"Just trust us!" wears thin at Davis-Besse

An inspector from NRC investigates recently revealed cracks in Davis-Besse's concrete shield buildingTom Henry, editorial writer and columnist at the Toledo Blade, has published commentary entitled "Safety of Davis-Besse comes down to a question of faith." Henry, a board member of the Society of Environmental Journalists, and reporter of record on the 2002 Davis-Besse hole-in-the-head fiasco -- the nearest miss to a major nuclear accident in the U.S. since the 1979 Three Mile Island meltdown -- attended a standing room only January 5th U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) public meeting, successfully demanded by U.S. Representative Dennis Kucinich (Democrat-Ohio), about recently revealed cracks in Davis-Besse's radiological containment concrete shield building. Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps also testified at the NRC meeting, and then, on behalf of an environmental coalition, spearheaded a 60 page contention about the cracking in opposition to FirstEnergy's application for a 20 year license extension at the problem-plagued Davis-Besse atomic reactor.

Fox News Toledo's Jennifer Steck covered Beyond Nuclear's street theater skit at Davis-Besse atomic reactor before the Jan. 5th NRC meeting, as did Northwest Ohio's WNWO and the Toledo BladeThe Cleveland Plain Dealer reported on the NRC meeting, as did the Sandusky Register, Port Clinton News Herald, Cleveland Fox 8, NPR station WKSU, Toledo ABC, and WTOL.

On January 25th, NRC announced a major delay in the publication of its Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Davis-Besse license extension. This was due to FirstEnergy Nuclear revising its Severe Accident Mitigation Alternatives (SAMA) analyses in its 20 year license extension application. Beyond Nuclear and an environmental coalition including Citizens Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario, Don't Waste Michigan, and the Green Party of Ohio successfully intervened against the license extension by raising SAMA concerns over a year ago, and has defended its contentions ever since.


Palisades: "It's an accident waiting to happen"

Don't Waste Michigan board members Michael Keegan, Alice Hirt, and Kevin Kamps call for Palisades' shut down at the 2000 Nuclear-Free Great Lakes Action Camp; Lake Michigan, and Palisades' cooling tower steam, are visible in the backgroundOn January 15th, Tina Lam of the Detroit Free Press published an exposé on the long problem-plagued Palisades atomic reactor in Covert, Michigan on the Lake Michigan shoreline. Owned by Entergy Nuclear (which operates such other controversial reactors as Vermont Yankee, and Indian Point near New York City), Palisades suffered 5 "un-planned shutdowns" in 2011 alone, the most serious of which involved a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) "Yellow finding" of "substantial safety significance" regarding an "electrical fault." Translated from euphemisticly misleading Nukespeak, this meant the near electrocution of a worker, and the loss of half of the control room's functions, figuratively leaving operators half-blinded, half-deaf, and half-paralyzed as they raced to adequately cool the hot reactor core. Both the pressurizer and the steam generators were a mere 9 minutes away from "going solid" -- filling completely with liquid water -- and thus losing their ability to cool the hot reactor core. One more mistake, or break down in systems, structures, or components, could have spelled disaster. Incredibly, as reported by the Freep, "It began with a light bulb...". Lam also broke the story on Palisades' five year overdue replacement of its severely corroded reactor lid.

The article quoted Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps, 20-year watchdog on Palisades, as saying: "If all these failings and accidents line up in just the right way, we could have a very bad day at Palisades," said Kevin Kamps, a Kalamazoo native and staff member at Beyond Nuclear near Washington, D.C. ...Kamps said opponents of the plant wanted it shut down instead of winning a 20-year extension. "It's an accident waiting to happen," he said.

A large coalition of Michigan and Great Lakes environmental groups, led by Don't Waste Michigan and Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS), opposed the Palisades 20 year license extension. It was rubberstamped nonetheless by NRC in 2007, despite Palisades having the worst embrittled reactor pressure vessel in the United States, at risk of a pressurized thermal shock "hot glass under cold water" fracture and consequent loss of coolant accident.

In addition to the front page article, the Freep linked to a 101 page long NRC inspection report on the "electrical fault"; an NRC "White finding" of "low to moderate risk significance" involving "the improper greasing of a knife edge on the overspeed trip mechanism which contributed to a failure of the turbine driven auxiliary feedwater pump (pump P-8B) during surveillance testing on May 10, 2011"; yet another NRC "White finding" regarding the August 9, 2011 failure of "a safety-related service water pump (P-7C)," a repeat of a 2009 incident; a listing of "Recent problems at the Palisades nuclear plant," including one in which "A supervisor walks off the job in the control room without permission, apparently after an argument, which leads to a violation notice"; and finally, an article about new proposed reactors, including Fermi 3 in Michigan (Beyond Nuclear has helped lead an environmental coalition in opposition to that plan).


Fukushima mothers and activists face eviction

On Friday, January 27th, the tent occupation in front of METI in Tokyo faces eviction by order of minister Yukio Edano. The eviction order follows a controversial public meeting where government officials met with nuclear industry personnel to discuss nuclear power plant restarts, while attempting to exclude the public from the meeting. Concerned citizens who registered to attend the meeting were forcefully removed and the meeting took place behind closed doors.

The tent occupation in front of METI has lasted over 4 months through the support of women from Fukushima, and many others around Japan who oppose nuclear power. People from all over the world have visited the occupation to show their support and learn about issues surrounding nuclear power post March 11th, including the severe conditions that people in Fukushima continue to face. Currently, women of Fukushima are in the process of a "10 month 10 day" 24-hour sit-in to protest against nuclear power and the government's mismanagement of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant disaster that continues today.
An emergency press conference will be held on January 27th at 1pm at the Japan Federation of Bar Associations’ Building, Room 1006. (Access: ) This will be followed by a demonstration at the tent occupation from 4pm to 6pm, the hours of the eviction deadline. Please email, telephone fax minister Edano and METI ( the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry) to retract the eviction order. METI (TEL) +81-3-3501-1609 METI Public Relations (FAX) +81-3-3501-6942. METI Minister Yukio Edano, (TEL) +81-3-3508-7448, (FAX) +81-3-3591-2249. (E-mail)


Vermont Yankee case shows states not allowed to look out for their citizens' safety

The decision on January 19 by federal judge Garvan Murtha, ruled that the state of Vermont cannot order the closure of its reactor, Vermont Yankee, on March 21, 2012 when its current license expires. The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission had already re-licensed the plant for another 20 years (doing so 10 days after the inception of the Fukushima-Daiichi reactor meltdowns that are the same design as Vermont Yankee.) Murtha said federal law pre-empts the state's ability to determine the licensing of a nuclear power plant because the reasoning was "radiological safety" concerns which the judge said the state is not authorized to regulate. The decision effectively deprives the state of the ability to protect its own citizens even though the regulator, NRC, clearly did not have the safety of Vermonters in mind when extending the plant's operating license. The decision is all the more alarming given the numerous safety problems at the plant and the deception by its owners, Entergy, who denied the existence of buried pipes that had in fact leaked tritium.


False claims (on Frontline and elsewhere) persist that nuclear-free Germany will release more CO2

The suggestion made during the Frontline program that Germany will emit more Co2 as a result of its nuclear phase-out is another perfect example of those skeptics who claim that the German nuclear phase-out was a panicked overreaction and could even amount to environmental vandalism.  But science disproves these claims. Thanks to Arne Jungjohann at the Heinrich Boell Institute for the following rebuttal:

Looking at the German nuclear phase-out, some have argued that Germany will produce an extra 300m tones of carbon dioxide between now and 2020. However, Numerous feasibility studies, amongst others by the Federal Environmental Agency or an independent Commission on Energy Choices , have shown that the nuclear phase-out will not jeopardize Germany's ambitious climate action efforts: reducing carbon emissions by 40 percent by 2020 and by at least 80 percent by 2050. If emissions were to rise due to the nuclear phase-out, the government would have to come up with compensating measures to reach these targets.

However, it is unlikely that emissions will rise, because according to the rules of the EU cap-and-trade system there is a cap for emissions from the energy sector and that of course also applies for Germany. Even if Germany’s nuclear capacity was to be replaced by using energy generated in coal plants, the total energy emissions would still have to be reduced. This could be achieved by either shifting to more natural gas or by replacing older coal plants with new and more efficient plants. That's the genius of a cap-and-trade system. Believe it or not, with that system in place, Germany's nuclear phase-out will even cause emissions in other European countries to fall.

The German nuclear phase-out – which is being followed by other countries including Switzerland, Italy and Belgium – is in reality another important element to accelerate the long-term strategy of a transition towards a low-carbon economy.