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.



Where is America’s cyberdefense plan?

The Empire State Building towers over the skyline of a blackout-darkened New York City just before dawn. (George Widman/Associated Press)That is the online title of an op-ed by Ted Koppel appearing in the Washington Post (the hardcopy headline reads "Before the cyber-blackout"). Koppel, best known for hosting the ABC news program “Nightline” from 1980 to 2005, is the author of the new book, Lights Out: A Cyberattack, a Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath.

The op-ed raises the specter of a power outage lasting not hours, or days, but weeks, or months, due to a coordinated cyber-attack on the vulnerable U.S. electricity grid.

But the op-ed does not address what this would mean at the 100 still operating atomic reactors across the country, and even at the numerous atomic reactors permanently shutdown. Even if operating atomic reactors were able to power down and shutdown safely during a power outage, their thermally hot cores would still have to be cooled for several days, or longer, before cold shutdown was reached, or else risk melting down. Although high-level radioactive waste storage pools would have a longer fuse -- days or even weeks before boiling would expose irradiated nuclear fuel to air, and risk a catastrophic fire -- the pools are not even required to be connected to emergency diesel generators, as reactors are. More.


Edison Never Told Federal Regulators Of San Onofre Equipment Design Flaw

Surfers pass in front of the San Onofre nuclear power plant, June 7, 2013. Credit: Associated Press.As reported by KPBS, a watchdog has called for a federal invetigation into Southern CA Edison's having hidden from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), at a 2006 meeting, its knowledge of flaws in the San Onofre Unit 2 & 3 replacement steam generators. A radioactive steam leak from a failed steam generator tube in January 2012 ultimately led to the permanent shutdown of the two reactors in June 2013. Incredibly, Southern California Edison is seeking to charge ratepayers billions of dollars extra for its "lost profits" and other costs related the permanent shutdown, even though it already charged them for the replacement steam generators, that it knew were defective nine years ago!


NRC grants TVA Watts Bar Unit 2 a 40-year operating license 43-years later

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced the issuance of a 40-year operating license 43 years after the Tennessee Valley Authority first made application for the federal license in January 1973.  The Westinghouse Pressurized Water Reactor and Ice Condenser Containment is another 1960’s vintage technology originally conceptualized but abandoned as floating nuclear power plants in the coastal waters off New Jersey and the Gulf of Mexico. The concept required such a thin concrete containment structure to reduce weight on the floating platform that the controversial system was nicknamed “the eggshell containment.” Watts Bar 2 becomes the 10th PWR to operate on land with the controversial ice condenser design licensed to operate in the United States; Catawba 1 & 2 (NC), Cook 1 & 2 (MI), McGuire 1 & 2 (NC), Sequoyah 1 & 2 (TN) and Watts Bar 1 (TN).

The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy authors Sarah Barzack and Don Safer have illuminated the Watts Bar 2 licensing fiasco in a revealing issue of The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists.



Beyond Nuclear on Solartopia radio show: DYING NUKES THAT TERRIFY US ALL

Solartopia author and radio show host Harvey WassermanBeyond Nuclear's reactor oversight project director, Paul Gunter, and radioactive waste watchdog, Kevin Kamps, joined with Don't Waste Michigan's Michael Keegan on Harvey Wasserman's (photo, left) Solartopia radio show (named after the title of his book) on the Progressive Radio Network. Listen to the audio recording.

(Please note, there may be a minute or two of echo/feedback midway through the show -- just forward through that part.)

Here is Wasserman's summary:

We visit DYING NUKES THAT TERRIFY US ALL with MICHAEL KEEGAN of Don’t Waste Michigan and PAUL GUNTER and KEVIN KAMPS of Beyond Nuclear.

The debate over atomic energy is over.  FUKUSHIMA has shown the world that nuke reactors will explode and destroy whole sections of a country while contaminating oceans.  Germany’s ENERGIEWIND is showing that the transition to 100% renewables can be done quickly, cleanly and profitably.

But we’re left in the US with 99 dying nukes that truly terrify us all.  Starting in Michigan, at Monroe, we deal with Fermi Unit I, which nearly exploded in 1966;  Fermi 2 which is now falling apart; and Fermi 3, which Detroit Edison wants to build at massive ratepayer expense.

We then shift to the truly horrifying Davis-Besse reactor near Toledo, which operated for years with a massive hole in its head, and which has a shield building that’s literally crumbling.  It’s owner wants a $3 billion public bailout to keep endangering all of the Great Lakes region.

We also visit Pilgrim near Boston, which is officially in violation of both NRC production standards and NRC safety standards.  Paul tells that October 10 we will hear a major announcement from Energy, which owns this dying nuke.

Over the coming weeks we will “tour” the national fleet of reactors that need to shut ASAP.  Let’s hope Pilgrim will now lead the way to the end of this insane industry!!!


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.

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