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.



"Bad math" dating back 40 years adds to long list of problems at idled Ft. Calhoun atomic reactor

Ft. Calhoun during the worst of the summer 2011 flooding. Photo source: AP.As reported by the Associated Press, a design flaw dating back to the early 1970s raises concerns about heavy equipment support structures at the Omaha Public Power District-owned/Exelon-operated Fort Calhoun atomic reactor in Nebraska. Both the utility, and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), missed the flaw, both during initial licensing four decades ago, as well as during the rubberstamp of a 20-year license extension in 2003.

The article lists the many woes which have kept the reactor shutdown since before historic floods on the Missouri River in summer 2011, which inundated the Fort Calhoun site, doing untold damage to underground structures, systems, and components, including safety-significant electrical cables, as well as pipes which carry radioactive materials (see photo, left):

"...Among the violations cited by regulators was the failure of a key electrical part during a 2010 test, a small electrical fire in June 2011, several security issues and deficiencies in flood planning that were discovered a year before the river spilled its banks.

Still to be addressed: the repair of flood damage at the facility; the replacement of fire-damaged equipment; strengthening the management of the plant; improving the safety culture among workers; the removal of the Teflon insulation; and the strengthening of heavy equipment supports...".

As Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds is quoted, "If Fort Calhoun were being run by a business, it would have been shut down a year ago."

As the article reports, "The Omaha Public Power District imposed a 6.9 percent increase in electricity rates this month for customers across southeast Nebraska, largely to finance a $143 million bill to fix some 450 problems and rehabilitate the nuclear plant that was closed in April 2011."



Fairewinds' nuclear engineer Arnie GundersenIn the most recent Fairewinds Energy Education weekly podcast, "REPAIRS AT FOUR NUCLEAR REACTORS ARE SO EXPENSIVE THAT THEY SHOULD NOT BE RESTARTED," Fairewinds' nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen (photo, left) lays out the case as to why the atomic reactors at Fort Calhoun, Nebraska on the Missouri River, Crystal River in Florida, and San Onofre Units 2 & 3 in southern California should all be permanently shutdown.

Of these, Fort Calhoun had already gotten a 20-year license extension rubberstamp by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, while Crystal River was deep into the application process for one.

In the second half of the program, Arnie also discusses a recent letter to U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu, and an accompanying press release, from U.S. Representative Ed Markey (D-MA), which expressed strong opposition to U.S. Department of Energy plans to "recycle" radioactive metals and other materials from its nuclear facilities (such as nuclear weapons complex sites, uranium enrichment facilities, national labs, etc.) into consumer products.


Rating agencies: cracked Crystal River 3 may be down for the count

The magnitude of Crystal River's concrete containment cracksNot even NRC's "Notorious, Rubberstamp Collusion" will likely be able to spin Crystal River out of this self-inflicted wound (unless NRC decides to allow Crystal River to operate without a containment!)

As reported by SNL, Fitch and UBS have indepenently cast doubt on the likelihood, given the cost (into the billions of dollars), that Duke/Progress Energy's Crystal River Unit 3 in Citrus County, Florida will ever be repaired and returned to operations. Crystal River has been shutdown ever since severe cracking (see photo, left) was discovered in its concrete containment shell, nearly three and a half years ago. The utility accidentally cracked the containment itself, while attempting an in-house steam generator replacement.

The article reports that ratepayers will not be charged $388 million for replacement power, but "a settlement agreement with the Florida Office of Public Counsel and several interest groups...stipulates the parties will not oppose Duke's full recovery of all plant investment should it decide to retire the plant," meaning that the public could still get stuck with the bill for a disastrous engineering mistake the nuclear utility itself made.

Duke/Progress Energy has variously attempted to foist repair or cost recovery bills on its insurance provider, its ratepayers via the Florida Public Service Commission, and even the rest of the nuclear power industry.

Beyond Nuclear has helped lead environmental coalition efforts to block Davis-Besse's 20-year license extension, due to severe cracking in its concrete Shield Building.


Entergy Watch: Palisades, Pilgrim, Vermont Yankee

Entergy Nuclear's dirty dozen atomic reactorsEntergy's Palisades, Pilgrim, and Vermont Yankee atomic reactors are each among the 73 two decade license extensions rubberstamped by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission in recent years. But resistance to their ongoing operations is intensifying nonetheless!

Last Saturday, critics grilled NRC with questions regarding "recent through-wall leaks" at Entergy's problem-plagued Palisades pressurized water reactor on the Lake Michigan shore in Covert, Michigan. In Plymouth, Massachusetts and on Cape Cod, watchdogs continue to hound Pilgrim, Entergy's General Electric Mark I Boiling Water Reactor -- a twin design and vintage to Fukushima Daiichi Units 1 to 4 -- near Boston. And Entergy's Vermont Yankee had its day(s) in court(s) -- another risky, age-degraded Mark I, which has very much worn out its welcome in the Green Mountain State!

Palisades, Pilgrim, and Vermont Yankee are each also relatively small sized, single reactor, "merchant" nuclear power plants. As such, they are currently very vulnerable to permanent shutdown due to crushing economics -- such as the expense of badly needed major safety repairs.


Friends of the Earth's expert Arnie Gundersen defends emergency enforcement petition on San Onofre 2 & 3 steam generator failures

A Bathtub Curve for Nuclear Accidents, compliments of David Lochbaum, Union of Concerned Scientists. "Bathtub" refers to the curve's shape.Friends of the Earth's expert witness, Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds Associates, addressed a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Petition Review Board yesterday, regarding the premature, severe degradation of Replacement Steam Generator tubes at San Onofre nuclear power plant a year ago. The damage resulted in a tube failure and radioactive steam release, as well as the year-long and counting shutdown of San Onofre Units 2 and 3.

Arnie's slide presentation can be viewed online. He concluded that "San Onofre was a 'near miss.' The tube failures at San Onofre are the worst nuclear equipment failures since the near miss at Davis-Besse in 2002." (slide #36). He quoted NRC's own Augmented Inspection Team report: "Although in this case the degraded condition of the tubes was manifested as a small primary to secondary leak, it is possible that a full blown rupture could have been the first indication."

While the Feb. 2000 Indian Point old steam generator tube rupture, and the Feb./March 2002 Davis-Besse lid corrosion hole, were "break-down phase" accidents, San Onofre 2 & 3's Jan. 2012 steam generator tube degradation is actually a "break-in phase" accident. The replacement steam generators were only a year or two old (see the Bath Tub Curve for Nuclear Accidents, above left).