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.



Two dozen groups urge State of MA to divest from Entergy due to safety and economic risks at Pilgrim

NRC file photo of Entergy's Pilgrim GE BWR Mark I on Cape Cod Bay in Plymouth, MABeyond Nuclear has signed onto an effort spearheaded by the Association to Preserve Cape Cod, and endorsed by two dozen local groups, to urge the State of Massachusetts to divest more than $8 million invested in Entergy. The signatory groups cited the economic and safety risks associated with the nuclear utility's problem-plagued Pilgrim atomic reactor. A June 4th letter was sent to Governor Patrick and Treasurer Grossman, as described in a June 9th press release.

NRC recently placed Pilgrim on its "degraded" performance short list. The only other reactor in the country with a worse performance designation is FitzPatrick in upstate New York. Both Pilgrim and FitzPatrick are General Electric Mark I boiling water reactors, identical in design to Fukushima Daiichi Units 1 to 4.

Entergy's Palisades atomic reactor in Michigan was similarly designated one of the worst performers in the U.S. a couple years ago, after not one but two near-misses in 2011, and yet another one in 2012, as documented by David Lochbaum at Union of Concerned Scientists.

A year ago, energy economist Mark Cooper of Vermont Law School identified Entergy's six merchant reactors (half its national fleet), including Pilgrim, as at risk of near-term shutdown. This is due to a variety of factors, including economic uncompetitiveness and needed, costly safety repairs. In August 2013, Cooper was proven right, when Entergy announced the permanent shutdown of Vermont Yankee (another Entergy GE BWR Mark I) by the end of 2014.


Residents, environmental groups, elected official meet with NRC Chairman: safety, security risks at Palisades, Cook discussed

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Allison Macfarlane

On June 4th, the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee convened a hearing on "NRC’s Implementation of the Fukushima Near-Term Task Force Recommendations and other Actions to Enhance and Maintain Nuclear Safety." All five NRC Commissioners took part as witnesses. An archived webcast of the hearing can be viewed online, and a link is provided to NRC Chairman Macfarlane's opening statement.

On June 5th, concerned local residents, representatives from Beyond Nuclear, Coalition for a Nuclear-Free Great Lakes, Don’t Waste Michigan, Michigan Safe Energy Future (both Kalamazoo and South Haven Chapters), and Sierra Club Michigan Chapter, and a Kalamazoo City Commissioner met with U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Allison Macfarlane (photo, left) and NRC staff, including NRC Region 3 (Midwest) Administrator Cynthia Pederson, in Benton Harbor, MI. Beyond Nuclear helped coordinate the meeting.

Benton Harbor is roughly equidistant (about 15 miles to each) between the two atomic reactors at American Electric Power’s Donald C. Cook nuclear power plant to the south in Bridgman, MI, and the Entergy Palisades atomic reactor to the north in Covert, MI, both on the Lake Michigan shoreline.

The grassroots watchdogs on southwest MI’s atomic reactors raised a number of concerns and grievances concerning broken promises about safety repairs (including aging- and design-related risks); safety culture collapse, including on the security guard force; ever mounting radioactive waste concerns; and leaks, as well as intentional releases, of hazardous substances into the air, soil, groundwater, and Lake Michigan (radioactivity, toxic chemicals, and most recently, oil). Concerns were raised that NRC is prioritizing nuclear utility profits over public safety. The coalition urged that the dirty, dangerous, and expensive atomic reactors be permanently shutdown, and NRC oversee a safe decommissioning of the sites (dismantlement, clean up of radioactive contamination, and safeguarding of high-level radioactive wastes in Hardened On-Site Storage).

This is the fourth visit to Palisades by an NRC Commissioner – and the second visit by an NRC Chairman – in just two years, more than any other atomic reactor in the country. The previous visits have included: May 25, 2012, NRC Chairman Greg Jaczko; March 25, 2013, NRC Commissioner William Magwood IV; and May 13, 2013, NRC Commissioner Kristine Svinicki. Jaczko, Magwood, and now Macfarlane have met with local concerned residents and environmental group representatives, as part of their tours of Palisades. The numerous NRC Commissioner visits are an indication of the ongoing concerns about risks to health, safety, security, and environment at Palisades.

On June 6th, Chairman Macfarlane will tour both Cook and Palisades with U.S. Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), Chairman of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee.

See the June 4, 2014 media advisory regarding the Benton Harbor meeting. Also see the June 5, 2014 media release.

Following are the prepared written statements by the grassroots participants:

Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps submitted a copy of the Statement of Principles for Safeguarding Nuclear Waste at Reactors, calling for Hardened On-Site Storage of irradiated nuclear fuel.

Statement of John Brenneman, Michigan Safe Energy Future (MSEF)--Kalamazoo Chapter;

Statement of Maynard Kaufman, MSEF--South Haven Chapter;

Statement of Ed McArdle, Conservation Co-Chair, Michigan Sierra Club;

Statement of Carol McGeehan, concerned local resident from Holland, MI;

Statement of Barbara Pellegrini, concerned local resident from Hagar Twp., MI;

Statement of Bette Pierman, MSEF--South Haven Chapter;

Statement of Kraig D. Schultz, Secretary, MSEF. Kraig also submitted a letter from Schultz Engineering.


Fukushima lessons learned? None! NRC ends consideration of expedited unloading of radioactive waste pools

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission snuck out a major decision on the Friday before Memorial Day Weekend. Its generic study of whether or not to require the expedited transfer of "spent nuclear fuel" (irradiated nuclear fuel rods, highly radioactive waste) out of vulnerable storage pools will be unceremoniusly ended, with no requirement to unload pools into dry cask storage. The study was undertaken as part of NRC's Fukushima "lessons learned" process, created by former NRC Chairman Greg Jaczko in the immediate aftermath of the Japanese nuclear catastrophe.

The decision came in the form of a memo, sent from the NRC Secretary to the NRC EDO (Executive Director for Operations). The memo simply states: "The Commission has approved the staff's recommendation that this Tier 3 Japan lessons-learned activity be closed and that no further generic assessments be pursued related to possible regulatory actions to require the expedited transfer of spent fuel to dry cask storage."

Four of the five NRC Commissioners (Svinicki, Apostalakis, Magwood, and Ostendorff) voted to support NRC Staff's recommendation, made late last year, that irradiated nuclear fuel currently stored in densely-packed pools, need not be transferred to dry casks on an expedited basis.

The sole dissenting vote on the NRC Commission came from its Chairwoman, Allison Macfarlane. Chairwoman Macfarlane criticized the NRC staff's analysis, including that the only risk initiator considered was an earthquake. She called for a “more thorough analysis,” including consideration “of all natural and human-induced events (e.g., accidental, malevolent).”

Chairwoman Macfarlane provided a more than 10-page analysis explaining her dissent. Three of the other Commissioners who blessed the staff's recommendation for inaction provided a page, or less, of explanation for their own votes. More.


Coalition defends its challenge against Davis-Besse Shield Building cracks, gaps, and rebar damage

Environmental coalition attorney Terry LodgeAn environmental coalition, represented by attorney Terry Lodge of Toledo (photo, left), has filed a defense of its contention alleging that FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company's (FENOC) Davis-Besse atomic reactor on the Lake Erie shore should be denied a 20-year license extension by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Most recently, Davis-Besse's concrete containment Shield Building has exhibited ever more severe cracking, steel reinforcement damage, as well as wall gap 80% of the way through its 2.5 foot thickness (an air space, or void, through 24 of 30 inches of the wall). The filing rebuts challenges against the contention by FENOC and NRC Staff.

As official intervenors in the NRC Atomic Safety (sic) and Licensing Board (ASLB) proceeding, the coalition, comprised of Beyond Nuclear, Citizens Environment Coalition of Southwestern Ontario, Don't Waste Michigan, and the Ohio Green Party, has resisted Davis-Besse's 20-year license extension since the end of 2010. Davis-Besse's 40-year operating license expires on Earth Day (April 22), 2017. This is the coalition's sixth contention filed.


"Senators Markey, Boxer and Sanders Introduce Legislation to Increase Safety at Nuclear Plants"

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairwoman of the Environment and Public Works CommitteeU.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA, photo at left), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA) introduced three bills today aimed at improving the safety and security of decommissioning reactors and the storage of spent nuclear fuel at nuclear plants across the nation. 

The three bills address safety of spent fuel storage and decommissioning plans. They are entitled: Safe and Secure Decommissioning Act of 2014; Nuclear Plant Decommissioning Act of 2014 (see the bill, Sen. Sanders' press release, and a one-page summary); Dry Cask Storage Act of 2014. To learn more, see the press release at Sen. Markey's website.

The EPW Committee will hold and webcast a hearing entitled “Nuclear Reactor Decommissioning: Stakeholder Views” on Wed., May 14th, at 10 AM Eastern. Witnesses include CA and VT officials, and spokespeople from NRDC and NEI.

Please urge your two U.S. Senators to support these three bills. You can contact your Senators via the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121.