BEYOND NUCLEAR PUBLICATIONS

Search
JOIN OUR NETWORK

     

     

DonateNow

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.

.................................................................................................................................................................................................................

Thursday
Jan032013

24 Groups: NRC Rushing Nuclear “Waste Confidence” Process, Not Satisfying Court-Ordered Requirements

Critics have long dubbed NRC's "Nuclear Waste Confidence Decision and Rule" a Nuke Waste Con Game. In June, the federal courts agreed.An environmental coalition, including Beyond Nuclear, has asserted that NRC's incomplete "Nuclear Waste Confidence" process should trigger continued suspension of all reactor licensing and re-licensing. Beyond Nuclear has applied the related court victory to challenge the proposed new Construction and Operating License Applications at Fermi 3 in Michigan and at Grand Gulf in Mississippi, as well as applications for 20-year license extensions at Grand Gulf Unit 1 and Davis-Besse in Ohio.

The coalition's press release began:

"In documents filed Wednesday with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), a wide range of national and grassroots environmental groups said it would be impossible for the NRC to adequately conduct a court-ordered assessment of the environmental implications of long-term storage of spent nuclear reactor fuel in the two short years the federal agency envisions for the process.  

The groups’ comments and related declarations by experts are available online at http://www.psr.org/resources/nrc-rushing-nuclear-waste-confidence-process.html.  

In June 2012, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit vacated the NRC’s 2010 Waste Confidence Decision and Temporary Storage Rule and remanded them to the agency for study of the environmental impacts of storing spent fuel indefinitely if no permanent nuclear waste repository is licensed or if licensing of a repository is substantially delayed.  Spent nuclear fuel remains highly dangerous for prolonged periods.  It has long-lived radioactive materials in it that can seriously contaminate the environment and harm public health if released.  Additionally, spent nuclear fuel contains plutonium-239, a radiotoxic element that can be used to make nuclear weapons if separated from the other materials in the fuel.  Plutonium-239 has a half-life of over 24,000 years."

The complete press release can be read here.

Saturday
Dec292012

NRC ASLB rules against environmental coalition's contentions challenging 20-year license extension at Davis-Besse

"Homer Simpson and Humpty Dumpty act out" the Blizzard of '78 "snow job" root cause theory for shield building cracking at Davis-Besse's front entrance on March 24, 2012. The street theater was held in solidarity with the SAGE Alliance's Shut Down Vermont Yankee day of action, and protested FENOC's cherry-picked "root cause of convenience," first floated on Feb. 28th.The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) Atomic Safety (sic) and Licensing Board (ASLB) today issued two rulings rejecting an environmental coalition's intervention against the 20-year license extension sought by FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company (FENOC) at its problem-plagued Davis-Besse atomic reactor near Toledo.

The first ruling supported FENOC's Motion for Summary Dismissal of the environmental interveners' (Beyond Nuclear, Citizens Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario, Don't Waste Michigan, Green Party of Ohio, represented by Toledo attorney Terry Lodge) Severe Accident Mitigation Alternatives (SAMA) analyses contentions, previously admitted for hearing. To do so, both ASLB and NRC had to ignore FENOC's assumption that the containment structures at Davis-Besse are fully functional, which they are not. This ruling came despite FENOC's admission that it had made five major errors in its original SAMA analyses, such as under-estimating the value of Ohio farmland and urban property values, and even getting wind directions 180 degrees wrong.

The second ruling rejected interveners' proposed cracked concrete containment contention. Intervenors' have dubbed FENOC's claim that the Blizzard of 1978 severely cracked its concrete containment shield building a "Snow Job," and its cover up of the visual evidence of the cracking with concrete in late 2011, and with a coat of paint on the shield building exterior in August 2012, a "White Wash."

The environmental coalition issued a press release in response to the ASLB rulings, vowing to fight on.

The Toledo Blade has reported on this story. At the bottom righthand side of the article, the Toledo Blade is conducting an online poll as to whether or not Davis-Besse should be re-licensed. Beyond Nuclear encourages readers to vote NO in the poll.

The article quoted Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps:

"...Kevin Kamps, a radioactive-waste specialist for Maryland-based Beyond Nuclear, was unconvinced by the licensing board’s findings.

The cracks pose a 'major safety risk,' he said. 'If they can dismiss the cracking contention given the gravity of that risk, then it’s not a good sign for due process.'

Relicensing opponents believe the NRC and FirstEnergy don’t 'understand the root causes' of the cracking problem, and if the wrong cause is pinpointed then 'they can’t have adequate corrective action in place.'

'[It’s a] huge loss for the public. The risks don’t go away regardless,' he said...

...Mr. Kamps said the licensing board’s rulings are subject to challenge, and re-licensing opponents also may raise new contentions as the renewal process continues. Among unresolved issues is the effect of a June 8 federal appeals-court ruling in Washington declaring that regulators had not assessed potential environmental consequences of long-term radioactive waste storage at nuclear plant sites if no permanent disposal site is developed."

WKSU, the NPR radio affiliate at Kent State University, has also reported on this story. WKSU quoted Kevin:

"Beyond Nuclear is among the groups contesting the proposed license renewal. They contend that cracks discovered last year in Davis-Besse’s concrete shield are due to aging concrete – and a sign of more trouble to come...

...Kevin Kamps, a radioactive-waste specialist for Beyond Nuclear, says the board also rejected an analysis of what would happen in the event of a severe accident at the plant east of Toledo.

'I would say that, looking at a document like the Japanese Parliament report on the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe, where they found that collusion between government and industry was actually the root cause of the catastrophe, that that very much applies to Davis-Besse.'

Kamps says an environmental impact statement is due in February, at which time the group will have another opportunity to file objections. And the board has yet to address a court order regarding the potential environmental impact of on-site radioactive waste storage."

Interveners can still submit contentions based on NRC's Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (DSEIS), due out in February. Also, the NRC has acknowledged that interveners' application at Davis-Besse, of a recent court victory against its "Nuke Waste Con Game," will result in at least a two year delay in issuance of the final approval for the license extension. NRC has said it will take at least that long to carry out the court-ordered Environmental Impact Statement on its Nuclear Waste Confidence Decision and Rule.  

For more information on the Davis-Besse proceeding, click here.

Sunday
Dec232012

Entergy Watch: NRC approves less frequent inspections on Vermont Yankee's troubled steam dryer

A Bathtub Curve (referring to the graph's shape) for Nuclear Accidents, by David Lochbaum of Union of Concerned Scientists.The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), which is supposed to protect public health, safety, and the environment, instead often prioritizes nuclear utility profits.As reported by the Rutland Herald, NRC has now approved Entergy inspecting its troubled Vermont Yankee (VY) steam dryer not once every 1.5 years, but rather once ever 4.5 years. This, despite the fact that the steam dryer at VY has developed 65 cracks in the past 7 years alone, likely related to the 20% "power uprate" NRC has also rubberstamped there (this means that VY is being run at 120% hotter and harder than it was originally designed for, with consequently damaging vibrations). 

A decade ago at Exelon's Quad Cities nuclear power plant in Illinois, another NRC-approved power uprate's vibrations led to a steam dryer's failure, sending chunks of metal hurtling down steam lines -- some of which were never recovered, even though the reactor has been permitted to keep operating.

VY's steam dryer is not the only age-degraded system, structure, or component at the 41-year-old Fukushima Daiichi twin (a General Electric Mark I Boiling Water Reactor). Its condensor is also on its last legs, begging for replacement. Entergy seems in no hurry to pay the tens of millions of dollars for that repair, either -- and NRC is not requiring it of them. NRC rubberstamped VY's 20-year license extension just days after Fukushima Daiichi Units 1, 2, and 3 melted down and exploded in March 2011.

The Bathtub Curve for Nuclear Accidents (above left) shows that age-degradation significantly increases "break down phase" reactor risks. NRC rubberstamped "power uprates" exacerbate those risks even worse.

Saturday
Dec152012

Federal government whistleblower protections strengthened

Richard H. Perkins, top, and Lawrence Criscione, are risk analysts within the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. They are also whistleblowers who say the agency is not leveling with the public.As London Guardian readers elect U.S. whistleblower Bradley Manning as Person of the Year, there is more good news on the whistleblower front in the U.S. as well. As reported by Project on Government Oversight (POGO), the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act has been signed into law, after more than a decade of campaigning.

This comes just in the nick of time for two U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) whistleblowers, Richard H. Perkins and Lawrence Criscione (photos, left). The two NRC Staffers have warned, independently, that NRC has not only neglected, but even covered up, the risk of meltdowns at U.S. atomic reactors due to flooding caused by dam failures, as at the Oconee nuclear power plant in South Carolina. The Huffington Post has published a series of articles about this story (see the most recent one here).

NRC whistleblowers are very far and few between. One that Beyond Nuclear has had the honor and privilege of working with is Dr. Ross Landsman, who served at NRC Region 3 in Chicago before retiring in 2005. Landsman testified before Congress about the Midland, Michigan nuclear power plant in the 1980s, which helped stop those two reactors from ever operating (safety-critical buildings at the plant were sinking into the ground, like the Leaning Tower of Pisa). Beginning 20 years ago, Landsman also warned NRC about earthquake safety regulation violations with high-level radioactive waste storage at Palisades in Michigan, located as close as 100 yards from the waters of Lake Michigan, drinking water supply for 40 million people downstream in North America. The violations have never been addressed.

Landsman also warned about a soft-spot (due to concrete and rebar degradation) on the already too small, too weak containment building at Cook nuclear power plant in s.w. MI, a problem that has never been corrected.

Nuclear power industry whistleblowers, however, are still very vulnerable to harassment, intimidation, blacklisting, and worse. Oscar Shirani, a nationally renowned quality assurance auditor who worked for Commonwealth Edison/Exelon, was run out of the company and blacklisted by the U.S. nuclear power industry, after revealing major QA violations on the Holtec dry storage/transport cask systems for high-level radioactive waste, used at 33 U.S. reactors. Dr. Landsman supported Shirani's allegations, but the NRC and U.S. Department of Labor did not, hanging Shirani out to dry.

Saturday
Dec152012

Entergy Watch: Indian Point, Palisades, Vermont Yankee

Entergy Watch is a campaign to bridge the resistance communities living in the shadows of Entergy's dirty dozen atomic reactors across the U.S., shown here on this map posted at Entergy Nuclear's websiteU.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Atomic Safety (sic) and Licensing Board (ASLB) hearings resumed in the Lower Hudson River Valley, as reported by the LoHud.com (note further LoHud.com coverage going back in time along the article's left-hand margin). The resistance being mounted by the Attorney General of the State of New York and environmental groups like Clearwater and Hudson Riverkeeper has led to the most admitted contentions yet against a 20-year license extension. The current round of hearings are dealing with the issue of underground pipes leaking radioactivity into soil, groundwater, and the Hudson River. NY AG Eric Schneiderman's office has alleged that “Entergy does not know the current state of its buried and underground pipes.” In April, 2010, Beyond Nuclear's Paul Gunter reported on a chronic, large-scale radioactivity leak of tritium and other radioactive substances from high-level radioactive waste storage pools at Indian Point.

At Palisades in Covert, Michigan, a coalition of local concerned residents and environmental groups butted heads with NRC and Entergy yet again, this time at a public meeting at which NRC attempted to justify its restoration of top-notch safety status to the problem-plagued reactor (despite admitting the need for 50% more inspections than normal in 2013, due to a rash of leaks this year), while Entergy attempted to assure that its completely collapsed safety culture is on the mend. Critics kept themselves awake during the dog and pony show by playing a game of Nukespeak B'Lingo, as reported by Michigan Public Radio. The South Bend, IN ABC affiliate also reported on this story, quoting Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps as warning that Palisades is a catastrophe waiting to happen.

As reported by the Vermont Digger, the New England Coalition has filed a lawsuit at the Vermont Supreme Court demanding that Entergy be forced to shutdown the Vermont Yankee atomic reactor unless and until it is issued a Certificate of Public Good by the Vermont Public Service Board (PSB). As also reported by the Digger, just last week the PSB denied motions by Entergy to amend its previous agreements with the state, in order to make legal its continued reactor operations. The PSB found “If we were to reach the conclusion urged on us by Entergy VY...it would be hard not to also conclude that Entergy VY had misled the Board.” Entergy has sued not only Gov. Peter Shumlin by name, but also all three members of the PSB, again by name, in its bid to make legal 20 more years of VY operations, despite its previous commitments to the state otherwise. Meanwhile, a year after federal district judge Murtha in Brattleboro ruled in Entergy's favor on the 20-year license extension, the AG of VT, William Sorrell, will appeal that ruling to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City: oral argument was just scheduled for January 14, 2013.