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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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Wednesday
Sep052012

NRC: loss of offsite power at Catawba Unit 1 last April was potentially of substantial significance to safety

NRC file photo of Catawba nuclear power plant in South CarolinaThe U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has just announced that on Sept. 11th, it will conduct a post-incident review with Duke Nuclear to discuss an April 2012 loss of off-site power at Catawba Unit 1 atomic reactor in South Carolina (picture, left). NRC's preliminary review has determined that the incident may be designated a "yellow finding" (in NRC's green, white, yellow, red system of increasingly significant incidents), meaning "of substantial significance to safety." Off-site power is the primary power source for running safety and cooling systems.

While General Electric Mark Is (such as the Fukushima Daiichi Units 1 to 4) and IIs are Boiling Water Reactors with too small, too weak "pressure suppression" containments, ice condenser containments, as at Catawba Unit 1, are a form of "pressure suppression" containment -- again too small and too weak -- at a Pressurized Water Reactor design. The ice condeners in the U.S. include two units at Catawba in SC, two units at McGuire in NC, two units at Sequoyah in TN, one unit at Watts Bar in TN, and two units at Cook in MI.

Ice condensers were originally desiged for floating atomic reactors on barges, where the containment, of necessity, would have to be smaller and lighter, so it wouldn't sink under its own weight. Once licensed by NRC or its predecessor, the Atomic Energy Commission, however, nuclear utilities took advantage of the certified reactor design, by building them on land, in order to save money on the containment structure. 

Thanks to revelations by Tennessee Valley Authority whistleblower Curtis Overall, and nuclear safety advocacy by David Lochbaum at Union of Concerned Scientists, the Cook ice condensers in southwest Michigan were shutdown from 1997 to 2000 for major safety violations, resulting in one of the biggest fines in NRC history up to that point.

Tuesday
Sep042012

"Entergy Watchers" needed to "Occupy" NRC meetings: 9/10 on ANO, Grand Gulf, River Bend, Waterford; 9/12 on Palisades!

Kendra Ulrich stands with "No Nuke Business As Usual" banner at "Occupy Entergy" non-violent civil disobedience action on 3/22/12 at Entergy HQ in New Orleans, held in solidarity with Shutdown Vermont Yankee actions on the first day of extended operations there"Entergy Watch" and "Occupy Entergy" advocates of the world, unite! The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is holding two meetings next week, regarding half of Entergy Nuclear's "dirty dozen" atomic reactors across the country. If you can attend in person, great! If not, you can still call-in toll-free.

Beginning at 8 AM Central time on Monday, September 10th, at NRC's Region IV headquarters in Arlington, Texas, NRC Staff will "discuss topics of mutual interest including performance" with Entergy officials about four atomic reactors: Arkansas Nuclear One (ANO), Units 1 and 2, in Russellville, Arkansas; Grand Gulf Nuclear Station Unit 1 near Port Gibson, Mississippi; River Bend Station, Unit 1 near Baton Rouge, Louisiana; and Waterford Steam Electric Station, Unit 3, west of New Orleans, Louisiana. The public will have an opportunity to ask questions at various times during the meeting, according to NRC, including NRC Staff availability after the business portion of the meeting (NRC's interaction with Entergy) for questions from the public. The call-in number to take part in the meeting by phone is toll-free, 1-888-989-6482, followed by passcode 69328.Note that while ANO, River Bend, and Waterford fall in NRC's Region IV, Grand Gulf is located in NRC's Region II.

From 6-8:30 PM Eastern on Wednesday, September 12th, NRC Region III Staff will hold a meeting in South Haven, Michigan on the complete collapse of "safety culture" at Entergy's Palisades atomic reactor in southwest Michigan, which NRC considers to be one of the four worst-run reactors in the country. U.S. Congressman Ed Markey (D-MA) revealed the safety culture collapse at Palisades after a tip off by courageous Palisades whistleblowers, and their D.C.-based attorney, Billie Pirner Garde. The call-in number is toll-free, 1-800-621-9524, followed by passcode 5591733.

Combined with ongoing protest rallies and non-violent civil disobedience actions against Vermont Yankee, grassroots-led legal actions against Pilgrim, etc., Entergy is learning what "The Power of People" (the nuclear utility's ironic slogan) really means! Please join the effort, by "occupying" the meetings above and showing NRC and Entergy they are being "watched"!

Tuesday
Sep042012

Long-awaited NRC "supplemental inspection" at problem-plagued Palisades, Sept. 17-28

Entergy's Palisades atomic reactor, with a century-old resort community to the right, and a state park to the leftOn Valentine's Day, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announced that Entergy Nuclear's Palisades atomic reactor in Covert, MI on the Lake Michigan shoreline (pictured, left) is one of the four worst-run atomic reactors in the U.S. This came after a problem-plagued 2011, including: an accident, designated a "yellow finding" by NRC ("of substantial significance to safety"), on Sept. 25th, involving the near-electrocution of an electrician, and loss of half the power to the control room, which stressed multiple age-degraded safety-critical systems (a steam generator, many years in need of replacement; the reactor pressure vessel, admitted by NRC to be the worst-embrittled in the U.S.) to the breaking point, risking multiple pathways to Loss of Coolant Accident (LOCA); and an August 9th service water pump coupling failure, due to inter-granular stress corrosion cracking, a repeat of an identical 2009 breakdown (to mention but two of five "un-planned shutdowns" in 2011!). 

Last February, NRC announced that the downgrade of Palisades' safety status would result in a "supplemental inspection," at Entergy's convenience, which has finally been scheduled, seven months later. The NRC supplemental inspection will take place from September 17 to 28. The agency has requested numerous relevant documents in advance.

An NRC meeting on Entergy Palisades' lack of safety culture is scheduled for Sept. 12th in South Haven, MI, although those unable to attend in person can still call in. Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps will speak about "The Radioactive Catastrophe Waiting to Happen at Palisades, and What You Can Do To Prevent It" at the Peace House in Kalamazoo, MI on Sept. 13th. Learn more about these events here.

Tuesday
Sep042012

Charlotte, NC: Democratic National Convention, and nuclear power center

Charlotte, NCCharlotte, NC will be in the national spotlight this week, as it hosts the Democratic Party's National Convention. But Charlotte is also a hub for the nuclear power industry. As highlighted by Charlotte's Chamber of Commerce, the city hosts many a big name nuclear corporation, including: nuclear utility Duke Energy, with a dozen atomic reactors in its fleet nationwide; The Shaw Group; AREVA NP; Toshiba; Westinghouse; URS; and Fluor.

Duke's McGuire Units 1 and 2 are just 17 miles north of Charlotte, and its Catawba Units 1 and 2 are just 18 miles south of Charlotte. All four units are ice condensor designs, a pressure-suppression containment, similar in that regard to the Fukushima Daiichi GE Mark I boiling waters.

CREDO Action has published an alert calling for action to pressure Duke Energy to stop funding the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and its voter suppression and anti-environment efforts.

Charlotte-based Duke's other atomic reactors are: Brunswick 1 & 2 (GE Mark Is), NC; Crystal River, FL; Harris, NC; Oconee 1, 2, and 3, SC; Robinson, SC.

Saturday
Sep012012

Anti-nuclear drum beat continues against Vermont Yankee

Thanks to Debra Stoleroff of Vermont Yankee Decommissioning Alliance for sharing with us news of "three opportunities to keep the fact that Vermont Yankee is still operating in the public eye and to voice your opinion regarding this fact that Entergy continues to undermine Vermont's democratic process for its own profits; gambling away the health of people in VT, MA, and NH as well as our environment.   Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant remains an accident away from devestating the region."

Sat, Sept. 1: We Are Not Going Away Until VT Yankee is Shut Down and Safely Decommissioned With a Greenfield

Sat, Sept. 8: Our River Runs Through It Flotilla Down the Connecticut River to VT Yankee (see event poster, left, and SAGE Alliance website for details)

Sun, Sept. 23: Burlington Friends Meeting at Vermont Yankee followed by NVCD at Vt Yankee

For more info., see Beyond Nuclear's NUCLEAR POWER website section.