BEYOND NUCLEAR PUBLICATIONS

Search
JOIN OUR NETWORK

     

     

DonateNow

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.

.................................................................................................................................................................................................................

Thursday
May092013

Groups to oppose restart of crippled California reactors 

 

Southern California Edison (SCE) is so desperate to get one of its two idled San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station reactor units near San Diego back on line by June 2013 that the company is threatening to permanently shut the nuke if it doesn't get the restart approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. A 14-month shutdown of SONGS Units 2 and 3 has put both shareholders and ratepayers on the hook for almost $600 million to date. SCE now wants to hasten the restart of Unit 2 limited to a maximum power level of 70% of its thermal rating. Friends of the Earth and Committee to Bridge the Gap are two of the groups working to keep these dangerous reactors shut down.

The two crippled nukes, located between Los Angeles and San Diego, California, have been idled since January 2012 because of significant damage to safety-related reactor power systems.

The problem stems from a botched $675 million equipment deal between SCE and Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to squeeze more power out of SONGS Units 2 and 3 with the installation of new steam generators in 2010 and 2011, respectively. A design change to cram more steam tube into the generators resulted in severe damage to hundreds of thin walled nickel-alloy heat exchanger tubes leading to radioactive leaks after only ten months of operation. The steam generators each containing thousands of tubes are a major portion of a pressurized water reactor’s extremely high-pressure boundary (approximately 2000 pounds per square inch) and recycling system for the reactor coolant essential for safe operations. 

The steam generator tube damage sustained in San Onofre Unit 3 is universally recognized, including by the NRC, as so severe that short of extensive repairs or replacement, restart introduces an unacceptable level of risk from tube rupture and a nuclear accident even at reduced power level.

However, SCE wants the NRC to approve a hastened restart of SONGS Unit 2 after plugging the tubes known to be damaged and a company commitment not to power the reactor above 70% maximum power level with periodic shutdown inspections to see how the component is holding up. The power company seeks this restart approval first, while proceeding through an NRC License Amendment  process,which would include the opportunity for full public hearings afterwards. The hearings would allow public interest groups to present independent expert testimony on the risks to public health and safety presented by amending the operating license for a flawed design even at limited power. 

Dan Hirsch, President of Committee to Bridge the Gap has called the process of permitting the reactor restart first and holding the public hearing later akin to frontier justice for public safety; “Hang ‘em first and give 'em the trial later.”

You can go to the Friends of the Earth nuke-free site for Alerts on San Onofre. Stay tuned for updates.

Tuesday
May072013

NRC "looking at the potential implications" of radioactive goldfish found deep in the heart of FirstEnergy's Perry atomic reactor in Ohio

As reported by the Associated Press, two radioactive goldfish, swimming in radioactive reactor coolant water in a lemonade pitcher, were discovered by workers in a steam tunnel deep in the heart of FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company's (FENOC) problem-plagued Perry atomic reactor on the shore of Lake Erie northeast of Cleveland.

As reported by the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

'...The fishy tale has prompted federal regulators to ask a lot of new questions about morale at Perry and whether plant operators can control access to radioactive areas as required by regulation...

Because of a life-threatening incident during refueling two years ago at Perry in which three contractors were briefly exposed to hard radiation, the NRC has put the plant under a microscope on the issue of worker safety. The agency was already preparing to send squads of inspectors to the plant in June in an effort to determine whether Perry has corrected past shortcomings. Extra inspectors were at the plant earlier during this shutdown.

The company and the NRC said this latest incident is no laughing matter, as in the cartoon TV series "The Simpsons" in which Blinky, an orange fish, supposedly had three eyes from radiation exposure. Whoever was involved in the Perry incident will not get off as easily as nuclear worker Homer Simpson usually does...

"This is not something that happens every day. We want to know why it happened and how it happened," said Viktoria Mitlyng, NRC spokeswoman for the agency's Midwest region. "We are looking at the potential implications." '

Add that one to the "Fission Stories"!

Tuesday
May072013

High noon for nuclear power: Dominion's Kewaunee atomic reactor permanently shutdown!

Dominion's Kewaunee atomic reactor on the Lake Michigan shore of northern WI near Green BayAs reported by Platt's, at 12 PM Noon Central time today, Dominion's Kewaunee atomic reactor was permanently shutdown. Last October, Dominion announced its intention to permanently close Kewaunee by mid-2013. Dominion had attempted to sell Kewaunee, but found no buyers. Platt's reports "CMS Energy -- which sold Palisades, its only nuclear station, to Entergy in 2007 -- had considered buying the plant, but decided against it because of low gas prices and investor pushback."

Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds Associates, Inc points out that Kewaunee still had an operating license for another 20 years, but Dominion is unable to operate the reactor economically. Gundersen also points out that the 60-year SAFESTOR plan prior to decommissioning means Kewaunee will not be dismantled and cleaned up until about a century after it commenced operations, in 1973.

Duke Energy's announcement in recent weeks regarding the fatally cracked containment at its Crystal River, FL reactor, and today's final SCRAM at Kewaunee, are the first permanent shutdowns of commercial atomic reactors in the U.S. in about 15 years. Kewaunee joins Zion 1 & 2 in IL, and Big Rock Point in MI, on the list of reactors on the Lake Michigan shore permanently shutdown. Point Beach 1 & 2 in WI, as well as Cook 1 & 2 and Palisades in MI, are reactors still operating on the Lake Michigan shoreline. Lake Michigan is a headwaters of the Great Lakes, 20% of the world's surface fresh water, and drinking water supply for 8 U.S. states, 2 Canadian provinces, and a large number of Native American First Nations.

Tuesday
May072013

Entergy's Palisades leaks 79 gallons of radioactive water into Lake Michigan, forced to shut down

Entergy's Palisades atomic reactor on the Lake Michigan shoreline in southwest MI.As reported by the Holland Sentinel, Entergy's Palisades atomic reactor has yet again sprung a leak, this time spilling 79 gallons of supposedly "very slightly radioactive water" into Lake Michigan, the headwaters of 20% of the world's surface fresh water, and drinking water for 40 million people downstream. 

Entergy and NRC spokespersons' repeated claims of no safety significance to the public flies in the face of decades of findings, as by the National Academy of Science (most recently in 2005), that any exposure to radioactivity, no matter how small, carries a health risk of cancer, and that these health risks accumulate over a lifetime.

U.S. Representative Ed Markey (D-MA) made public the serious nature of this particular leaking tank in June 2012. His information came from very courageous Palisades whistleblowers, and their attorney, Billie Pirner Garde. The leak, from the 300,000 gallon Safety Injection Refueling Water (SIRW) storage tank located directly above the control, began in mid-2011, and was flowing through the ceiling, and being captured in buckets in the safety critical control room, full of electrical circuitry and equipment that cannot get wet. The leak was concealed not only from the public and media, but even from the NRC's own Chairman, Greg Jaczko, as he toured Palisades on May 25, 2012. NRC later granted Entergy an exemption in 2012 to allow continued operations despite the degraded condition of the SIRW storage tank. 

In recent weeks, Beyond Nuclear learned from NRC officials that the now two-year-old leak has continued at a 0.5 to 1 gallon per day rate. But Saturday's leakage rate, which forced the reactor to shut down, was at 90 gallons per day, as documented in NRC's event notification report. Palisades' SIRW storage tank, just like the rest of the plant, is 46 years old, and obviously showing severe signs of "breakdown phase" age-degration, of increasing risk. 

The Detroit Free PressEnformable Nuclear NewsKalamazoo GazetteMichigan RadioWSJM RadioWKZO Radio,WWMT TV-3 KalamazooDetroit News,  and WOOD TV-8 Grand Rapids have reported on this story.

Beyond Nuclear issued a media statement, challenging flippant Entergy and NRC claims that this leak carries "absolutely" no risk to human health and safety. NRC's Region 3 spokeswoman has been exposed making false claims regarding radioactivity leaks more than once at Midwestern reactors in just the past year, prompting the demand for an investigation by a member of Congress. Last year, U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) demanded an NRC investigation into Mytling's downplaying of a reactor leak at the troubled Davis-Besse atomic reactor near Toledo. In addition, Chicago watchdog group Nuclear Energy Information Service, via a Freedom of Information Act Request to the State of Illinois Dept. of Nuclear Safety, documented that Mytling's flip assurance -- that a radioactive steam leak at the Byron atomic reactor, in Jan. 2012, must have contained exceedingly low levels of hazardous radioactive tritium, as radiation monitors had not detected any -- was baseless and misleading, as no real-time tritium monitoring capability existed at the plant. Similar questions must now be asked of Mytling's questionable assurances that radioactivity levels in the water leaked into Lake Michigan were below detectable levels. Are there radiation monitors in place to verify such flip assurances?

Tuesday
May072013

Entergy Wach: Environmental coalition challenges Entergy's financial qualifications to continue operating FitzPatrick, Pilgrim, and Vermont Yankee

"Burning money" graphic by Gene Case, Avenging AngelsAs reported by E&E's Hannah Northey at Greenwire, an environmental coalition including such groups as Alliance for a Green Economy (AGREE), Beyond Nuclear, Citizens Awareness Network (CAN), and Pilgrim Watch, has launched an emergency enforcement petition at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, challenging the financial qualifications of Entergy Nuclear to safely operate and decommission such reactors at FitzPatrick in New York, Pilgrim in Massachusetts, and Vermont Yankee. All three reactors happen to be twin designs to Fukushima Daiichi Units 1 to 4, that is, General Electric Mark I boiling water reactors. The coalition's petition cited financial analyses by UBS on Entergy's dire economic straits. Representatives from coalition groups, including Beyond Nuclear's Paul Gunter, testified today before an NRC Petition Review Board at the agency's headquarters in Rockville, MD.