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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
Feb242015

Security guards sue Entergy for overtime pay at Palisades

NRC file photo of Entergy's Palisades atomic reactor on the Lake Michigan shoreline in southwest Michigan.As reported by Jim Hayden at the Holland Sentinel, nearly two dozen security guards and security department supervisors at the Palisades atomic reactor in Covert, MI (photo, left) have launched a legal action against Entergy Nuclear. They are demanding back overtime pay due them, but Entergy refuses to pay. Vermont Yankee atomic reactor security guards previously prevailed in a similar lawsuit against Entergy.

Although the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) claims the "chilled work environment" in Palisades' security guard department has been resolved, security guards themselves seem to think otherwise -- including their feeling that as soon as NRC enhanced oversight ends, Entergy will return to harassing guards who "make waves" (that is, do their jobs, and call attention to problems).

Monday
Feb232015

"Appeals Court will hear case on cover-up of Diablo Canyon quake risks"

PG&E's Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, near San Luis Obispo, CAAs reported by a Friends of the Earth news release, subtitled "Friends of the Earth [FOE] petition says NRC illegally let PG&E alter nuclear plant's license," a 9th Circuit federal appeals court panel has rejected motions by Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, allowing FOE's lawsuit to proceed to a hearing on the merits.

FOE alleges that NRC and PG&E colluded to secretly alter the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant (photo, left) operating license regarding the capability of the twin reactors to survive earthquake magnitudes greater than the facility was ever designed to withstand. In recent years, the lengths and interconnections of earthquake fault lines, and their proximity to Diablo Canyon, were revealed to be significantly greater than previously understood.

FOE is demanding a public adjudicatory hearing on the increased seismic risks, something that should have happened in the first place. In the meantime, FOE is calling for both units to be shutdown, until its concerns are fully addressed.

Harvey Wasserman has blogged about FOE's preliminary legal victory at EcoWatch.

Monday
Feb232015

"Pilgrim Nuclear Plant shutdowns leave questions unanswered for Outer Cape"

NRC file photo of Entergy Nuclear's Pilgrim atomic reactor in Plymouth, MA on Cape Cod Bay, south of BostonAs reported by Peter J. Brown at Wicked Local Wellfleet, concerns continue to simmer downwind of Entergy Nuclear's Pilgrim atomic reactor (photo, left) in the aftermath of two severe winter storm related shutdowns in the span of just a couple weeks. Numerous elected and other public officials, from Massachusetts State legislators to local Selectmen, to spokespeople for the Cape Cod National Seashore advisory body, are quoted in the article, calling for Pilgrim's permanent shutdown as a safety precaution in the unevacuable Cape Cod region.

Friday
Feb202015

"Vermont Yankee: Vermont asks for hearing in EPZ reductions"

NRC file photo of VY, located across the Connecticut River from New Hampshire, in Vernon, VT, just 8 miles upstream of the Massachusetts state line.As reported by Robert Audette of the Associated Press, the State of Vermont Department of Public Service has petitioned to intervene, and for full adjudicatory public hearings, regarding an Entergy Nuclear's License Amendment Request (LAR) that would significantly reduce, or completely eliminate, emergency preparedness at the permanently closed Vermont Yankee atomic reactor in Vernon, VT (photo, left).

As reported in the article:

'Entergy's requested amendment would reduce the 10-mile emergency preparedness zone around the plant to its actual footprint as well as its financial contributions to emergency management organizations in the EPZ [Emergency Planning Zone]. Entergy is also asking for a reduction in its offsite emergency notification system, elimination of hostile-action scenario planning and remove the state from participating in emergency response exercises. The change in the notification system would increase notification time from 15 to 60 minutes, states the filing presented to the NRC on Feb. 9."

In the filing, Recchia wrote that if approved the amendment request would "increase the threat to public health and safety in the event of a credible accident scenario...

Lack of funding from Entergy would also hinder the state's ability "to implement the Vermont Radiological Emergency Response Programs, and any additional off-site response to an emergency," wrote Recchia.'

Significantly, many hundreds of tons of irradiated nuclear fuel will likely remain in VY's storage pool until at least 2020. Loss of the cooling water supply, as by sudden drain down or slower motion boil down, whether due to accident, attack, or natural disaster, could cause an irradiated nuclear fuel fire, and unleash a catastrophic radioactivity release. The storage pool is not located within a radiological containment structure.

Wednesday
Feb182015

"Thousands more cracks found in Belgian nuclear reactors: Belgian regulatory head warns of global implications"

Entergy's Palisades atomic reactor, on the Lake Michigan shore in Covert, MI, has the worst embrittled RPV in the U.S., vulnerable to catastrophic failure due to PTS.As revealed in a new report from Greenpeace Belgium, micro-cracking in Belgian atomic reactor pressure vessels (RPV) due to hydrogen flaking could be a global problem going undiagnosed, simply because nuclear utilities and government regulators haven't done the needed testing. Belgium's nuclear regulatory agency has issued "a statement confirming that the additional tests conducted in 2014 revealed 13,047 cracks in Doel 3 and 3,149 in Tihange 2," as reported in Greenpeace Belgium's press release.

Embrittlement can lead to RPV failure due to pressurized thermal shock (PTS) in pressurized water reactors (PWRs). Beyond Nuclear, in coalition with Don't Waste MI, MI Safe Energy Future, and Nuclear Energy Information Service, has challenged the continued operation of Entergy Nuclear's Palisades atomic reactor in s.w. MI on the Lake Michigan shore (photo, above left), due to its worst embrittled RPV in the U.S. As reported by Greenpeace Belgium, a RPV breach due to PTS could cause a Loss-of-Coolant-Accident (LOCA), core meltdown, containment failure, and catastrophic radioactivity release.

However, Greenpeace Belgium's report warns that hydrogen flaking micro-cracking also impacts boiling water reactors (BWRs). Greenpeace Belgium's experts call for comprehensive testing of all atomic reactors worldwide, a position echoed by Belgium's top nuclear regulator. Belgium's two suspect reactors are shut; Greenpeace demands they remain so till the concern is addressed. Meanwhile, Palisades operates at full power.