At Halloween-time, an environmental coalition, represented by Toledo-based attorney Terry Lodge, will finally get its day in court, after more than five years of resisting Detroit Edison's (DTE) proposed new Fermi 3 atomic reactor targeted at the Lake Erie shoreline of Monroe County, Michigan.
However, few, if any, nuclear license applications have ever been rejected by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), or the agency's Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) over the past several decades.
Monroe has already "hosted" Fermi 1 (an experimental plutonium breeder reactor, permanently shutdown in 1972, but still undergoing decommissioning, which had a partial core meltdown on Oct. 5, 1966, as documented in John G. Fuller's classic book We Almost Lost Detroit). Monroe still "hosts" Fermi 2, at 1,122 Megawatts-electric (MW-e), the single-biggest General Electric Mark I Boiling Water Reactor (GE BWR Mark I) in the world, almost as big as the identically-designed, exploded, and melted down Fukushima Daiichi Units 1 and 2 put together.
DTE submitted its combined Construction and Operating License Application (COLA) for Fermi 3 in September 2008. The nuclear utility had raced to file its COLA, in order to be among the first in line for billions of dollars in taxpayer-funded subsidies for proposed new reactors enacted by George W. Bush in 2005.
But the ESBWR (General Electric-Hitachi so-called "Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor") design was so half-baked, NRC couldn't help but respond during the ESBWR design certification review with an astonishing several thousand Requests for Additional Information (RAIs). Not surprisingly, the dubious ESBWR design has been abandoned by several other U.S. nuclear utilities. But DTE is stubborn.
The environmental coalition, which includes Beyond Nuclear, Citizens for Alternatives to Chemical Contamination (CACC), Citizen Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario (CEA), Don't Waste Michigan, and Sierra Club Michigan Chapter, filed intervention contentions and petitioned for hearings by NRC's arbitrarily short deadline on March 9, 2009.
Of some 30 contentions filed by the coalition, four have survived five years of NRC staff and DTE legal attacks. However, the environmental resistance has caused three and half years of delays in DTE's original Fermi 3 schedule.
One of the surviving contentions, regarding the NRC's court-ordered environmental impact statement (EIS) on the agency's high-level radioactive waste (HLRW) "confidence," has officially delayed finalization of NRC's rubberstamp of DTE's Fermi 3 COLA by at least two years, the time it will take to finalize the EIS.
Another contention demands that NRC include an assessment for 29 miles of transmission line corridor construction that would be needed to connect Fermi 3 to the electrical grid. Some of that construction would be through fragile forested wetlands, habitat for threatened and even endangered species, including the Eastern Fox Snake. This contention is being held in abeyance until the NRC Commission rules on the matter.
The other two remaining contentions are the subject matter to be litigated during the upcoming Halloween-time NRC ASLB hearings to be held in Monroe.
The first concerns the threatened Eastern Fox Snake species, an indigenous constrictor. A large area of the endangered habitat of the Eastern Fox Snake -- coastal Great Lakes wetlands -- would be destroyed by the construction and operation of Fermi 3. In fact, the State has admitted that Fermi 3 would involve the largest impact on Great Lakes coastal wetlands in the history of applicable state environmental protection laws.
The second contention regards the largely to entirely non-existent quality assurance (QA) on the entire Fermi 3 COLA. The environmental coalition is represented on this QA contention by Arnie Gundersen, Chief Engineer at Fairewinds Associates, Inc.
This QA contention interacts with the vital subject: Fermi 3's soil structures analysis. Under conventional soil structure analysis Fermi 3's foundations would require as much concrete as the rest of construction of Fermi 3, essentially doubling the concrete needed, at astronomical expense. DTE is attempting to take major short cuts to avoid that cost with alternative soil structure analysis, modified subtraction, and semi-modified subtraction.
Michael Keegan of Don't Waste Michigan, the intervening environmental coalition's coordinator, has written about the upcoming hearings:
"The culmination of 7 years of vigilance on the proposed Fermi 3 nuclear power plant will occur October 29 through November 1, in Monroe. Nuclear Engineer Arnold Gundersen will be serving as our Expert Witness and the lack of Quality Assurance should prove to be the death knell for this Fiasco 3.
Now that the government is going back to work the Hearings on the proposed Fermi 3 will be held.
Limited Oral and Written comment will be taken but the public must pre-register. DTE is already lining up local community leaders and associations to come out and speak in support. They are following the same Thanksgiving Dinner Template as they did on the FEIS process [Final Environmental Impact Statement, for which public comment meetings were held].
[Please click this link for] excerpts with Instruction. This Hearing is the culmination of having brought forward 30 Contentions before the Atomic Safety Licensing Board. Please turn out to send the message that there is strong opposition to the proposed Fermi 3 nuclear power plant.
Michael J. Keegan, Don't Waste Michigan/Fermi 3 Intervenor
Registration Required: To be considered timely, a written request to make an oral statement must either be mailed, faxed, or sent by e-mail so as to be received by 5:00 PM EDT on Friday, October 18, 2013. 'How-to' info. [is provided at this link], but I am thinking that because of gov't shutdown, we'll be able to get a few [extra] days [added onto that deadline]."