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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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Monday
Jan112010

ESBWR design may soon dwindle to a single proposed new reactor in U.S.

Detroit Edison may be the only nuclear utility in the U.S. to continue standing by the General Electric-Hitachi "Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor" (ESBWR) design if Dominion Nuclear of Virginia abandons it. Dominion is reported to now be considering a new Areva EPR or Westinghouse-Toshiba AP1000 reactor, instead of an ESBWR at its North Anna nuclear power plant in Virginia. Beyond Nuclear has helped lead the environmental coalition effort to block a new ESBWR targeted at Detroit Edison's Fermi nuclear power plant in Monroe, Michigan -- most recently raising quality assurance contentions regarding the ESBWR design and the Fermi 3 new reactor license application. Dominion's cold shoulder would be an especially bad blow to the ESBWR design, given North Anna is the reference reactor for the design -- meaning it was supposed to set precedents for NRC licensing decisions for ESBWRs proposed across the U.S. However, about a year ago, Entergy and other nuclear utility coalition partners in NuStart decided to abandon the ESBWR proposed at River Bend, LA; Entergy also abandoned an ESBWR proposed at Grand Gulf, MS; and Exelon abandoned two ESBWRs targeted at Victoria County Station, TX. This begs the question -- what doesn't Detroit Edison get that these other nuclear utilities do about the problems with the ESBWR design? DOE also seems to understand the ESBWR's problems -- DOE has indicated it will not grant taxpayer-backed loan guarantees to ESBWR proposals at the present time.

Wednesday
Jan062010

Post-mortem on South Texas Project new reactor deal "meltdown"

"Operation:CPS--The mysterious death of a done nuclear deal" by Greg Harmon in the San Antonio CURRENT provides an extensive analysis of the unraveling of the business partnership between the City of San Antonio's municipal utility CPS Energy and NRG Energy/Toshiba. The proposal to build two new Toshiba-Westinghouse "Advanced Boiling Water Reactors" (ABWRs) at the Bay City, Texas site near the Gulf of Mexico suffered a major blow when it was revealed in October that CPS Energy's cost estimate for the project was $4-5 billion too low, something that Dr. Arjun Makhijani and other critics had predicted years earlier, as Harmon reports:

"With CPS on the hook for its 50 percent of the project until a buyer is found or a resolution is negotiated with NRG and NINA, to date there is one clear winner: the opposition — especially the opponents who questioned the project’s cost estimates from the beginning.

In the spring of 2007, NRG had just raised its estimate for the STP expansion from $6 billion to $8 billion to stay in line with Toshiba. But on the steps of City Hall, anti-nuclear forces issued what has turned out to be a prescient warning to the City Council: Costs were likely to cruise at least $4 billion higher— to at least $12 billion and possibly up to $17.5 billion, according to work performed by Arjun Makhijani of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research.

“We want [the City Council] to take their time to look at the real numbers … and to get the right information,” said SEED’s Hadden at the time, who added that it would be the ratepayers of San Antonio who would be stuck with the consequences of bad or manipulated math.

A second analysis later suggested the final figure could even top $20 billion. This soothsaying ability allowed members of Energía Mía and Southwest Workers Union to sing a re-tuned “Deck the Halls,” called the “We Told Ya So Jingle,” outside CPS Energy’s downtown offices this past December: Doctor Arjun Makhijani/ Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha/ He predicted costs arising/ Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha/ City Council didn’t listen/ Ha ha, etc./ See Toshiba’s eyes a’glisten/ Ha ha, etc."

Revealing the deep-rooted flaws in the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Loan Guarantee Program for new atomic reactors, DOE had selected the South Texas Project Units 3 and 4 as  a top candidate for receiving taxpayer-backed loan guarantees before the CPS "meltdown" came to light.

Thanks to Eliza Brown, Clean Energy Advocate at the Sustainable Energy & Economic Development (SEED) Coalition in Austin, Texas for calling this article to our attention.

Saturday
Dec262009

Fermi 3 opponents reveal serious NRC concerns about DTE mismanagement on Quality Assurance

Beyond Nuclear and its environmental coalition allies defended its quality assurance contention against the Fermi 3 new reactor proposal targeted at Monroe, Michigan on Dec. 8th. Beyond Nuclear's contention was based upon a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) "Notice of Violation" issued on Oct. 5th. Expert witness Arnold Gundersen's declaration cited U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission safety staff internal emails raising serious concerns about the lack of quality assurance in the Fermi 3 combined Construction and Operating License Application (COLA). Beyond Nuclear's media release on its latest filing quoted Gundersen, coalition attorney Terry Lodge, as well as Beyond Nuclear Launch Partner Keith Gunter of Livonia, Michigan. Not only does Fermi 3's COLA lack QA, but NRC's Office of Inspector General has questioned the QA competence of NRC's own staff itself. Despite its challenges at enforcing its own QA regulations, NRC staff have raised serious concerns about the QA of the General Electric-Hitachi design itself for the "Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor" proposed at Fermi 3. Beyond Nuclear's original QA contention against Fermi 3's COLA, and Detroit Edison's and NRC staff's responses, are posted at Beyond Nuclear's Nuclear Reactor page.

Saturday
Dec262009

Beyond Nuclear slams GE-Hitachi ESBWR design for QA violations at Fermi 3

Beyond Nuclear -- in coalition with Citizens for Alternatives to Chemical Contamination, Citizens Environmental Alliance of Southwestern Ontario, Don’t Waste Michigan, and the Michigan Chapter of the Sierra Club -- has filed its 16th contention in the Fermi 3 new reactor proceeding before an NRC licensing board challenging the quality assurance violations associated with General Electric-Hitachi's "Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor" design. The coalition has called for the new reactor licensing proceeding to be suspended until QA on the ESBWR design can be assured. As expressed in the Beyond Nuclear media release, the QA violations surrounding Fermi 3 are three-fold: QA failures on Detroit Edison's combined Construction and Operating License Application (COLA), QA failures on General Electric-Hitachi's ESBWR design, and QA regulatory oversight failures by NRC staff itself. Beyond Nuclear's "Nuclear Reactors" website section shows the original Nov. 6 QA contention filing against Fermi 3, as well as the initial overall intervention launched on March 9, 2009. (Pictured, Terry Lodge, attorney working on behalf of the coalition.)

Thursday
Nov192009

Quality assurance violations lead to yet another contention against Fermi 3 new reactor

On Nov. 6, 2009, Beyond Nuclear and a coalition of environmental groups filed yet another contention against the proposed Fermi 3 reactor with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Atomic Safety and Licensing Board on November 6th. Based on NRC notices to Detroit Edison, the coalition charged that Fermi 3's combined Construction and Operating License Application (COLA) is premature, given its utter lack of quality assurance, and should be suspended. Beyond Nuclear's press release, alleging that Fermi 3's COLA is built upon a foundation of sand, led to Monroe Evening News coverage. On Dec. 1, 2009, Detroit Edison and NRC both responded to our contention, in opposition to it.