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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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Thursday
Jan172013

Rating agencies: cracked Crystal River 3 may be down for the count

The magnitude of Crystal River's concrete containment cracksAs reported by SNL, Fitch and UBS have indepenently cast doubt on the likelihood, given the cost (into the billions of dollars), that Duke/Progress Energy's Crystal River Unit 3 in Citrus County, Florida will ever be repaired and returned to operations. Crystal River has been shutdown ever since severe cracking (see photo, left) was discovered in its concrete containment shell, nearly three and a half years ago. The utility accidentally cracked the containment itself, while attempting an in-house steam generator replacement.

The article reports that ratepayers will not be charged $388 million for replacement power, but "a settlement agreement with the Florida Office of Public Counsel and several interest groups...stipulates the parties will not oppose Duke's full recovery of all plant investment should it decide to retire the plant," meaning that the public could still get stuck with the bill for a disastrous engineering mistake the nuclear utility itself made.

Duke/Progress Energy has variously attempted to foist repair or cost recovery bills on its insurance provider, its ratepayers via the Florida Public Service Commission, and even the rest of the nuclear power industry.

Beyond Nuclear has helped lead environmental coalition efforts to block Davis-Besse's 20-year license extension, due to severe cracking in its concrete Shield Building.

Thursday
Jan172013

Forbes: "the nuclear renaissance may be largely over before it started,"

"Burning Money" image by Gene Case, Avenging AngelsPeter Kelly-Detwiler, Contributor to Forbes, has published an op-ed entitled "New Centralized Nuclear Plants: Still an Investment Worth Making?" 

The Forbes contributor concludes that "the nuclear renaissance may be largely over before it started," with not only the vast majority of proposed new reactors in the U.S. being cancelled, but even paid-off old reactors like Kewaunee in Wisconsin being permanently shutdown due to crushing economics -- such as the expense of major, vitally needed safety repairs at the 40-year old reactor.

Kelly-Detwiler cites the "takes too long," "costs too much," and "bet-the-farm" nature of nuclear power for the "failure to launch" of the nuclear relapse.

If the op-ed's title is meant to imply that so-called small modular reactors might still save the day for the retreating nuclear power industry, it must be pointed out that the supposed justification for giant-sized proposed new reactors (such as the AP1000, at 1,100 MWe; the ESBWR at 1,500 MWe; the EPR at 1,600 MWe; etc.) was "economies of scale." Since small modular reactors represent the opposite end of the spectrum, it stands to reason these would be even more expensive than their super-sized, failed siblings.

In a classic February 14, 1985 piece entitled “Nuclear Follies,” Forbes wrote: 

"The failure of the U.S. nuclear power program ranks as the largest managerial disaster in business history, a disaster on a monumental scale. The utility industry has already invested $125 billion in nuclear power, with an additional $140 billion to come before the decade is out, and only the blind, or the biased, can now think that the money has been well spent. It is a defeat for the U.S. consumer and for the competitiveness of U.S. industry, for the utilities that undertook the program and for the private enterprise system that made it possible.” More.

Thursday
Jan172013

Entergy Watch: Palisades, Pilgrim, Vermont Yankee

Entergy Nuclear's dirty dozen atomic reactorsEntergy's Palisades, Pilgrim, and Vermont Yankee atomic reactors are each among the 73 two decade license extensions rubberstamped by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission in recent years. But resistance to their ongoing operations is intensifying nonetheless!

Last Saturday, critics grilled NRC with questions regarding "recent through-wall leaks" at Entergy's problem-plagued Palisades pressurized water reactor on the Lake Michigan shore in Covert, Michigan. In Plymouth, Massachusetts and on Cape Cod, watchdogs continue to hound Pilgrim, Entergy's General Electric Mark I Boiling Water Reactor -- a twin design and vintage to Fukushima Daiichi Units 1 to 4 -- near Boston. And Entergy's Vermont Yankee had its day(s) in court(s) -- another risky, age-degraded Mark I, which has very much worn out its welcome in the Green Mountain State!

Palisades, Pilgrim, and Vermont Yankee are each also relatively small sized, single reactor, "merchant" nuclear power plants. As such, they are currently very vulnerable to permanent shutdown due to crushing economics -- such as the expense of badly needed major safety repairs.

Thursday
Jan172013

Friends of the Earth's emergency enforcement petition re: San Onofre 2 & 3 defended by Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds

A Bathtub Curve for Nuclear Accidents, compliments of David Lochbaum, Union of Concerned Scientists. "Bathtub" refers to the curve's shape.Friends of the Earth's expert witness, Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds Associates, addressed a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Petition Review Board yesterday, regarding the premature, severe degradation of Replacement Steam Generator tubes at San Onofre nuclear power plant a year ago. The damage resulted in a tube failure and radioactive steam release, as well as the year-long and counting shutdown of San Onofre Units 2 and 3.

Arnie's slide presentation can be viewed online. He concluded that "San Onofre was a 'near miss.' The tube failures at San Onofre are the worst nuclear equipment failures since the near miss at Davis-Besse in 2002." (slide #36). He quoted NRC's own Augmented Inspection Team report: "Although in this case the degraded condition of the tubes was manifested as a small primary to secondary leak, it is possible that a full blown rupture could have been the first indication."

While the Feb. 2000 Indian Point old steam generator tube rupture, and the Feb./March 2002 Davis-Besse lid corrosion hole, were "break-down phase" accidents, San Onofre 2 & 3's Jan. 2012 steam generator tube degradation is actually a "break-in phase" accident. The replacement steam generators were only a year or two old (see the Bath Tub Curve for Nuclear Accidents, above left).

Wednesday
Jan162013

Watchdogs continue to hound Entergy Pilgrim

Mother endangered Right Whale near PNPS on 1/15/13, calf is out-of-view. Images acquired under authorization of NOAA/NMFS. Credit: Rachel Karasik.Watchdog groups such as Pilgrim WatchCape DownwindersPilgrim Coalition and Cape Cod Bay Watch keep up the good fight against Entergy's Pilgrim atomic reactor in Plymouth, MA. Pilgrim is a four decade old General Electric Mark I Boiling Water Reactor, the same age, or older, and design as the Fukushima Daiichi Units 1 to 4 reactors. 

Pilgrim Watch spearheaded a six year long intervention against the reactor's 20-year license extension, a record of resistance. But, just as it has done 72 other times across the U.S. since 2000, NRC rubberstamped the license extension in the end.

Member of Cape Downwinders, who have carried out non-violent civil disobedience actions in opposition to Pilgrim's ongoing risks, networked with Beyond Nuclear staff at a Clamshell Alliance reunion in New Hampshire last July. A key risk is that there is "No Escape from the Cap" should the worst happen at Pilgrim, as recently affirmed by the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency itself. 

Wicked Local Plymouth reported: “There are no plans to evacuate us from danger,” Pilgrim Coalition wrote in a release quoting Falmouth resident and Cape Downwinders member Bill Maurer, “but there are plans to control us during that danger, which essentially insures that we will be exposed to that danger.”

Pilgrim Coalition is plugging Pilgrim's shutdown:

"Plug-In to Unplug Pilgrim: this is an opportunity to find your place in a growing movement to remove the risk from Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in your community.

Join us on February 6, 2013 in the Otto Fehlow Room of the Plymouth Public Library and kick off the new year by learning about the issue and ways you can help. Snacks and refreshments will be served.

For more information, contact Karen Vale at info@capecodbaywatch.org or (508) 951-4723."

And Cape Cod Bay Watch points out that "Plymouth Is Where NO NUKES Meets SAVE THE WHALES" (see photo, above left). It has just today published a piece in the Wicked Local Plymouth about Pilgrim's harmful tritium and nitrogen pollution into the underlying Plymouth-Carver Sole Source Aquifer, recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protetion Agency as “the principal source of drinking water for the residents of the area."

As reported by the Patriot Ledger, Pilgrim just resumed operations after a one week shutdown, caused by an electrical relay failure at the 41 year old reactor which blocked the operation of two water recirculation pumps.