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NRC

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is mandated by Congress to ensure that the nuclear industry is safe. Instead, the NRC routinely puts the nuclear industry's financial needs ahead of public safety. Beyond Nuclear has called for Congressional investigation of this ineffective lapdog agency that needlessly gambles with American lives to protect nuclear industry profits.

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Thursday
Mar262015

"Feds probe PG&E report on California nuclear plant safety"

NRC file photo of PG&E's Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, on the Pacific Coast near San Luis Obispo, CAAs reported by David R. Baker in the San Francisco Chronicle, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Office of Inspector General (OIG) has launched an investigation into the appearance of collusion between NRC and Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) to circumvent seismic safety at Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant on the faultline-riddled coastline of California.

The independent investigation by the Japanese Diet (Parliament) into the root cause of the ongoing Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe concluded it was collusion between safety regulators, the nuclear utility, and elected officials that left the nuclear power plant so very vulnerable to the natural disaster (the massive earthquake, and the tsunami it spawned) on 3/11/11.

David Lochbaum of Union of Concerned Scientists, Damon Moglen of Friends of the Earth, and Rochelle Becker of Alliance for Nuclear Accountability, are quoted in the article. So too is Michael Peck, the NRC inspector who has consistently warned that Diablo Canyon is operating in violation of its licensing basis and NRC seismic safety regulations, and has called for its shutdown until this is rectified.

Wednesday
Mar252015

Nuclear Licensing Board Examines Brittle Vessel Risks at Entergy’s Palisades Atomic Reactor; Critics Call for Permanent Shutdown

NRC file photo of Entergy Nuclear's Palisades atomic reactor on the Lake Michigan shore in Covert, MIAs reported by a press release, a coalition of environmental groups, including Beyond Nuclear, today testified before the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB), at the agency's HQ in Rockville, Maryland, just outside D.C.

The coalition, represented by Toledo attorney Terry Lodge, defended its intervention against an Entergy License Amendment Request (LAR) to further weaken reactor pressure vessel (RPV) embrittlement/pressurized thermal shock (PTS) safety regulations.

Palisades has the worst-embrittled RPV in the U.S., at risk of a PTS fracture, Loss-of-Coolant-Accident, core meltdown, and catastrophic release of hazardous radioactivity. A bad precedent at Palisades will then be applied by NRC to approve operations at other dangerously brittle pressurized water reactor (PWR) RPVs across the U.S.

The coalition intervened on Dec. 1, 2014. Entergy Nuclear and NRC staff counter-attacked on Jan. 12, 2015. The coalition rebutted the attacks on Jan. 20.

Today's "oral argument pre-hearing" was essentially an ASLB exercise to determine whether the coalition's intervenion is worthy of an evidentiary hearing on the merits of the contention. The ASLB is scheduled to rule on the admissibility of the intervenors' contention within 45 days.

On March 9, the coalition filed a parallel intervention regarding loss of Charpy V-Notch Upper-Shelf Energy in Palisades RPV, another form of age-related degradation.

From 2005 to 2007, a broad environmental coalition sought to block Palisades' 20-year license extension. The coalition's main safety objection was PTS risks. NRC rubber-stamped the extension anyway.

Thursday
Mar192015

Coalition to press its case against Palisades' RPV safety rollbacks at March 25th NRC licensing board hearing

Entergy's problem-plagued Palisades atomic reactor in Covert, MI, on the Lake Michigan shoreline.A U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) will hold an oral argument pre-hearing on Wednesday, March 25th beginning at 10am Eastern, regarding an environmental coalition's intervention against further regulatory rollbacks regarding Entergy Palisades' reactor pressure vessel (RPV), the worst embrittled in the U.S. The hearing will be held at ASLB chambers at NRC's HQ in Rockville, Maryland, but a listen-in phone line is being provided. The hearing is scheduled to last two hours, till noon Eastern, but there is some chance it will run longer than that.

Palisades is located in southwest Michigan, on the shoreline of the Great Lakes, drinking water supply for 40 million people in 8 U.S. states, 2 Canadian provinces, and a large number of Native American First Nations (see photo, left).

We encourage environmental allies and the media to listen-in to the ASLB hearing, in order to watchdog this vital safety issue. RPV neutron radiation embrittlement, and consequent pressurized thermal shock (PTS) risks, are serious at many pressurized water reactors (PWRs) across the U.S. Any regulatory rollbacks rubber-stamped by NRC at Palisades would set bad precedents that could then be applied at other embrittled PWRs in the future.

According to Mr. Sachin Desai, ASLB law clerk: "The phone number for the oral argument is 800-857-9645. The passcode is 9568305. This will be a listen-only line."

Mr. Desai has also communicated that "Members of the public interested in attending or listening to the March 25, 2015 oral argument must reach out to me, the Board’s law clerk, beforehand [by Mon., March 23] either by phone or e-mail.  My phone number is 301-415-6523...[and] e-mail (Sachin.Desai@nrc.gov)." More.

Sunday
Mar082015

"PG&E overlooked key seismic test at Diablo Canyon nuclear plant"

As reported by David R. Baker in the San Francisco Chronicle, "Pacific Gas and Electric Co. replaced $842 million of equipment at the heart of the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant without first making sure the new gear could pass a vital seismic safety test required in the facility’s license, The Chronicle has learned." (See full text of article here.)

The systems, structures and components in question include new lids, as well as replacement steam generators, for the twin unit nuclear power plant. The revelation comes in the aftermath of the permanent shutdown of California's other operating nuclear power plant, San Onofre Units 2 and 3, due to widepsread damage from defective replacement steam generators. That fiasco has turned into a multi-billion dollar boondoggle.

The Chronicle article quotes Dan Hirsch:

“I’m frightened that they’re making almost the exact same mistake we saw at Fukushima,” said Daniel Hirsch, a lecturer in nuclear policy at UC Santa Cruz...

“There was a too-cozy relationship between the nuclear industry and regulators in Japan, and that led to the fiction that it was very unlikely that you’d have an earthquake and a tsunami and a loss-of-coolant accident at the same time,” said Hirsch, who also serves as president of Committee to Bridge the Gap, a grassroots nuclear safety group.

The article also quotes Damon Moglen:

“If key safety equipment has been installed using the wrong data, (Diablo Canyon) needs to be shut down, and we need a public, transparent investigation into the adequacy of the license and the safety of this plant,” said Damon Moglen, senior adviser to the Friends of the Earth environmental group...

Friends of the Earth last year filed a lawsuit claiming the Nuclear Regulatory Commission illegally allowed PG&E to amend the seismic safety portion of its license without public hearings. The move came after one of the commission’s own former inspectors at Diablo Canyon argued that the plant was no longer operating within the terms of its license and should be shut down until PG&E demonstrated it could withstand earthquakes from several recently discovered fault lines, including the Shoreline. The commission rejected that idea.

“This is a regulator who’s not prepared to regulate and didn’t come down on a key safety issue,” Moglen said. “It’s a regulator who’s looking the other way.”

The article also reports:

'...The plant’s government regulators are a big part of the problem, critics allege.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which oversees the nation’s nuclear plants, should have caught PG&E’s mistake before the new steam generators and vessel heads were installed, they say. Instead, the commission learned about the error from PG&E, reviewed the company’s after-the-fact seismic assessment and agreed that the plant was safe. No fines or violation notices were issued...'.

NRC likewise allowed Southern California Edison to install the defective replacement steam generators at San Onofre with little to no regulatory oversight.

In related subject matter, the 1986 book The Whale and the Reactor: A Search for Limits in an Age of High Technology (University of Chicago Press), by Langdon Winner, warned about the risks presented by nuclear power to life on Earth. The author happened to see whales migrating past the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, just out to sea to the west. The realization struck him that this new technology, nuclear power, puts at risk even ancient forms of life, such as whale species tens of millions of years old.

Monday
Feb232015

"Appeals Court will hear case on cover-up of Diablo Canyon quake risks"

PG&E's Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, near San Luis Obispo, CAAs reported by a Friends of the Earth news release, subtitled "Friends of the Earth [FOE] petition says NRC illegally let PG&E alter nuclear plant's license," a 9th Circuit federal appeals court panel has rejected motions by Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, allowing FOE's lawsuit to proceed to a hearing on the merits.

FOE alleges that NRC and PG&E colluded to secretly alter the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant (photo, left) operating license regarding the capability of the twin reactors to survive earthquake magnitudes greater than the facility was ever designed to withstand. In recent years, the lengths and interconnections of earthquake fault lines, and their proximity to Diablo Canyon, were revealed to be significantly greater than previously understood.

FOE is demanding a public adjudicatory hearing on the increased seismic risks, something that should have happened in the first place. In the meantime, FOE is calling for both units to be shutdown, until its concerns are fully addressed.

Harvey Wasserman has blogged about FOE's preliminary legal victory at EcoWatch.