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New Reactors

The U.S. nuclear industry is trumpeting a comeback - but only if U.S. taxpayers will foot the bill. Beyond Nuclear is watchdogging nuclear industry efforts to embark on new reactor construction which is too expensive, too dangerous and not needed.

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Thursday
Feb122015

Beyond Nuclear files legal challenge to NRC's false "Nuclear Waste Confidence" in bid to block proposed new Fermi 3 atomic reactor license

Environmental coalition attorney Terry Lodge of Toledo, OHOn Feb. 12th, Toledo-based attorney Terry Lodge (photo, left) filed a "place-holder" contention with the Fermi 3 U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Atomic Safety and Licensing Board Panel (ASLBP) overseeing the combined Construction and Operating License Application (COLA) proceeding.

The contention took the form of a "Hearing Request and Petition to Intervene," as well as a "Motion to Reopen the Record."

The ASLBP proceeding has now concluded, after 6.5 years, since the NRC Commissioners held their "Mandatory, Uncontested Hearing" on Feb. 4th.

However, the environmental coalition intervening against the Fermi 3 COLA (including Beyond Nuclear, Citizens for Alternatives to Chemical Contamination, Citizens Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario, Don't Waste Michigan, and Sierra Club Michigan Chapter), represented by Lodge, has challenged NRC's false "Nuclear Waste Confidence" policy (since renamed by the agency as "Continued Storage of Spent Nuclear Fuel") at every opportunity for several years running -- including yet another federal court appeal.

Today's filing seeks to ensure that another favorable ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (like the ruling won in June 2012) will be applied by NRC in the Fermi 3 proceeding. That is, the coalition is seeking to either block the COLA license approval outright, or else to revoke NRC's rubber-stamp of the license, given the still unresolved "Nuclear Waste Confidence" issues such as pool fires, pool leaks, and the distinct possibility that a deep geologic repository for permanent high-level radioactive waste disposal will never open.

Beyond Nuclear is part of a larger environmental coalition of three dozen groups nationwide, seeking to block any NRC approvals for new reactor licenses, or old reactor 20-year license extensions, given the current version of "Nuclear Waste Confidence's" violation of such laws as the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Atomic Energy Act (AEA), and the Administrative Procedures Act (APA). That coalition is represented by attorneys Diane Curran of Harmon, Curran, Speilberg, + Eisenberg, LLP of Washington, D.C., and Mindy Goldstein of Turner Environmental Law Clinic at Emory University in Atlanta.

Monday
Feb092015

Beyond Nuclear on Thom Hartmann's "The Big Picture" regarding Fermi 1, 2, and 3

Thom Hartmann, host of "The Big Picture"Thom Hartmann (photo, left) invited Beyond Nuclear onto his television program "The Big Picture" to discuss the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) impending decision to rubberstamp the proposed new Fermi 3 atomic reactor's license in southeast Michigan -- to be constructed on the very spot where the "We Almost Lost Detroit" Fermi 1 reactor had a partial core meltdown in 1966. The environmental coalition that has been intervening against Fermi 3's license for six and a half years, represented by Toledo attorney Terry Lodge, has vowed to appeal NRC's decision to federal court, if need be.

Thom also asked about the risks at Fermi 2 -- identical in design to Fukushima Daiichi Units 1 to 4 -- and the liabilities associated with U.S., Japanese, and other nuclear firms building dangerous new reactors in places like India and China.

Wednesday
Feb042015

Environmental intervenors vow to appeal NRC approval of Fermi 3 to federal courts

NRC file photo showing Fermi 2. Fermi 3 would be built immediately adjacent to it.On Feb. 4, the four U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commissioners (there is currently an empty seat on the five-member Commission) held a "mandatory, uncontested hearing" on DTE's proposed new Fermi 3 atomic reactor.

The day-long hearing -- a self-congratulatory, rubberstamp formality -- marks one of the very final hurdles DTE (formerly Detroit Edison) must clear before NRC approves Fermi 3's combined Construction and Operating License Application (COLA).

Over 200 NRC staff and nuclear industry represenatives (including from reactor vendor, General Electric-Hitachi, as well as Dominion Nuclear, which wants to build an identical reactor at its North Anna nuclear power plant in Virginia) were in attendance. Beyond Nuclear attended the hearing in person, while many concerned citizens from Michigan and beyond observed the live Webcast.

An archived Webcast of the NRC Commissioners' hearing is available, as are the hearing agenda and presentations.

DTE proposes to build the world's first 1,550 Megawatt-electric General Electric-Hitachi so-called "Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor" (ESBWR) at its Fermi nuclear power plant in Frenchtown Township, Michigan, on the Lake Erie shoreline. Fermi is 25 miles south of Detroit, near Monroe.

Beyond Nuclear and allies (Citizens for Alternatives to Chemical Contamination, Citizens Environment Alliance of S.W. Ontario, Don't Waste MI, and Sierra Club Michigan Chapter) have vowed to appeal NRC's license approval to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals on multiple fronts: violations of NRC's quality assurance (QA) regulations, and the NRC's exclusion of both the proposed new transmission corridor, as well as high-level radioactive waste that would be generated and stored, from NRC's Environmental Impact Statement. The coalition, represented by Toledo attorney Terry Lodge, first intervened against Fermi 3 on March 9, 2009. In the past six years, the coalition has filed around three-dozen separate contentions.

The coalition has also pledged to resist any attempts by DTE to exploit public subsidies to build Fermi 3. Recently, the U.S. Department of Energy announced the availability of $12.5 billion in federal loan guarantees (and likely loans), backed by taxpayers, for new reactor construction. And the precedent has recently been set by the Michigan Public Service Commission for ratepayer-funded "Construction Work in Progress" (CWIP)-like bailouts for nuclear construction as well.

The two proposed new reactors in Georgia, Vogtle 3 & 4, are being financed with both federal loan guarantees and loans -- to the tune of $8.3 billion worth -- as well as via gouging ratepayers on their electricity bills (CWIP surcharges).

As quoted in the coalition's press release, its attorney, Terry Lodge, said: “Once all administrative remedies are exhausted at NRC, we plan to appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, on multiple environmental and safety-related fronts.”

Arnie Gundersen, Chief Engineer of Fairewinds Associates in Burlington, Vermont, and the coalition's expert witness on quality assurance (QA), said at the time of Halloween, 2013 NRC Atomic Safety and Licensing Board hearings in southeast Michigan: “Given Detroit Edison’s violations of quality assurance requirements, the geological borings and soil samples are suspect. Fermi 3’s building structures would be very heavy, so the geotechnical data has to be verifiable, so that the atomic reactor’s foundations are rock solid, and seismically qualified.”

And coalition coordinator, Michael Keegan of Don't Waste MI in Monroe, said: “In addition to ducking a transmission corridor EIS, DTE and NRC are attempting to duck the laws of physics. The corridor as currently configured will not meet NRC recommended design vulnerability protections, including its susceptibility to many single failure events that could remove all three lines from service. This is made significantly worse by being part of the same transmission corridor as Fermi 2, a Fukushima Daiichi twin-design.”

Farouk D. Baxter, PE, an expert/specialist on nuclear power plant electrical systems, testified to the ASLB on this very topic during a public comment period regarding Fermi 3.

Fermi 2 is a super-sized version of the General Electric Mark I Boiling Water Reactor, as big as Fukushima Daiichi Units 1 and 2 put together. Beyond Nuclear, Citizens Environment Alliance of S.W. Ontario, and Don't Waste MI, again represented by Lodge, are currently intervening against DTE's proposed 20-year license extension at Fermi 2, as well.

Citizens Resistance at Fermi Two (CRAFT) has independently filed numerous contentions against the Fermi 2 license extension, as well.

The proposed co-location of Fermi Units 2 and 3 raises the specter of a multi-reactor catastrophe, like the one still unfolding at Fukushima Daiichi after four years, with no end in sight. In fact, Fermi 2 and 3 would represent the worst of both worlds, located side-by-side: an age-degraded reactor, at risk of a breakdown phase disaster; and an untested, brand new reactor design never built before anywhere in the world, at risk of unforeseen design flaws and other break-in phase risks. David Lochbaum, director of the Nuclear Safety Project at Union of Concerned Scientists, refers to such elevated risks as the "Bathtub Curve" (due to the graph's shape).

A meltdown at either reactor, or fire in either reactor's high-level radioactive waste storage pool, could drag the neighboring reactor and pool into the radioactive catastrophe, as happened at Fukushima Daiichi.

Ironically enough, Fermi 3 would be built on the exact spot where the Fermi 1 experimental plutonium breeder reactor had its "We Almost Lost Detroit" partial core meltdown on October 5, 1966.

Wednesday
Jan282015

Environmental coalition demands NEPA & AEA compliance re: Nuclear Waste Confidence in reactor licensing proceedings

Irradiated nuclear fuel being moved in a high-level radioactive waste storage pool. The courts ruled in 2012 that NRC's days (well, many decades!) of lawlessness regarding nuclear waste generation, storage, and disposal are over.In a legal filing today, a coalition of environmental groups, including Beyond Nuclear, has demanded that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) fulfill its legally required obligations under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Atomic Energy Act (AEA), regarding its Continued Storage of Spent Nuclear Fuel Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) and Rule in various atomic reactor licensing proceedings around the country. The coalition is represented by attorneys Diane Curran of Washington, D.C., and Mindy Goldstein of Turner Environmental Law Clinic at Emory University in Atlanta.

In several reactor licensing proceedings where Final EISs came out prior to court victories negating NRC's Nuclear Waste Confidence policy (or "Nuke Waste Con Game," for short!) for violating NEPA and AEA in 2012, NRC has neither included the full 2014 Continued Storage GEIS and Rule in new reactor combined Construction and Operating License Application (COLA) proceeding FEISs, nor old reactor license extension proceeding FEISs. To not do so violates NEPA, and portions of AEA, and their implementing regulations at NRC, as well as the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

On Dec. 8, 2014, the Missouri Coalition for the Environment, represented by Curran (as well as Henry Robertson of Great Rivers Environmental Law Center in St. Louis), filed a Nuclear Waste Confidence-related, National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) "placeholder" contention in the Callaway atomic reactor license extension proceeding. That contention has, thus far, succeeded in staving off NRC's imminent rubberstamp of Callaway's 20-year extension.

Attorney Terry Lodge of Toledo represents Beyond Nuclear in the intervention against NRC approval of the proposed new Fermi Unit 3 reactor COLA in southeast Michigan, on the Great Lakes shoreline. Today's filing by Lodge  in that proceeding seeks to preserve Beyond Nuclear's opportunity to file a Nuclear Waste Confidence contention against Fermi 3, like was done at Callaway several weeks ago.

Tuesday
Jan132015

NRC Commissioners bless NRC staff's violation of NEPA!

Atomic reactors and their electrical transmission lines are inextricably interlinked, yet NRC staff has failed to undertake a NEPA review of the proposed new Fermi 3 transmission line corridor's environmental impacts.On Jan. 13th, the NRC Commission, by a unanimous 4-0 vote, rejected a request from the ASLBP overseeing the Fermi 3 COLA proceeding. The ASLBP had requested permission to review NRC staff's apparent violation of NEPA (the National Environmental Policy Act), for not having included Fermi 3's proposed new transmission lines in its Environmental Impact Statement. The environmental coalition called this NEPA violation to the attention of the ASLBP in Jan., 2012. The coalition plans to appeal this NEPA violation, and perhaps other violations of law and regulation (such as the gutting of QA, Quality Assurance, requirements), to the federal courts at the earliest opportunity. The coalition also has submitted a Nuclear Waste Confidence contention, which is growing ever more ripe for judicial review.

On October 7, 2014, the environmental coalition had asserted that Fermi 3's transmission corridor violated NEPA.

On November 10, 2014, the coalition's legal counsel, Terry Lodge, also filed support for the ASLBP's review of the obvious NRC NEPA violations.