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.



SAMA contention defended, resistance to Davis-Besse license extension continues

Environmental coalition attorney Terry Lodge of Toledo speaks at an August 9th press conference at Oak Harbor High School in Ohio, prior to an NRC meeting about Davis-Besse's severely cracked shield buildingOn Sept. 14th, environmental coalition attorney, Toledo-based Terry Lodge (photo, left), filed a rebuttal against FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company's (FENOC) Motion for Summary Dismissal (MSD) of an intervention contention challenging the Davis-Besse atomic reactor's Severe Accident Mitigation Alernatives (SAMA) analyses.

FENOC recently admitted that it had made five major errors in its original SAMA analyses, including getting wind directions 180 degrees wrong; undervaluing Ohio farmland and urban property values; and underestimating the amount of hazardous radioactivity that could escape into the environment during a meltdown at Davis-Besse, as well as the land area that could become contaminated.

The heart of the environmental coalition's defense of its contention involves the severe cracking of Davis-Besse's outer concrete, steel reinforced shield building, as well as significant corrosion of its inner steel containment vessel. The environmental Intervenors charge that FENOC's SAMA analyses are fatally flawed, for they ignore the questionable structural integrity of Davis-Besse's containment structures, which could fail under even small loads, such as mild earthquakes, or meltdown conditions (high temperatures and pressures, which the shield building was never even designed to withstand when brand new, let alone severely cracked).

The ASLB has indicated it will hold oral argument pre-hearings in the vicinity of Davis-Besse in early November, at which the environmental coalition will defend not only its SAMA contention, but also its shield building cracking contention. More.


Palisades a catastrophe waiting to happen, must be shutdown before it melts down

Photo Credit: Steve Carmody/Michigan RadioA strong turn out of concerned local residents and representatives of environmental groups, including Beyond Nuclear, calling for the shutdown of Entergy's Palisades atomic reactor in southwest Michigan, has generated extensive local media coverage. In the photo at left, longtime grassroots anti-nuclear watchdog Catharine Sugas asks the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) “If you can’t shut down a plant that’s dangerous…what are you? How can you keep a plant going that’s obviously dangerous?”


Concerned local residents and environmental groups express concerns to NRC Chair Macfarlane about leaks & coverups at Palisades

The area of the control room at Palisades where, on Sept. 25, 2011, a short circuit nearly electrocuted a worker, cutting off 50% of control room power, which plunged Palisades into near-disaster, testing age-degraded systems, structures, and components to the breaking point. Photo taken by Mark Bugnaski, Kalamazoo GazetteA coalition of concerned local residents, as well as representatives of environmental groups, has responded to a letter sent to them on September 4th by U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Chairwoman, Allison Macfarlane. The exchange centers on a leak of radioactive and acidic water above, around, and even into the control room at the problem-plagued Palisades atomic reactor in Covert, Michigan on the Lake Michigan shoreline. Chairwoman Macfarlane stated that the NRC Staff had determined that the leak was not significant enough for the NRC Chair and Commissioners, as well as the general public, to be notified about it. The coalition begged to differ.

Chairwoman Macfarlane also stated that NRC's approval of Palisades' 20 year license extension requires Entergy to manage aging of safety significant systems, structures, and components. The coalition responded that Entergy is utterly failing at that, as are NRC's own oversight and inspections, for Palisades has suffered a large number of sudden age-related break downs, some of "substantial significance to safety," in NRC's own words (see photo, above left). More.


NRC's Nuke Waste Confidence EIS will delay reactor licenses for at least two years!

Cover of Beyond Nuclear's pamphlet "A Mountain of Radioactive Waste 70 Years High"The five Commissioners who direct the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) have just ordered NRC Staff to carry out an expedited, two-year long Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process to revise the agency's Nuclear Waste Confidence Decision (NWCD) and Rule. Critics have charged the NWCD is a confidence game, which for decades has prevented environmental opponents of new reactor construction/operation licenses, as well as old reactor license extensions, from raising high-level radioactive waste generation/storage concerns during NRC licensing proceedings, or even in the federal courts. This EIS process and NWCD revision will thus delay any final NRC approval for new reactor construction/operation licenses, or old reactor license extensions, for at least two years.

The "Mountain of Radioactive Waste 70 Years High" conference in Chicago Dec. 1-3 will serve as a launch pad for generating public comments to NRC on this EIS, as well as to push back against the nuclear establishment's backlash proposals to begin "Mobile Chernobyl" irradiated nuclear fuel shipments by road, rail, and waterway to "consolidated interim storage." See Beyond Nuclear's pamphlet on high-level radioactive waste (cover reproduced at left). More.


NRC: loss of offsite power at Catawba Unit 1 last April was potentially of substantial significance to safety

NRC file photo of Catawba nuclear power plant in South CarolinaThe U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has just announced that on Sept. 11th, it will conduct a post-incident review with Duke Nuclear to discuss an April 2012 loss of off-site power at Catawba Unit 1 atomic reactor in South Carolina (picture, left). NRC's preliminary review has determined that the incident may be designated a "yellow finding" (in NRC's green, white, yellow, red system of increasingly significant incidents), meaning "of substantial significance to safety." Off-site power is the primary power source for running safety and cooling systems.

While General Electric Mark Is (such as the Fukushima Daiichi Units 1 to 4) and IIs are Boiling Water Reactors with too small, too weak "pressure suppression" containments, ice condenser containments, as at Catawba Unit 1, are a form of "pressure suppression" containment -- again too small and too weak -- at a Pressurized Water Reactor design. The ice condeners in the U.S. include two units at Catawba in SC, two units at McGuire in NC, two units at Sequoyah in TN, one unit at Watts Bar in TN, and two units at Cook in MI.

Ice condensers were originally desiged for floating atomic reactors on barges, where the containment, of necessity, would have to be smaller and lighter, so it wouldn't sink under its own weight. Once licensed by NRC or its predecessor, the Atomic Energy Commission, however, nuclear utilities took advantage of the certified reactor design, by building them on land, in order to save money on the containment structure. 

Thanks to revelations by Tennessee Valley Authority whistleblower Curtis Overall, and nuclear safety advocacy by David Lochbaum at Union of Concerned Scientists, the Cook ice condensers in southwest Michigan were shutdown from 1997 to 2000 for major safety violations, resulting in one of the biggest fines in NRC history up to that point.