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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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Tuesday
May132014

"Senators Markey, Boxer and Sanders Introduce Legislation to Increase Safety at Nuclear Plants"

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairwoman of the Environment and Public Works CommitteeU.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA, photo at left), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA) introduced three bills today aimed at improving the safety and security of decommissioning reactors and the storage of spent nuclear fuel at nuclear plants across the nation. 

The three bills address safety of spent fuel storage and decommissioning plans. They are entitled: Safe and Secure Decommissioning Act of 2014; Nuclear Plant Decommissioning Act of 2014 (see the bill, Sen. Sanders' press release, and a one-page summary); Dry Cask Storage Act of 2014. To learn more, see the press release at Sen. Markey's website.

The EPW Committee will hold and webcast a hearing entitled “Nuclear Reactor Decommissioning: Stakeholder Views” on Wed., May 14th, at 10 AM Eastern. Witnesses include CA and VT officials, and spokespeople from NRDC and NEI.

Please urge your two U.S. Senators to support these three bills. You can contact your Senators via the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121.

Monday
May122014

Updated "Southeast MI in the Radioactive Cross Hairs" backgrounder

At the urging of environmental allies in southeast Michigan, Beyond Nuclear in March 2012 prepared a backgrounder on reactor, radioactive waste, and other nuclear risks in the region. The backgrounder has been updated for use at a presentation by Beyond Nuclear's Radioactive Waste Watchdog, Kevin Kamps, to be held at the Huron Valley Sierra Club Chapter meeting in Ann Arbor, MI on May 20th. The backgrounder complements the "Great Lakes Region Nuclear Hot Spots" map, prepared by Anna Tilman at International Coalition of Concern for Public Health last year.

Friday
May092014

NRC grants years-long delays on urgent "Fukushima lessons learned" earthquake risk safety upgrades

In a press release entitled "NRC Prioritizes Detailed Earthquake Risk Analysis For Central and Eastern U.S. Reactors," the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has given nuclear utilities an extraordinarily long period of time to upgrade safety in light of the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe.

NRC speaks of having "set a priority list for 21 of 59 nuclear power plant sites in the central and eastern United States to conduct in-depth analyses of the plants’ updated earthquake risk," in recognition that seismic hazards could well be greater than the atomic reactors were originally designed and built to withstand.

And what are NRC's deadlines for the nuclear utilities to take "Fukushima lessons learned" urgent action by? Preliminary analysis, to determine if reinforcements to systems, structures, or components may be needed, is not due till Dec. 31, 2014 -- nearly four years after the Fukushima catastrophe began. If any such upgrades are needed, they need not be installed until Dec. 31, 2016 -- nearly six years post-Fukushima.

Perhaps more astounding, the "detailed," "in-depth risk" analyses described in the press release headline are not due until June 30, 2017 (over six years post-Fukushima) for 10 "priority" sites, and not till June 30, 2019 (more than eight years post-Fukushima) for another 11 "priority" sites.

At another 23 sites, NRC is still yet to decide whether or not they need to do the "in-depth risk analysis." If NRC decides they do, they have until Dec. 31, 2020 (almost a decade post-Fukushima) to get it done.

Apparently, we must simply hope earthquakes stronger than originally designed and constructed against many decades ago won't strike before NRC requires these actions to be taken.

Friday
May092014

Entergy's Palisades spills 70 gallons of oil on the edge of Lake Michigan

NRC file photo of Entergy's Palisades atomic reactor, as well as the Great Lake and surrounding countryside it puts at riskDespite the industry's claim that nuclear power is "clean energy," Entergy's Palisades atomic reactor has just spilled "approximately 70 gallons" of oil onto the ground, adjacent to the waters of Lake Michigan. As a headwaters for the Great Lakes, Lake Michigan supplies drinking water to 40 million people in eight U.S. states, two Canadian provinces, and a large number of Native American First Nations.

The Kalamazoo Gazette has reported on this oil leak. This latest incident at Palisades was made public by an Event Notification posted at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's website.

The oil spill comes a year and two days after Palisades leaked 82.1 gallons of radioactive water directly into Lake Michigan. The radioactive spill prompted a protest vigil at Palisades' front entrace, organized by Beyond Nuclear and local concerned citizens' groups, after U.S. Congressman Fred Upton (R-MI), Chair of the powerful House Committee on Energy and Commerce (whose district "hosts" Palisades), as well as NRC Commissioner Svinicki, failed to even acknowledge requests for meetings after their hastily arranged emergency tour of the problem-plagued plant.

Palisades' oil spill also comes less than two months after British Petroleum spilled 1,638 gallons of Canadian tar sands crude oil into Lake Michigan at its refinery in Whiting, IN, and less than four years after the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history, upstream of Lake Michigan: 1.4 million gallons of Canadian tar sands crude, from Enbridge's Line 6B oil pipeline, into the Kalamazoo River at Marshall, MI. To protect irreplacable surface waters like Lake Michigan, Beyond Nuclear stands in solidarity with anti-dirty energy allies against oil pipelines.

The very title of a May 7, 2014 U.S. Department of Transportation Inspector General report shows there is much to be concerned about: PHMSA's State Pipeline Safety Program Lacks Effective Management and Oversight. Before becoming PHMSA's Administrator, Cynthia L. Quaterman, she had represented oil companies, including Enbridge, as a legal counsel.

There were widespread calls for PHMSA Administrator Quaterman to block a permit for Bruce Nuclear to ship, by boat, radioactive steam generators on the Great Lakes, but she did not do so. However, it took Mohawk First Nation pledges to block the boats on the Saint Lawrence River before Bruce Nuclear stopped pushing the proposal.

Friday
May022014

"Senators to NRC: Do Not Exempt Decommissioning Nuclear Reactors from Emergency Response and Security Measures"

U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, Chairwoman, Environment and Public Works CommitteeFive Democratic U.S. Senators have written U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Chairwoman Allison Macfarlane, uring that NRC's rubberstamp of exemptions from emergency preparedness and security requirements at permanently shutdown nuclear power plants be stopped.

The five Senators are: Barbara Boxer (D-CA); Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY); Edward J. Markey (D-MA); Patrick Leahy (D-VT); Bernard Sanders (D-VT). Boxer (photo, above left) is Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, with oversight on NRC and nuclear power issues; Gillibrand, Markey, and Sanders also serve on the EPW Committee.

Their letter points out that nuclear utilities have always received requested exemptions, within just a year or two of reactor shutdowns, from NRC, at permanently shutdown nuclear power plants. This, despite the fact that the nuclear plants still have large amounts of irradiated nuclear fuel stored in pools, vulnerable to catastrophic releases of hazardous radioactivity, such as due to natural disasters, terrorist attacks, heavy load drops, etc.

The Senators list NRC's "perfect record" of such regulatory relaxation at: Humboldt Bay, CA; LaCrosse, WI; Fort St. Vrain, CO; Rancho Seco, CA; Yankee Rowe, MA; Trojan, OR; Haddam Neck, CT; Maine Yankee; Big Rock Point, MI; and Zion, IL.

Most ironically, NRC consistently stands by its indefensible claim that high-level radioactive waste storage is safe, sound, and secure, and will remain so for at least 60 years post-reactor shutdown, by citing the existence of emergency preparedness and security regulations. Yet, it is these very regulations that NRC consistently exempts shutdown nuclear plants from having to meet!

The Senators have urged NRC chief Macfarlane to not grant such requested exemptions at the five atomic reactors permanently shutdown in 2013 (Crystal River, FL; Kewaunee, WI; San Onofre 2 & 3, CA) or about to be shutdown by the end of 2014 (Vermont Yankee).

On April 10, Beyond Nuclear's Reactor Oversight Project Director, Paul Gunter, urged NRC to enforce emergency preparedness and security regulations at decommissioning nuclear power plant sites, due to the potentially catastrophic risks associated with the irradiated nuclear fuel still stored there.