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.



Latest "leak per week" at Entergy's Palisades atomic reactor

Entergy Nuclear's problem-plagued Palisades atomic reactor, and the inland "sweet water sea" (Lake Michigan) and countryside (southwest Michigan) which it threatens.As shown at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) "Current Power Reactor Status Report", Entergy's Palisades atomic reactor in Covert, Michigan on the Lake Michigan shoreline is at zero percent power. Why? Because, yet again, it has suffered a leak and breakdown -- but the latest of many in recent years.

As reported at the NRC Event Notification:


'At 2030 hours [EST] on February 14, 2013, technical specification (TS) 3.7.7 condition A was entered due to the right train of the component cooling water (CCW) system being declared inoperable. The cause of the inoperable train was the identification of an approximate 40 gallon per hour CCW system to service water system leak inside the 'A' CCW heat exchanger. TS 3.7.7 condition A requires restoration of the inoperable train within 72 hours. If the restoration is not completed within 72 hours, the plant must be in Mode 3 within 6 hours and in Mode 5 within the subsequent 36 hours.' 

'Due to the inability to repair the leak within the required 72 hour time frame during power operation, a plant shutdown was initiated at approximately 1300 hours on February 15, 2013. Entry into Mode 3 is expected at approximately 1700 hours on February 15, 2013. The plant will enter Mode 5 to execute leak repair. Mode 5 entry is expected at approximately 0800 hours on February 16, 2013.'"

No explanation is given as to why this incident, dated Feb. 14, was not publicly reported until Feb. 19.

However, NRC Region 3 spokeswoman Viktoria Mytling told WSBT-TV in South Bend, IN that "NRC resident inspectors at Palisades have been aware of a leak from the cooling water system and followed the plant’s actions to find the location after the leakage increased from 2 to 35 gallons an hour in less than a week."

No explanation is given for the disparity between Mytling's 35 gallon per hour figure, and the NRC incident report's 40 gallon per hour figure, above.

The Kalamazoo Gazette quotes Mytling as admitting that the leakage began as early as Feb. 8. NRC has provided no explanation as to why the public was not informed about the problem for 11 days. 

(Last year, U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) demanded an NRC investigation into Mytling's downplaying of a reactor leak at the troubled Davis-Besse atomic reactor near Toledo. In addition, Chicago watchdog group Nuclear Energy Information Service, via a Freedom of Information Act Request to the State of Illinois Dept. of Nuclear Safety, documented that Mytling's flip assurance -- that a radioactive steam leak at the Byron atomic reactor must have contained exceedingly low levels of hazardous radioactive tritium, as radiation monitors had not detected any -- was baseless and misleading, as no real-time tritium monitoring capability existed at the plant.)

However, an 11 day delay in informing the public is nothing new, in light of Entergy and NRC behavior at Palisades in recent years. For example, in June, 2012, courageous Palisades whistleblowers and their attorney, Billie Pirner Garde of Washington D.C., working with U.S. Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), made public a leak into Palisades' safety critical control room (where electrical circuitry and equipment cannot be allowed to get wet) that had been ongoing for more than a year, with leakage being caught in buckets near the central control panel. That leak had been kept not only from the public, but even from the NRC's Chairman, despite his tour of the problem-plagued plant on May 25, 2012. NRC internal investigations supposedly continue as to why the agency's own chairman was kept in the dark about the control room leak.  

WSBT has also posted an additional NRC statement about the latest "leak per week" (a phrase coined by watchdogs on Entergy's controversial and troubled Vermont Yankee atomic reactor) at Palisades:


The leak came from the component cooling water system whose function is to remove heat from pipes, pumps and other equipment running at high temperatures. Workers identified the source of the leak to be one of the plant’s two heat exchangers which are a part of this system. Heat exchangers, which consist of about 2,000 tubes each, are used to remove heat during normal operation but also during potential accident scenarios. Palisades has two heat exchangers, which cool equipment important to safety, and are required to be in working condition. According to NRC regulations, if there is a problem with one of the heat exchangers it would need to be fixed within in [sic] 72 hours.  If that’s not possible the plant would have to shut down to find and fix the leak. Palisades made the decision to shut down before reaching the established limit.  The plant has to repair the heat exchanger before returning online.

NRC resident inspectors, in consultation with our expert in the region, continue to monitor [sic] situation." (Emphasis added.)

Thus, this equipment breakdown does have safety significance.

The Holland Sentinel was perhaps the first news outlet to report on this story.


5-year prison sentence for perpetrator of bomb plot hoax involving Entergy's Palisades atomic reactor

Entergy Nuclear's Palisades atomic reactor in Covert, MI, on the Lake Michigan shoreAs reported by WSBT-TV in South Bend, Indiana, a federal judge has sentenced an individual to five years in prison for bomb plot hoaxes. 36-year old Anthony Fortuna of Allendale, MI admitted filing false reports with both the FBI and U.S. Marshalls Service about bomb plots supposedly targeting the Entergy Nuclear Palisades atomic reactor in Covert, Michigan, as well as the Gerald R. Ford Federal Building in Grand Rapids, MI. 

As reported by WSBT, "His sentence was imposed by Chief U.S. District Judge Paul L. Maloney in Kalamazoo, who said the maximum sentence of 5 years in prison was necessary based on Fortuna’s prior criminal history...and because the false reports required both the FBI and USMS to waste time and resources conducting extensive investigations of what, if true, would have been extremely serious plots." (emphasis added)

Palisades has experienced a number of real security breaches over the past decade, however. It has been cited by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission for security violations. Esquire Magazine broke the story in May, 2007 that Palisades' security chief was a fraud, unqualified for his position, although able to convince local, state, and federal officials that his nuclear security approach should be implemented as a model nationwide. And on the first anniversary of 9/11 attacks, the New York Times reported that an armed Palisades security guard had suffered a nervous breakdown on the job, due to being forced to work 72 hours per week, for months on end; additionally, three suspicious cars had penetrated deep into Palisades' property, but got away because Palisades' security had phoned the wrong local law enforcement agency for response. 


Entergy Watch: Palisades, Pilgrim, Vermont Yankee

Entergy Nuclear's dirty dozen atomic reactorsPalisades

In April, the Union of Concerned Scientists' Nuclear Safety Project Director, David Lochbaum, will speak about "Preventing an American Fukushima" in west Michigan, about Entergy's problem-plagued Palisades atomic reactor. Beyond Nuclear is privileged and honored to co-sponsor the visit. He will present at a noontime event on the campus of Western Michigan University (WMU) in Kalamazoo (about 40 miles east, and downwind of Palisades) on Thursday, April 11th, with co-sponsorship by the Kalamazoo Peace Center. Later that same evening, David will present at the Beach Haven Event Center in South Haven -- about 5 miles north of Palisades.

In 2010, David documented Palisades' 40 years of chronic control rod drive mechanism (CRDM) seal leaks, and has commented on the serious safety significance of the Sept. 2012 CRDM through-wall leaks. This included the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's, as well as Entergy's, failure to take proper, required precautionary reactor shutdown action for over a month. Beyond Nuclear provided backgroud about this at the time.

In his Feb. 2012 "The NRC and Nuclear Power Plant Safety in 2011: Living on Borrowed Time," of 15 near-misses across the U.S., Lochbaum documented two at Palisades. Entergy's 5 near-misses (2 at Palisades, 2 at Pilgrim near Boston, and 1 at Cooper in Nebraska) accounted for a third of the national total, far more than any other nuclear utility.


Speaking of Pilgrim, last week the Pilgrim Coalition wisely called for the Plymouth, MA reactor's precautionary shutdown before the Blizzard of 2013 hit, but Entergy and NRC refused to listen. Sure enough, the off-site electrical grid -- the primary source of power for running safety and cooling systems on the reactor core -- went down in the nor'easter. Luckily, the back up power supply -- emergency diesel generators -- functioned as designed. However, the grid has remained problematic ever since, meaning Pilgrim has had to rely on its emergency diesel generators more than once over the past week. (As of Feb. 15, NRC's Current Reactor Status Report still shows Pilgrim as shutdown -- but recently shutdown reactor cores still need cooling, as shown by the meltdowns at Fukushima Daiichi.)

While Pilgrim's diesels have worked, thus far, this is far from always the case. Shortly after the beginning of the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe, U.S. Representative Ed Markey (D-MA), Ranking Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, documented that 74 cases of emergency diesel generator failure had occurred at U.S. nuclear power plants in just the preceding decade or so.

In fact, as reported by AP, the power grid has failed more than once since Winter Storm Nemo struck, throwing Pilgrim back onto its back up emergency diesel generators. As of Feb. 14th, NRC's Power Reactor Status Report shows Pilgrim as still shutdown.

Beyond Nuclear's Freeze Our Fukushimas pamphlet and campaign has long warned that, whatever the cause of "station blackout" (whether an earthquake and tsunami as in Japan two years ago, or a severe blizzard disrupting the power grid combined with emergency diesel failure), General Electric Mark I Boiling Water Reactors (like Fukushima Daiichi Units 1-4, or Pilgrim), with their too small and too weak containment structures, could plunge quickly into meltdown mode, resulting in catastrophic radioactivity releases.

And, although Pilgrim is supposed to begin removing some fraction of its irradiated nuclear fuel from its storage pool, currently all the high-level radioactive waste ever generated there is still housed in this vulnerable location, several stories up in the air, outside of any primary radiological containment structure. To make matters worse, NRC does not even require emergency back up power connections to waste pool cooling water circulation pumps. When the grid goes down, the pool begins to heat up. After a number of days, enough water could boil away that the irradiated fuel would be exposed to air, allowing it to quickly overheat to the point of ingniting the zirconium fuel rod cladding, resulting in a radioactive waste fire and potentially catastrophic radioactivity release to the atmosphere. The ongoing lack of access to the off-site electric grid at Pilgrim is cause for concern, given its packed high-level radioactive waste storage pool.

On March 11th, the second anniversary of the beginning of the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe, Beyond Nuclear's Paul Gunter will be in Plymouth on behalf of 19 local residents who engaged in non-violent civil resistance against Pilgrim. Paul will testify before a court of law as to the legitimacy of the activists' "necessity defense," that trespassing onto Entergy property in an attempt to shutdown Pilgrim was justified, given the atomic reactor's risks to Cape Cod downwinders.

Vermont Yankee (VY)

Entergy Nuclear has argued it is above state law in Vermont. In a proceeding before the State of Vermont Public Service Board (PSB), Entergy has taken the U.S. Supreme Court's 1983 ruling in PG&E -- that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has sole jurisdiction over radiological safety matters -- and is now attempting to extend that to other realms, such as Vermont's purview over tourism and recreation in the Green Mountain State. However, this flies in the face of settled law under PG&E, in which the Supreme Court recognized the retention of state government authority over such matters as economics, other environmental impacts besides radiological safety (such as thermal water discharges into surface waters), electricity reliability, and future energy planning.

As reported in last week's Beyond Nuclear weekly email bulletin, the Vermont Public Service Department, on behalf of Governor Peter Shumlin, has argued before the PSB that Entergy's many broken promises to the state justify a rejection of a Certificate of Public Good (CPG) for Entergy to operate Vermont Yankee any longer. A decade ago, Entergy agreed it would shutdown VY if it failed to secure a renewed CPG from the PSB. The PSB is still taking public comments re: its VY CPG proceeding, even from persons residing outside Vermont. The Vermont Yankee Decommissioning Alliance and Citizens Awareness Network have prepared sample comments you can use to fashion your own. Any information about Entergy's misbehavior elsewhere in the U.S. could prove valuable to the PSB in rendering its decision. (The sample comments, and PSB contact info., is provided at the link above.)

Green Mountain State political leaders have long referred publicly to Entergy as a "rogue corporation," after Entergy officials lied under oath to Vermont officials regarding underground pipes leaking radioactivity into soil, groundwater, and the Connecticut River at VY. Richard Watts' book Public Meltdown: The Story of Vermont Yankee has documented how those official lies under oath utterly changed Entergy's destiny in the Green Mountain State.

In addition, Entergy's brand new CEO, Leo P. Denault, has acknowledged what UBS has reported for many weeks now -- that its merchant atomic reactors are suffering serious financial woes. In fact, UBS has advised that Entergy's VY, as well as FitzPatrick in upstate NY, and perhaps even Pilgrim, could well shutdown permanently in 2013, all of which would be a boon to Entergy shareholders. Disturbiningly, Denault admitted that the "economic challenges" are partially due to "the investment required to maintain the safety and integrity of the plants." (emphasis added) (Although Entergy has owned the Palisades atomic reactor since 2007, it has never dealt with its worst embrittled reactor pressure vessel in the U.S., has not replaced its corroded reactor lid, has not replaced its degraded steam generators (for the second time in the plant's history), and has not upgraded fire safeguards -- all identified by the previous owner Consumers Energy as needing to happen. This, while Entergy's previous CEO, J. Wayne Leonard, made a personal fortune of $20 million or more per year.)

Finally, the State of Vermont is considering legislation which would strengthen requirements for decommissioning and clean up once VY is finally shutdown for good. Incredibly, Entergy has not put one dime into VY's decommissioning fund since taking over in 2002. (Again, at Palisades in Michigan, the decommissioning fund was actually raided -- to the tune of $316 million -- when the reactor was sold from Consumers Energy to Entergy in 2007.)


Entergy Watch: Vermont Yankee argues it is simply "above the law" in the State of Vermont

Entergy Nuclear's latest argument before the State of Vermont Public Service Board -- regarding Vermont Yankee atomic reactor's ongoing operation -- beggars belief. Entergy argues it is above State of Vermont law, even though it agreed to abide by State of Vermont law a decade ago. As reported by the Associated Press, Entergy's lawyers and hired experts are now arguing that because radiological safety is exclusively U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission jurisdiction by settled law, the State of Vermont must simply get out of the way -- even though that same U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1983 in the Pacific Gas & Electric case recognized that states retained authority over most other aspects of nucelar power besides radiological safety.

The article reported: '...At Monday's hearing on Entergy's request for a new state permit, company lawyers sought to take that idea of federal pre-emption and run with it, telling the board that it should avoid considering not just the economic impact of a possible nuclear accident, but that the board also should not consider the impact that hosting a nuclear plant might be having on the state's tourism industry.

Burlington lawyer Robert Hemley told the three-member board the only reason the presence of a nuclear plant might harm tourism is if the public develops fears about nuclear safety — a subject Vermont is barred from considering.

"Discussion about tourism is a pre-empted area. ... We feel the entire area is off-limits for this board," Hemley said.

Entergy's push for pre-emption appeared to run counter to an agreement it entered with the state when it bought Vermont Yankee in 2002 from the group of New England utilities that had owned it previously.

Under that memorandum of understanding, Entergy and the state agreed "to waive any claim each may have that federal law pre-empts the jurisdiction of the board" to decide Vermont Yankee's post-2012 future.

Entergy lawyer Sanford Weisburst argued later that the board would be hard-pressed to find a plausible, non-safety reason to deny Vermont Yankee a new permit...'

Entergy Nuclear has named the three commissioners of Vermont's Public Service Board, as well as Governor Peter Shumlin and Attorney General William Sorrell -- by name -- in its lawsuits seeking to overturn Vermont state laws, to which it had previously committed to abide, which now call for Vermont Yankee's permanent shutdown.

The Vermont Yankee Decommissioning Alliance and Citizens Awareness Network have called for grassroots comments to bolster the Vermont Public Service Board's resolve against issuing a renewed Certificate of Public Good to Entergy. Without it, Vermont Yankee's continued operation is illegal under State of Vermont law.

Vermont Digger has reported on this story. Frances Crowe, a nonagenarian member of the Shut It Down! Affinity Group, responded to the article by stating: "Every day that plant operates it is endangering the health and safety
of the people in Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Shut it down and start the clean up and put the spent fuel rods in dry caskets and bury them deep underground." Shut It Down! has has organized some two-dozen civil resistance direct actions protesting against Vermont Yankee. When asked by AP on March 22, 2012 -- amidst 1,500 protestors gathered on the first day of VY's NRC-rubberstamped 20-year license extension -- how many times she had been arrested protesting VY, Frances Crowe answered "Not enough!"


Bonnie Raitt's "Slipstream" wins the GRAMMY for Best Americana Album!

Bonnie Raitt accepts Best Americana Album at last night's Grammy AwardsLong-time anti-nuclear activist and Beyond Nuclear supporter Bonnie Raitt just entered double-digit Grammy territory with her Best Americana Album at last night's Grammy Awards! Bonnie is a founding member of Musicians United for Safe Energy (MUSE), which played Madison Square Garden and Battery Park in New York City in 1979 in the aftermath of the Three Mile Island meltdown in 1979, and the Bay Area last summer in response to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe, in partnership with the Guacamole Fund. Beyond Nuclear has had the privilege and honor of having information tables at many a Bonnie Raitt concert across the U.S. over the years!