severe cracking in its concrete Shield Building.