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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.

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Friday
Mar022012

"Demonic" reality of Fukushima, versus absurdity of NRC

NRC file photo of Peach Bottom 2 & 3, PennsylvaniaWhile top level Japanese government officials admit that they feared a "demonic chain reactor" of atomic reactor meltdowns not only at Fukushima Daiichi, but also at Fukushima Daini and Tokai nuclear power plants, which would have led to an evacuation of Tokyo and perhaps its permanent loss, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's SOARCA report absurdly claims that a reactor meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi identically designed Peach Bottom Units 2 and 3 in Pennsylvania, surrounded by several other nuclear power plants, would cause few to no casualties. Read more.

Friday
Mar022012

Davis-Besse blames Blizzard of '78 for containment cracks, but critics charge that's merely a "snow job of convenience"

U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH)The long awaited First Energy Nuclear Operating Company (FENOC) "root cause analysis" on extensive cracking of the Davis-Besse concrete containment shield building was published on Feb. 28th. Astoundingly, the nuclear utility blames a severe blizzard in January 1978, and the fact that it failed to apply weatherproofing to the exterior of its containment. Asked why FENOC and its predecessors had failed to apply sealant from 1971 (when the shield building was first constructed) and 2012, FENOC spokeswoman Jennifer Young said simply it had not been required. When asked why other safety-significant concrete structures on site had been sealed, Young said their concrete exteriors appeared splotchy, so a coating was applied for cosmetic purposes.

The Toledo Blade quoted U.S. Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH, pictured left) and Don't Waste Michigan's Michael Keegan:

"Every homeowner knows you paint a house not just for decoration, but to protect it from the elements," Mr. Kucinich said, repeating his assertion that the plant should be shut down until the shield building's strength is thoroughly assessed.

And Michael Keegan, a representative of Don't Waste Michigan -- one of several anti-nuclear organizations fighting FirstEnergy's petition for a 20-year license renewal after Davis-Besse's initial operating permit expires in five years -- called the Blizzard of 1978 explanation a "snow job of convenience."

"While it may be true that the extreme weather damaged the concrete, what other assaults have occurred since that time?" he asked. "How is it that [FirstEnergy] can suggest that they'll seal it now, and the damage will be arrested? The damage goes down to the rebar and is structural."

Kucinich has long watchdogged Davis-Besse. His assertive questioning of FENOC and NRC, his revelations to the public, and his success at winning an NRC public meeting on Jan. 5th -- with the backing of NRC Chairman Greg Jaczko -- have been the main sources of information about the significance of the cracking since it was first revealed in October. Based on this information, Beyond Nuclear and Don't Waste Michigan, allied with Citizens Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario and the Green Party of Ohio, filed a cracked containment contention on Jan. 10th against Davis-Besse's proposed 20 year license extension, which it defended on Feb. 14th.

Kucinich's  Feb. 8th revelation that the outer steel reinforcement rebar of the concrete containment shield building is now considered no longer structurally functional due to the severe, extensive cracking led to the environmental coalition, represented by Toledo attorney Terry Lodge, filing a supplement to its contention on Feb. 27th.

The Port Clinton News Herald also reported on this story, and the Toledo Blade's Tom Henry editorialized:

"Even if the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission accepts FirstEnergy Corp.'s explanation of the cracks in the outer containment shield of its Davis-Besse nuclear power plant, the agency must look more closely at the utility's request to extend the plant's operating license...

Whether or not Davis-Besse's cracks amount only to engineering artifacts, they suggest a larger problem with due diligence. The NRC should investigate concrete industry standards and codes to determine whether Davis-Besse complies with them. The commission also needs to review critically the plant's safety analysis report.

The NRC must drive home a point it has made to FirstEnergy before: Minimal compliance with nuclear industry standards is not good enough -- especially at a plant the utility wants to operate for another two decades."

Monday
Feb272012

Environmental coalition supplements Davis-Besse cracked containment contention: Rep. Kucinich reveals outer rebar no longer functional

U.S. Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) has long watchdogged the Davis-Besse atomic reactor near ToledoThe environmental coalition opposing the Davis-Besse atomic reactor's 20 year license extension (Beyond Nuclear, Citizens Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario, Don't Waste Michigan, and the Green Party of Ohio) has filed a supplement to its cracked containment contention. In a motion filed with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Atomic Safety and License Board (ASLB) today, the coalition cited a Feb. 8th revelation by the office of U.S. Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-OH, pictured at left), which broke the news to the public that the NRC considers the outer rebar steel reinforcement layer in the Davis-Besse atomic reactor to have lost its functional effectiveness due to the extensive cracking. Despite this, NRC approved Davis-Besse's restart in early December 2011. The ASLB plans oral pre-hearings near Davis-Besse in the weeks ahead on the cracked containment contention. A copy of today's filing, with the Kucinich Feb. 8th media release, as well as an NRC inspection report dated Jan. 31st, is posted here. The NRC inspection report provides further detail on structural cracking in the upper 20 feet of the containment building. The coalition published a media release on today's filing, posted here.

Saturday
Feb252012

NRC inspection report reveals more problems at Davis-Besse in aftermath of cracked containment

A U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) inspection report dated Jan. 31, 2012, reveals numerous problems at FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Corpoation's (FENOC) problem-plagued Davis-Besse atomic reactor near Toledo, Ohio on the Lake Erie shoreline. Incredibly, despite its infamy for having to replace its reactor vessel head twice in one decade, FENOC still resisted inspecting its third, newest lid for potential defects, until NRC forced it to. No defects were found, but had there been any, FENOC would have not known prior to installation. (FENOC had previously installed a new lid at its Beaver Valley nuclear power plant suspected of being potentially defective.)

In addition, despite the controversy over its recently revealed concrete containment building cracks, FENOC nearly installed corroded and brittle rebar into its patch on the shield building after the vessel head swap. NRC inspectors prevented FENOC from cementing the bad rebar in place.

A number of other problems came to light in the inspetion report, including: significant deterioration of the intake/discharge canal into Lake Erie, essential for reactor cooling during routine operations but especially during accident conditions; an un-licensed operator manipulating control rods in the operating reactor core; and a worker who damaged safety-significant equipment by climbing up it, rather than using a ladder, to inspect an elevated valve.

Saturday
Feb252012

Beyond Nuclear op-ed in run up to NRC public meeting at Palisades

The Kalamazoo Gazette in southwest Michigan has published a "Viewpoint" op-ed by Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps, written in response to Gazette editorial applauding a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commissionannouncement of enhanced inspections in the aftermath of a major safety downgrade at Entergy's Palisades atomic reactor on the Lake Michigan shoreline. Kevin warned that NRC's repeated weakenings of its safety regulations over the course of decades, and its rubberstamp of a 20 year license extension at the dangerously deteriorated 40+ year old reactor, is the only reason Palisades is still operating.

NRC will hold a public meeting near Palisades on Wed., Feb. 29 from 6 to 8:30 p.m. EST to discuss a litany of recent serious incidents at the reactor. Beyond Nuclear urges concerned citizens to attend the meeting in person, or by calling into the toll-free phone number.