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.



45-year-old construction error revealed in leaking tank at Entergy's Palisades atomic reactor

Entergy and NRC have just discovered that, at Palisades, plant diagrams are not accurate depictions of "as-built" realityAs reported by Andrew Lersten at the St. Joe Herald-Palladium, a 45-year-old construction error has been discovered at Entergy Nuclear's problem-plagued Palisades atomic reactor on the Lake Michigan shoreline in southwest MI. While repairing a 300,000 gallon tank of water that has been leaking for over two years -- including into the safety-critical control room, as well as directly into Lake Michigan -- workers found that a grout ring and sand bed region called for in the blueprints had never been installed back in 1968. Entergy and NRC now admit that phantom structures assumed to have been there all along may go a long way to explaining why the floor of the tank has suffered repeated leaks, despite multiple attempted repairs.

As recently as April 25, 2013, in a submission to NRC, Entergy gave engineering credit to structures which, in reality, didn't even exist: "Pressure stress loads are carried by the sand base, concrete grout ring, and concrete foundation beneath the tank bottom."

The discrepancy between Palisades' blueprints (see image, left), and the actual "as-built" reality, raises serious safety significant questions about the entire atomic reactor.

The Herald-Palladium, for whom Palisades unquestionably could do no wrong for decades on end, published a blistering editorial on May 23rd. The editorial board concluded:

" events in Japan proved in 2011, there is really no second chance when it comes to a catastrophic nuclear event.

We know that Entergy officials will say emphatically that they understand the stakes and are doing everything possible to maintain safety. But talk is cheap, and past problems at the plant don’t inspire confidence. What is really needed are better results.

Should Palisades continue to stumble along in the next months and years, then we hope the NRC takes a much harder look at Palisades’ license. Energy production and commerce are important, but not nearly as important as the safety and well-being of an entire region."


Prohibitively expensive cost of safety repairs at age-degraded atomic reactors leads nuclear utilities to simply shut them down

"Burning Money" image by Gene Case, Avenging AngelsBloomberg has reported:

"Edison International (EIX)’s decision to abandon its San Onofre nuclear plant in California is the latest blow for an industry already facing questions about its long-term survival.

Edison, based in Rosemead, California, announced June 7 it will permanently shut the plant’s two reactors, trimming total U.S. operating units to 100 from 104 at the beginning of the year and 110 at the peak in 1996. The announcement brings to four the number of units permanently removed from service this year, the most in any year since the nation embraced nuclear power.

Other facilities are nearing the end of their projected lifespans and may need costly renovations while cheap natural gas has siphoned off market share. Potentially expensive regulations to bolster safety in response to a triple meltdown at Japan’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant in 2011 have raised the concerns of investors...

The last wave of U.S. plant closures was in the late 1990s, when falling gas prices helped tilt economics in favor of retiring rather than attempting large-scale repairs. Six reactors were closed from 1996 to 1998, according to Nuclear Regulatory Commission data, and peaked in 1996 when Haddam Neck in Meriden, Connecticut; Maine Yankee in Wicasset, Maine; and Unit 2 at the Zion plant in Illinois shut...

“The decision to shut down rather than retrofit the San Onofre nuclear plant shows the changing economics of the power market,” Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center, a Chicago-based advocate of cleaner energy, said in a telephone interview. “We suspect other nuclear plant owners may start reaching the same decision.”

In fact, Dominion Nuclear made just such a decision, to permanently shutdown its Kewaunee atomic reactor on the Lake Michigan shoreline of Wisconsin last month. 

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on October 22, 2012 that Dominion, referring to its losing battle to remain competitive in a deregulated electricity market, could not afford the needed safety repairs at Kewaunee:

'We looked at all alternatives to keep the unit operating, but we could not make the reductions in the cost without it affecting safety,' [Dominion spokesman Richard] Zuercher said." (emphasis added)

As Howard Learner stated above, such market realities begs the question, which reactors will close next? On Feb. 8th, Entergy's brand new CEO, Leo Denault, when asked why several reactors in his fleet were so financially strapped, admitted in an interveiw with Reuters that:

"...some plants are in the more challenging economic situations for a variety of reasons, including 'the market for both energy and capacity, their size, their contracting positions and the investment required to maintain the safety and integrity of the plants.'(emphasis added)


San Onofre 2 & 3's closure raises doubts about nuclear power's future

Image by J. DeStefano, 2012As reported by Bloomberg, "Edison International (EIX)’s decision to abandon its San Onofre nuclear plant in California is the latest blow for an industry already facing questions about its long-term survival."

The article, entitled "San Onofre Seen as Latest Setback for U.S. Nuclear Power," reports:

“The decision to shut down San Onofre is another sign that the economics of nuclear are under pressure given the low cost of alternative sources,” Travis Miller, a Chicago-based analyst for Morningstar Inc. (MORN), said in a phone interview. “Just five years ago, nuclear power plants looked like a gold mine.”

The article also reported:

“The decision to shut down rather than retrofit the San Onofre nuclear plant shows the changing economics of the power market,” Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center, a Chicago-based advocate of cleaner energy, said in a telephone interview. “We suspect other nuclear plant owners may start reaching the same decision.”


Davis-Besse's "San Onofre-like" shortcuts on safety with steam generator replacement focus of NRC public meeting

Terry Lodge speaks out against Davis-Besse in August 2012 at an NRC public meeting held at Oak Harbor High SchoolBeyond Nuclear set up an info. table at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) "annual performance review" public meeting in Carroll Township, Ohio, just a few miles down the road from FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company's (FENOC) problem-plagued Davis-Besse atomic reactor. Beyond Nuclear was there to let the public know about the ongoing resistance by an environmental coalition to Davis-Besse's 20-year license extension, and its recently filed intervention against FENOC's San Onofre-like shortcuts on safety regarding its proposed 2014 steam generator replacements.

Toledo attorney Terry Lodge (photo, left) represents the coalition, and Fairewinds Associates, Inc's Chief Engineer, Arnie Gundersen, serves as its expert witness. Gundersen also serves as Friends of the Earth's (FOE) expert, which just successfully forced Edison International to permanently shutdown the San Onofre 2 & 3 atomic reactors due to fatally flawed replacement steam generators.

WTOL's Jennifer Steck quoted Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps (print articletelevision report):

'..."We want to prevent a Chernobyl or Fukishima on the shoreline of the Great Lakes," said Kevin Kamps, of Beyond Nuclear. "There is no reactor in this country that's come closer to that as many times as Davis-Besse has."

Davis-Besse is licensed for operation through 2017, and in the process of a 20-year license renewal. Delaying that renewal and preventing a steam generator replacement in 2014 are the main goals of Beyond Nuclear.

"We've long strived to shut down Davis-Besse, and we're not going to give up now," Kamps said. "We're just going to re-double our efforts."...'

The Toledo Blade's Roberta Gedert also quoted Kevin:

“They went way out of their way to avoid a license amendment on this major organ transplant,” said Kevin Kamps, radioactive waste watchdog for Beyond Nuclear. “If they have made any mistakes, they have wasted hundreds of millions of dollars because we are going to challenge them at every turn.”


Dr. Gordon Edwards on the in's and out's of radioactive steam generators

Given all the attention being directed at steam generators due to San Onofre 2 & 3's closure, Dr. Gordon Edwards (photo, left), President of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, has prepared a backgrounder on the subject. In doing so, he has shown yet again why he was awarded the Nuclear-Free Future Award in 2006: "for his enduring role in demystifying nuclear technology helping the public to understand its radioactive predicament."

In 2010, tremendous controversy was generated throughout the Great Lakes, in both the U.S. and Canada, as well as in Europe, when Bruce Nuclear Generating Station in Kincardine, Ontario proposed shipping 64 radioactive steam generators, by boat, to Sweden. Bruce wanted to "recycle" the radioactive steam generators' outer shells into the metal recycling steam. Bruce CEO, Duncan Hawthorne, admitted at Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission hearings in Sept. 2010 that there were no emergency plans in place if one of the shipments sank. 

Dr. Edwards documented the radiological hazards contained in the steam generators. TheGreat Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative documented that the breach of a single steam generator, and release of even a fraction of its radioactive contaminants, could cause a federal radiological emergency in Canada, leading to the shutdown of nearby drinking water intakes. The Great Lakes are the drinking water supply for 40 million people in 8 U.S. states, 2 Canadian provinces, and a large number of Native American First Nations.

The Bruce shipping plan was stopped dead in its tracks, thanks in large part to a resolution,signed by scores of Quebec municipalities representing hundreds of thousands of residents along the St. Lawrence leg of the route, as well as pledges by Mohawk First Nations to not allow the shipment to pass through their territory.