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Nuclear Power

Nuclear power cannot address climate change effectively or in time. Reactors have long, unpredictable construction times are expensive - at least $12 billion or higher per reactor. Furthermore, reactors are sitting-duck targets vulnerable to attack and routinely release - as well as leak - radioactivity. There is so solution to the problem of radioactive waste.

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Tuesday
Jul092013

Coalition defends intervention against risky steam generator replacements at Davis-Besse

Terry Lodge, Toledo-based attorney, speaking out against Davis-Besse's 20-year license extension in August 2012 at Oak Harbor High School, OHTerry Lodge (pictured left), Toledo-based attorney representing an environmental coalition intervening against FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company's (FENOC) risky steam generator replacements at its Davis-Besse atomic reactor, has filed PETITIONERS’ REPLY IN OPPOSITION TO FENOC ‘MOTION TO STRIKE.’

The coalition includes Beyond Nuclear, Citizen Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario, Don't Waste Michigan, and the Sierra Club. Its expert witness, Arnie Gundersen, Chief Engineer at Fairewinds Associates, Inc, has warned that FENOC has taken similar shortcuts on safety as did Edison International with its dangerously flawed steam generator replacements at San Onofre, CA. Edison was forced to permanently shut San Onofre 2 & 3, after Friends of the Earth (FOE) successfully intervened for license amendment hearings after the replacement steam generators suffered extensive, premature degradation, putting 8 million residents and workers within 50 miles at risk. Arnie serves as FOE's expert at San Onofre, as well.

The coalition plans to reply in opposition to similar U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) staff motions to strike in coming days. More.

Wednesday
Jul032013

Davis-Besse has emergency shutdown, pressure boundary leakage; coalition presses case against risky steam generator replacements

Toledo attorney Terry Lodge speaks out against Davis-Besse's 20-year license extension at an August 2012 press conference in Oak Harbor, OhioOn June 29th, FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company's (FENOC) Davis-Besse atomic reactor on the Lake Erie shore near Toledo experienced an emergency shutdown.

The event notification report posted on the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) website states:

'AUTOMATIC REACTOR TRIP DUE TO REACTOR COOLANT PUMP TRIP 

"Automatic trip of Reactor Coolant Pump 1-2 due to an electrical differential current fault resulted in an RPS actuation on Flux/Delta Flux/Flow. Startup Feedwater Valve 1 did not respond as expected post-trip and has been placed in manual control. All secondary side steam reliefs initially re-seated following reactor trip. Subsequent Main Steam Line #1 Safety Valve leakage mitigated during post-trip recovery actions. All other systems have functioned as expected. The plant is stable in Mode 3 - Hot Standby."

All rods inserted into the core during the trip. Decay heat is being removed via turbine bypass valves to the main condenser with normal feedwater to the steam generators. The plant is in its normal shutdown electrical lineup. The licensee characterized the trip as uncomplicated. 

The licensee will be notifying Lucas and Ottawa counties, the State of Ohio and will be issuing a press release. They have notified the NRC Resident Inspector.'

Helpfully translating that Nukespeak into plain English, David Lochbaum, Union of Concerned Scientists' Director of Nuclear Safety, has prepared a powerpoint presentation to explain what happened at Davis-Besse.

Vanessa McCray at the Toledo Blade has reported on this story. She quotes Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps:

'...Kevin Kamps, a radioactive-waste specialist for Beyond Nuclear, said the most recent incident is another worry.

“A lot of plants have problems, but often times it’s a single problem a plant will have ...,” he said. “But for Davis-Besse, they have just a whole long list of problems, and that’s what concerns us too —that those might line up one day in a very bad way.”...'

Kevin has dubbed this a risky game of radioactive Russian roulette at Davis-Besse. He has documented numerous near-misses with disaster over the decades, including a June 9, 1985 steam generator dry out which cut off cooling to the reactor core for 12 minutes, and risked a loss of coolant accident that could have quickly led to a meltdown.

FENOC is currently taking similar safety shortcuts on its planned 2014 steam generator replacements which Edison International took at San Onofre Units 2 and 3 in southern California. A month ago, Friends of the Earth, with Fairewinds Associates, Inc's Chief Engineer Arnie Gundersen as its expert, successfully pressured Edison to simply permanently shutdown San Onofre 2 & 3. Arnie and Maggie Gundersen of Fairewinds also had a major hand in another recently announced permanent reactor shutdown, at Duke/Progress Energy's Crystal River, FL nuclear power plant. In that case, fatal cracks in containment -- self-inflicted during a botched steam generator replacement project -- doomed the reactor. What's disconcerting is that Davis-Besse is not only taking major shortcuts on safety with its steam generator replacements, but also has severe containment cracking. Despite this, FENOC is seeking a 20-year license extension, to begin, ironically enough, on Earth Day (April 22), 2017. 

Days after its emergency shutdown, Davis-Besse then suffered another problem. On July 1st, during reactor cool down operations, Davis-Besse suffered a primary coolant pressure boundary leak. As reported in the event notification report posted at the NRC's website:

'DEGRADED CONDITION DUE TO RCP SEAL LINE PRESSURE BOUNDARY LEAKAGE 

"On 07/01/2013 at 1103 [EDT], inspection personnel identified leakage from a 3/4 inch small-bore pipe socket weld for RCP 1-2 first stage seal cavity vent line. At current Reactor Coolant System conditions (Normal Operating Pressure and Temperature), the leak rate is approximately 8 to 9 drops per minute. 

"The plant entered Technical Specification (TS) Limiting Condition for Operation (LCO) 3.4.13, 'RCS Operational Leakage', Condition B. Repairs to the line are being evaluated. 

"This pressure boundary leakage is reportable per 10 CFR 50.72(b)(3)(ii)(A). The NRC Resident Inspector has been notified." 

The LCO requires the licensee to be in Mode 5 by 2303 EDT on 7/2/13.'

In 2010, UCS's Lochbaum successfully challenged FENOC and NRC over primary coolant leakage through the pressure boundary at Davis-Besse. Such leakage had previously led to the most infamous near-disaster at a U.S. reactor since the Three Mile Island meltdown of 1979: the 2002 reactor lid corrosion hole-in-the-head fiasco, that came within 3/16ths of an inch of breaching and causing a loss of coolant accident in the core. In response, FENOC installed the third reactor lid in a decade at Davis-Besse in 2011. That project revealed the severe cracking in Davis-Besse's steel reinforced concrete containment Shield Building.

Meanwhile, on June 28th, both FENOC and NRC staff filed Motions to Strike against the coalition's recent defense of its intervention against the steam generator replacement. The coalition will respond to these attacks within days. An NRC Atomic Safety (sic) and Licensing Board (ASLB) has scheduled a telephone conference call oral argument pre-hearing to deliberate on the coalition's standing and the merits of its arguments, to be held on Wednesday, July 24th at 1:30 PM Eastern. 

On this week's Fairewinds Energy Education podcast, Maggie and Arnie Gundersen speak with Terry Lodge, a trial lawyer with significant experience working on nuclear issues. The Gundersens have worked with Terry on cases involving San Onofre, Fermi, and Davis Besse. In this podcast he joined with them to discuss the challenge of participating meaningfully with the NRC. Is the NRC doing their job to protect citizens, or have they designed a byzantine system to thwart the public and protect the industry?

Terry Lodge (photo, above left) serves as the environmental coalition's attorney at Davis-Besse, while Fairewinds Associates, Inc's Chief Engineer, Arnie Gundersen, serves as its expert witness. The coalition includes Beyond Nuclear, Citizen Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario, Don't Waste Michigan, and the Sierra Club.

Saturday
Jun222013

Coalition defends its challenge against risky steam generator replacements at Davis-Besse

Terry Lodge speaks out against Davis-Besse license extension at Oak Harbor High School, Ohio, in August 2012On June 21st, an environmental coalition represented by Toledo attorney Terry Lodge (photo, left) re-asserted its challengeagainst risky steam generator replacements at FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company's (FENOC) Davis-Besse atomic reactor near Toledo. The filing rebutted June 14th attacks byFENOC as well as the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) staff on the coalition's standing, as well as the merits of its contentions.

The coalition, comprised of Beyond Nuclear, Citizen Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario, Don't Waste Michigan, and the Sierra Club, launched its intervention petition on May 20th. The coalition's expert, Fairewinds Associates, Inc's Chief Engineer, Arnie Gundersen, also serves as Friends of the Earth's (FOE) expert in the San Onofre defective replacement steam generator proceeding, which recently resulted in the permanent closure of two reactors. FENOC has taken similar short cuts on safety as did Edison International, which resulted in the San Onofre engineering catastrophe that put 8 million southern Californians at radiological risk, and has resulted in a $2.5 billion boondoggle.

Friday
Jun142013

Will the State of Vermont Public Service Board deny Entergy Vermont Yankee a Certificate of Public Good?

Entergy's Vermont Yankee atomic reactor, a GE BWR Mark I located on the Connecticut River border with NH at Vernon, VT, 8 miles upstream from MADebra Stoleroff of the Vermont Yankee Decommissioning Alliance has put out the following announcement:

"The PSB hearings are public — if you are able, consider attending.  

Vermont Yankee Certificate of Public Good #7862 Technical Hearings

In Re: Amended Petition of Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee, LLC, and Entergy Nuclear Operations, Inc., for amendment of their Certificate of Public Good and other approvals required under 30 V.SA. § 231(a) for authority to continue after March 21, 2012, operation of the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station, including the storage of spent nuclear fuel

Before the Public Service Board

Location: Public Service Board Hearing Room, Third Floor, People's United Bank Building, 112 State Street, Montpelier, Vermont

Hearings begin at 9:00 am on Monday, 6/17 thru Friday 6/21 and Monday, 6/24 thru Friday 6/28

See the attachment for the list of daily witnesses"

The hope of those campaigning for Vermont Yankee's (photo, above left) permanent shutdown is that the State of Vermont Public Service Board will deny Entergy a Certificate of Public Good. This would make Entergy Vermont Yankee's operation illegal under Vermont State law. Senior politicians in Vermont, from the Governor to leaders in the state legislature, have publicly referred to Entergy as a "rogue corporation." Vermont Yankee is a General Electric Mark I Boiling Water Reactor (GE BWR Mark I), identical in design to Fukushima Daiichi Units 1 to 4.

Thursday
Jun132013

45-year-old construction error revealed in leaking tank at Entergy's Palisades atomic reactor

Entergy and NRC have just discovered that, at Palisades, plant diagrams are not accurate depictions of "as-built" realityAs reported by Andrew Lersten at the St. Joe Herald-Palladium, a 45-year-old construction error has been discovered at Entergy Nuclear's problem-plagued Palisades atomic reactor on the Lake Michigan shoreline in southwest MI. While repairing a 300,000 gallon tank of water that has been leaking for over two years -- including into the safety-critical control room, as well as directly into Lake Michigan -- workers found that a grout ring and sand bed region called for in the blueprints had never been installed back in 1968. Entergy and NRC now admit that phantom structures assumed to have been there all along may go a long way to explaining why the floor of the tank has suffered repeated leaks, despite multiple attempted repairs.

As recently as April 25, 2013, in a submission to NRC, Entergy gave engineering credit to structures which, in reality, didn't even exist: "Pressure stress loads are carried by the sand base, concrete grout ring, and concrete foundation beneath the tank bottom."

The discrepancy between Palisades' blueprints (see image, left), and the actual "as-built" reality, raises serious safety significant questions about the entire atomic reactor.

The Herald-Palladium, for whom Palisades unquestionably could do no wrong for decades on end, published a blistering editorial on May 23rd. The editorial board concluded:

"...as events in Japan proved in 2011, there is really no second chance when it comes to a catastrophic nuclear event.

We know that Entergy officials will say emphatically that they understand the stakes and are doing everything possible to maintain safety. But talk is cheap, and past problems at the plant don’t inspire confidence. What is really needed are better results.

Should Palisades continue to stumble along in the next months and years, then we hope the NRC takes a much harder look at Palisades’ license. Energy production and commerce are important, but not nearly as important as the safety and well-being of an entire region."