Nuclear Reactors

The nuclear industry is more than 50 years old. Its history is replete with a colossal financial disaster and a multitude of near-misses and catastrophic accidents like Three Mile Island and Chornobyl. Beyond Nuclear works to expose the risks and dangers posed by an aging and deteriorating reactor industry and the unproven designs being proposed for new construction.



Simultaneous scrams at risky reactors on both sides of Michigan

Michigan's still operating atomic reactors include American Electric Power's two units at D.C Cook in Bridgman, Entergy's single unit at Palisades in Covert, and Detroit Edison's Fermi Unit 2 in Monroe County. Consumers Energy's Big Rock Point reactor in Charlevoix was permanently closed in 1997.As reported by a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) event report, "At 2305 EDT on September 13, 2015, a manual scram was initiated in response to a loss of all Turbine Building Closed Cooling Water (TBCCW)" at Detroit Edison's Fermi 2 atomic reactor in Monroe County, MI, on the Lake Erie shore.

Two updates to the NRC event report the next day revealed that the "ongoing event" had resulted in the reportable actuation of two safety systems: "Operators were manually controlling Reactor Pressure Vessel (RPV) level and pressure with Reactor Core Isolation Cooling (RCIC) and Safety Relief Valves (SRV)."

Fermi 2 is the largest General Electric Mark I Boiling Water Reactor in the world. It is a super-sized version of Fukushima Daiichi -- nearly as big as Units 1 and 2 at the devastated Japanese nuclear power plant put together.

Just five days earlier, the NRC Commission unanimously voted to overrule its own Atomic Safety and Licensning Board Panel, and rejected environmental groups' hard-won hearing in opposition to Fermi 2's 20-year license extension.

Beyond Nuclear, along with Citizens Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario and Don't Waste MI, represented by Toledo attorney Terry Lodge, had won a hearing on the safety risks of Fermi 2 and the proposed new Fermi 3 atomic reactor sharing a common transmission line corridor. This risks a common mode failure, whether due to natural disaster, terrorist attack, etc. Combined with loss of emergency diesel generators -- for which Fermi 2 has an infamous track record -- the two unit complex could be plunged into Station Black Out, leaving both reactors, and both high-level radioactive waste storage pools, vulnerable to meltdowns and fires, respectively.

The full NRC Commission thus effectively rubber-stamped Fermi 2's operation till 2045 -- all that's left is the paperwork. But ironically enough, instead of being good to go for 30 more years, Fermi 2 instead suffered a breakdown, just a week later!

Then, just over 48 hours after the Fermi 2 unplanned shutdown, a couple hundred miles to the west, Entergy's Palisades atomic reactor scrammed, at 1:17am on Sept. 16. The NRC event report states "Initial investigation into the cause of the turbine trip appears to be from a DEH [Digital Electro-Hydraulic] power supply failure."

Palisades is located in Covert, MI, on the Lake Michigan shoreline.

NBC 5 Chicago investigative reporter Chris Coffey quoted Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps about the incident: 

However, critics have said Palisades is “old” and “falling apart.”

“These unplanned shutdowns and sudden “reactor trips” are like slamming the brakes in your jalopy of a car—not good for the integrity of systems, structures, and components going forward,” said Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear.

Beyond Nuclear, along with Don't Waste MI, MI Safe Energy Future, and Nuclear Energy Information Service of Chicago, has dueling appeals with Entergy Nuclear, before the full NRC Commission, regarding age-related degradation of Palisades' reactor pressure vessel (RPV). Palisades' RPV is the worst neutron-embrittled in the U.S., at risk of pressurized thermal shock fracture, Loss-of-Coolant-Accident, core meltdown, and catastrophic release of hazardous radioactivity.

Given that around 90% of the electricity generated at American Electric Power's two unit Cook nuclear power plant in Bridgman is exported out of the state, and the fact that the lights stayed on despite both Palisades and Fermi 2 being down, Michiganders may begin to wonder: why are these risky reactors still operating?!

That question is even more perplexing, considering the 745 gigawatts of potential offshore wind electricity on the Great Lakes, over 300 gigawatts of which is directly accessible by the Great Lakes State itself (Michigan's four operating reactors generate a grand total of just over 4 gigawatts-electric). And with none other than Fermi nuclear power plant's owner, Detroit Edison, successfully deploying Michigan's largest ever solar PV array, with much bigger plans in the works, it is becoming more and more clear that nuclear power's days are numbered. The future is renewables and efficiency.


Cue up the bailout plea: Entergy might close aging FitzPatrick nuclear plant in New York State

Entergy's FitzPatrick atomic reactor (NRC file photo).The subject line above is Scott Stapf of the Hasting Group's Tweet pointing to an article at The dirty, age-degraded, dangerous, expensive, uncompetitive Fukushima Daiichi twin design (a General Electric Mark I Boiling Water Reactor) on the Lake Ontario shore in upstate NY (see photo), couldn't close a moment too soon!


"Pilgrim nuclear station one step from shutdown: NRC downgrades plant to bottom of performance list"

As reported by Christine Legere at the Cape Cod Times, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has ranked Entergy's Pilgrim atomic reactor in Plymouth, MA near Boston as tied for the worst performing in the country.

It is tied for worst performing with another Entergy nuclear power plant, Arkansas Nuclear One (ANO). A young worker was killed, and eight others injured, on an early Easter Sunday morning in 2013, when a 600-ton piece of equipment was accidentally dropped on them.

The article reports:

...Diane Turco, Harwich resident and co-founder of the anti-Pilgrim group Cape Downwinders, called the federal letter to Entergy good news. “The NRC has finally sent a strong message to Entergy — We are looking at closing Pilgrim as a response to the failures. Finally!” Turco wrote in an email.

Cape Downwinders has planned a rally at the Sagamore Bridge on Labor Day to protest the lack of an evacuation plan in the event of a nuclear accident and to call for the shutdown of the power plant.

...U.S. Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., also issued a statement on Pilgrim’s status. “For decades, I have raised concerns about Pilgrim’s operations, security preparedness, the safety of the surrounding communities in the event of a nuclear accident and the willingness of Entergy to dedicate sufficient resources to run the reactor safely,” Markey wrote.

The senator noted Pilgrim has the same boiling water design as the reactors that had meltdowns in 2011 at Fukushima, Japan, after a tsunami. “NRC must continue this aggressive oversight until Entergy can prove unequivocally that it has dedicated the resources, manpower and training to guarantee the safe and secure operation of this reactor,” Markey wrote.

Attorney General Maura Healey called the downgrade of Pilgrim “a disturbing development" in her written statement. “My primary concern is with the safety and well-being of the residents of Massachusetts, particularly those who live near Pilgrim. Entergy must act swiftly and decisively to correct these issues and restore the public's trust in its ability to safely operate this plant.”

Pilgrim watchdog Mary Lampert, a Duxbury resident and founder of PilgrimWatch, said this latest development was no surprise. “Pilgrim is an antique reactor built when the Beatles sang on Ed Sullivan’s show, and Entergy is unwilling to spend the money for the TLC required. It’s time to retire,” Lampert said...

[See Sen. Markey and MA AG Healey's press statement here.]


"Protests greet FirstEnergy rate request hearings"

Photo compliments of Ohio Sierra Club Nuclear-Free CommitteeJim Provance, Columbus Bureau Chief for the Toledo Blade, has reported on "Protests greet FirstEnergy rate request hearings."

The protest took place at the HQ of PUCO, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, in the state capital, Columbus. It marked the beginning of weeks of formal hearings, where PUCO will consider FirstEnergy's requested ratepayer bailout, including to prop up its dirty, dangerous, expensive, age-degraded, and uncompetitive Davis-Besse atomic reactor near Toledo on the Lake Erie shoreline.

Speakers included Harvey Wasserman of Solartopia fame, Bob Fitrakis of Columbus Free Press, Neil Waggoner of Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign, and Pat Marida of Ohio Sierra Club Nuclear-Free Committee (who posted photos, including the one to the left). More.


"Exelon plans cost cuts, won't rule out layoffs"

As reported by the Chicago Tribune, Illinois-based Exelon Nuclear has warned its employees that layoffs may lie ahead, as five atomic reactors in the state continue to hemorrhage money.

Exelon has been buffeted recently. The Washington, D.C. Public Service Commission (PSC) rejected Exelon's proposed takeover of Mid-Atlantic utility Pepco. The PJM capacity auction left Exelon reactors in three states in the lurch. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan did not give nuclear lobbyists, especially at Exelon, what they wanted. And the Illinois State Legislature went on summer recess on May 31st, without giving Exelon the $1.5 billion bailout it requested, at ratepayer expense, to prop up its uncompetitive reactors.

During testimony under oath before the DC PSC, Exelon Nuclear CEO Chris Crane, who wrote the memo that prompted the Chicago Tribune article above, also indicated that should Exelon takeover Pepco, job cuts at Pepco will follow. Exelon and Pepco have made known they plan to appeal the DC PSC's rejection by the 30-day deadline.