Beyond Nuclear is thankful to the Sierra Club Ohio Chapter, Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign, Earthjustice, and other environmental and public interest allies, who are official parties to the PUCO proceeding, for continuing to fight this particular dirty, dangerous, and expensive energy bailout at ratepayer expense.
Davis-Besse is a catastrophe waiting to happen. It has already dodged more near-misses than any other single atomic reactor in the U.S. -- perhaps the world -- and now FirstEnergy would like ratepayers to pay for another 20-years worth of radioactive Russian roulette on the shore of the Great Lakes (2017-2037).
It would likely otherwise close permanently, without the bailout, due to losing money.
If Davis-Besse doesn't dodge the next radioactive bullet, the concrete containment Shield Building can't be counted on to contain the monstrous amounts of hazardous radioactivity inside the melting down reactor core. It has been severely cracked since at least 1978, FirstEnergy admitted in Feb. 2012.
But the "White Wash" of Aug.-Oct. 2012 (weather-sealing the exterior, 40 years too late) locked water inside the concrete walls, so now, every time it freezes out, the cracks grow by a half-inch or more. This can add up to a whopping nine inches of crack growth in a single year, due to Ice-Wedging Crack Propagation, FirstEnergy admitted in July 2014.
FirstEnerg kept the water in the walls secret from Jan. 2012 till July 2014, 2.5 years, including the whole time we were intervening against the license extension, based on the cracking. FirstEnergy, and NRC staff, swore up and down the cracking was fixed in place, and would not grow over time. The NRC Atomic Safety and Licensing Board Panel (ASLBP) swallowed that one hook, line, and sinker, and blocked our intervention hearing "day in court," because we supposedly could not prove aging-relatedness, a Byzantine NRC requirement.
In Aug.-Sept. 2013, FirstEnergy admitted cracking growth, but the ASLBP continued to deny us a hearing, regardless of aging-relatedness being belatedly admitted by FirstEnergy.
On Sept. 23, 2015 (sub-committee), and again on Nov. 4, 2015 (full committee), before the NRC Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards (ACRS) considering Davis-Besse's license extension, FirstEnergy made some more startling admissions. FirstEnergy spokesmen said they had known since the cracks were first discovered in Oct. 2011, that there was a risk of large chunks of concrete falling off the exterior face of the Shield Building. Numerous safety-significant systems, structures, and components (SSCs) are located below, FirstEnergy now admitted: the Auxiliary Building (containing numerous safety-significant SSCs itself); the borated water storage tank(s), needed for criticality control in the reactor and high-level radioactive waste storage pool; a radiation containment/control portal (air lock) for worker access into the Shield Building; man-hole covers that contain essential electric transmission connections; etc.
FirstEnergy had made no such admissions prior to that, not in nearly four long years (Jan. 2012-present) of public meetings, NRC meetings, and even ASLBP hearings focused on the cracking. To the contrary, when environmental watchdogs made such allegations, FirstEnergy -- with NRC staff collusion -- denied them, at every turn, tooth and nail.
The small additional force that could bring those chunks of concrete raining down include earthquakes (whether natural or artificial -- remember Youngstown's fracking wastewater disposal-caused 4.0 on 12/31/11), tornado-driven "missiles" (such as a telephone pole), or, if the Ice-Wedging Cracking Propagation grows badly enough, this little natural phenomenon known as "gravity." (Unless, of course, the nuclear industry lobbied Ohio legislature, Gov. Kasich, and U.S. Congress decide to repeal the Law of Gravity, Second Law of Thermodynamics (Entropy), etc.?!)
But such last second admissions didn't deter the ACRS from rubber-stamping Davis-Besse's 20-year license extension. As with the NRC staff and NRC Commissioners themselves, the ACRS is a part of the collusion and complicity with FirstEnergy, at the expense of public health, safety, and the environmental risks downwind, downstream, up the food chain, and down the generations.
In short, for safety's sake alone, Davis-Besse should be permanently shut down ASAP. Certainly no later than the expiration of its initial 40-year license, on Earth Day (April 22), 2017.
As our coalition's expert witness, Dr. Al Compaan (emeritus prof. and chairman of the University of Toledo Physics Dept., and a solar PV materials scientist/inventer), testified in 2010-2011, onshore wind power alone (never mind offshore wind power potential in Lake Erie), solar PV alone, and certainly the two in combination, combined with energy storage (such as the Norton Compressed Air Energy Storage facility that FirstEnergy owns near Akron), could readily, affordably, and dependably replace Davis-Besse's 908 Megawatts-electric. Of course, they would do so much more cleanly, safely, and securely as well.
The ASLBP actually granted us a hearing on that renewables alternatives contention, not long after the still ongoing Fukushima nuclear catastrophe began in 2011. But FirstEnergy appealed that ruling, and some months later, the shameless NRC Commissioners voted unanimously FirstEnergy's way, overruling their own licensing board, and blocking our hearing. Thus was gutted the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires a "hard look" (not the right decision in the end, just a comprehensive investigation and comparison) at alternatives to NRC's "preferred" one -- in this case, 20 more years of operations at the problem-plagued Davis-Besse atomic reactor. So much for rule of law. "Nobody Really Cares" about that (that's what NRC actually stands for!)
And speaking of rule of law...Ohio law would appear to make this $3.9 billion bailout to FirstEnergy, at ratepayer expense over 8 years, illegal. That didn't stop the PUCO staff from endorsing the proposal. We'll see how the Republican and Independent PUCO Commissioners now vote (there is not one Democrat on the PUCO). FirstEnergy competitors, such as Dynegy, who stand to gain no such illegal bailout advantage from the PUCO, have threatened to file a lawsuit to block the bailout on that point alone.