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.



Millstone first US reactor to exam at-risk Creusot component but avoids conclusive testing

Dominion Energy’s Millstone Unit 2 in Waterford, CT became the first and still only of seventeen U.S. reactors with at-risk Creusot Forge components to voluntarily inspect its reactor pressurizer manufactured at France’s controversial Creusot Forge.  An Utrasonic Test (UT) enhanced visual examination found no signs of defects or cracking on the 11-year old replacement part.  The Creusot Forge, owned by AREVA, is under investigation for the manufacture and global marketing of reactor components weakened by excess carbon contamination and falsifying quality assurance documentation.  Beyond Nuclear has been pushing US operators and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) through an emergency enforcement petition to do the enhanced visual inspections and more important material testing to determine the carbon content in the steel of the Creusot components.   Dominion is not planning to do any material testing that would provide a quantitative measure of the carbon content which can weaken the component and potentially fail during operation.

Media attention and public concern in part generated by the Beyond Nuclear petition prompted the State of Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) to request that Dominion hire an independent contractor to conduct an Ultrasonic Test (UT) to conduct an enhanced visual inspection for cracking and defects on the reactor component. The UT results, announced April 11, 2017, found no evidence of cracking or a defect in the stainless-steel component. However, Beyond Nuclear and it co-petitioners are arguing that the UT exam would not have provided any data on the controversial root cause, excess carbon contamination or “carbon macrosegregation,” that can only be detected by material testing samples of the components’ elemental chemistry.  The presence of excessive carbon in steel once under the harsh operational environment of a nuclear power plant leaves it vulnerable to rapid tearing and cracking of the large forged reactor vessels, reactor vessel replacement heads, steam generators and pressurizers resulting in a potentially catastrophic loss of coolant accident.

Newly surfaced documents authored in 2005 and 2006 by France’s nuclear safety agency (ASN) publicly released by a French news agency reveal that the French nuclear industry, EdF and AREVA, knew that the Creusot Forge had  serious manufacturing discrepancies coupled with loss of control of quality assurance and proceeded with the manufacturing and global marketing of suspected at-risk components anyways. The director of ASN was "blown away" by the negligence he witnessed during his personal inspection of the forge.  Millstone 2 received and installed its replacement reactor pressurizer from Creusot in 2006. 

A January 2017 ASN-led multinational inspection report as described by its head of nuclear equipment, Remy Catteau, found that the AREVA-Creusot Forge was “Ill-equipped” to manufacture nuclear-grade components for the industry. In a Reuter news service interview, Catteau explained that the Creusot Forge’s limited technology had resulted in manufacturing errors (carbon macrosegregation) and "One of the ways to resolve problems was to hide things, and that was the wrong way."


U.S. reactors at risk: French regulator says Creusot Forge “ill-equipped” to make nuke components where safety-related "errors are made" 

Following an international inspection tour of France’s Areva-Creusot Forge led by the country’s top reactor safety agency (ASN), the head of the agency’s nuclear equipment division declared, “The tools at its disposal are not adequate to manufacture such huge components. In such a situation, errors are made." Seventeen U.S. reactors are known to have received and installed Creusot components including reactor pressure vessels, replacement pressure vessel heads, steam generators and pressurizers. All of these components make up critical safety systems for the reactor pressure-coolant boundary.  The Creusot Forge failed to adequately document that its manufacturing process was in control of the introduction of carbon anomalies which left unchecked will weaken the finished components to cracking, embrittlement and rapid tearing under operational conditions. The “carbon macro-segregation” defect is identified in the Creusot-manufactured reactor pressure vessel installed at the Flamanville Unit 3 nuclear construction project in France.

The ASN announcement came only days after Beyond Nuclear appeared before the U.S. counterpart, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) Petition Review Board calling for emergency enforcement action at the U.S. reactors that have installed at-risk components manufactured at the Creusot Forge. The Creusot Forge, now owned by Areva, is under international investigation for manufacturing substandard safety-related components and then covering up their mistakes by falsifying quality assurance documentation. The NRC maintains that the safety of U.S. reactors or the reliability of their installed Creusot components are not in question.  However, Beyond Nuclear and co-petitioners are pressing for U.S. reactors with at-risk components to be shut down for inspection and material testing of the carbon anomaly in the installed components.  Alternatively, the petitioners have requested that the inspections and testing be required at the reactors’ next regularly scheduled outage.  The Virginia-based Dominion Energy has scheduled the requested inspection and material testing of the Creusot-manufactured pressurized installed in the Millstone Unit 2 reactor in Waterford, CT during the upcoming Spring 2017 refueling outage.  Beyond Nuclear continues to pursue the NRC to require independent inspections and material testing of Creusot components in the 16 other at-risk units.


Beyond Nuclear testifies on at-risk Creusot Forge components in US reactors, NRC backs off statement on parts for Beaver Valley Unit 2 

The crisis in confidence for qualified safety margins in US reactors continues at 17 US reactors that have installed reactor pressure vessels, steam generators and pressurizers of questionable quality that were manufactured at France’s Creusot Forge now owned by AREVA. On March 8, 2017, Paul Gunter with the Beyond Nuclear Reactor Oversight Project provided his testimony before a Petition Review Board of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission in follow-up to its January 24, 2017 petition requesting emergency enforcement action at these U.S. reactors. The petition jointly filed by safe energy advocates asks that the NRC suspend operations at US reactors identified with reactor pressure vessel, steam generators and pressurizers manufactured by the AREVA-Creusot Forge in France until those parts can be inspected and material tested for "carbon anomalies" that can weaken the components to the point of failure and a nuclear accident. French nuclear regulators required the shutdown of their reactor fleet for inspections and testing as French courts continue to review allegations of Creusot counterfeit quality control documentation.

Drawing from a Greenpeace France report, Gunter elaborated on the manufacturing process that can introduce minute but significant carbon contamination into the steel ingots which if not subjected to strenuous quality control and quality assurance can change the material quality of steel and incorporate the weakness into the component. Beyond Nuclear further introduced a February 15, 2017 news article from the Pennsylvania publication TimesOnline where US NRC Region 1 Public Affairs Officer Neil Sheehan "confirmed" FirstEnergy Nuclear Corporation's Beaver Valley Unit 2, an apparent 18th reactor, to also have at-risk Creusot components. Mr. Sheehan stated for the record that FirstEnergy was delaying the installation of the Creusot replacement parts amidst the international controversy. The Petitioner's concern focused on AREVA's apparent failure to identify and track the Creusot components at Beaver Valley Unit 2 and failure to report  to the NRC as they had been requested.  Following the Petition Review Board hearing, Mr. Sheehan contacted Beyond Nuclear and the TimesOnline publication to say that he had been mistaken and that there really are no Creusot components in Beaver Valley Unit 2.  What Mr. Sheehan had originally "confirmed" for the TimesOnline was in fact misinformed hearsay. Exasperating. There is already enough international intrigue surrounding the forged components with forged quality assurance documentation. Now we have  an example of the NRC’s unsubstantiated remarks to the press. It does nothing to build confidence that neither the agency nor the industry are accurately capturing a factual record for critical safety margins that remain in operating nuclear power stations.

Beyond Nuclear continues its investigation into the AREVA-Creusot Forge controversy and impacts US reactors.


NRC identifies US reactors with at-risks parts from controversial French forge but balks at site-specific inspections and testing for defects

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has released the names of 17 units at  US nuclear power reactors as previously requested by Greenpeace and Beyond Nuclear that currently rely upon large reactor components (reactor pressure vessels, pressure vessel heads, steam generators and pressurizers) manufactured at the controversial Areva Le Creusot Forge in France.  The Creusot Forge is currently under investigation in France and throughout Europe for allegedly falsifying quality assurance documentation for the large components with potential manufacturing defects that make them susceptible to cracking and rapid tearing under extremely high pressure during operation. The manufacture defects arise out of the introduction of excess carbon during the forging process of the large steel ingots used to cast the nuclear grade industrial parts.

Beyond Nuclear has submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the NRC  and is also preparing a petition to the agency requesting emergency enforcement action to suspend reactor power operations pending inspection and material testing of the at-risk components.  Nuclear regulatory agencies in Europe are similarly requiring  unscheduled reactor shutdowns for inspections and material testing of the Le Creusot components at reactor sites in France, Switzerland, Finland and elsewhere.

Those US reactors most recently identified by NRC with at-risk Le Creusot Forge components include:

Reactor Pressure Vessels:

Prairie Island 1 & 2 (MN)

Replacement Reactor Pressure Vessel Heads:

Arkansas Nuclear One 2 (AR)

Beaver Valley 1 (PA)

North Anna 1 & 2 (VA)

Surry 1 (VA)

Steam Generators:

Beaver Valley 1 (PA)

Comanche Peak 1 (TX)

V.C. Summer (SC)

Farley 1 & 2 (AL)

South Texas 1 & 2 (TX)

Sequoyah 1 (TN)

Watts Bar 1 (TN)

(Areva is providing NRC with additional information on US reactors with Le Creusot steam generator channel heads forged from large ingots in January 2017)

Reactor Steam Pressurizers:

Millstone 2 (CT)

Saint Lucie 1 (FL)

The NRC presently maintains that the agency is “confident” that the identified US reactors do not have any “immediate safety concerns” and can continue full power operations without being subjected to unscheduled shutdowns for inspection and material testing of the at-risk components as is occurring at European reactor sites.

Commissioned by Greenpeace, Large & Associates has published an in-depth analysis of the potential hazard raised by the Le Creusot Forge controversy.


Entergy to close Indian Point nuclear plant in landmark agreement

See the Riverkeeper/Scenic Hudson/NRDC press release, posted at the Riverkeeper website. A link to the 169-page agreement is included.