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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
Nov222012

Vermonters urge State Public Service Board to deny Entergy Vermont Yankee a Certificate of Public Good

Vermont State HouseWith a rally on the front lawn of the Vermont State House in Montpelier (pictured, left) on Sat., Nov. 17th, and state-wide public testimony to the State of Vermont Public Service Board (PSB) on Mon., Nov. 19th, the people of the Green Mountain State made clear their ongoing, strong opposition to any grant of a renewed Certificate of Public Good (CPG) to Entergy Nuclear for the continued operation of the Vermont Yankee atomic reactor. The grassroots efforts were organized by such groups as the SAGE AllianceCitizens Awareness Network (CAN), and the Vermont Yankee Decommissioning Alliance (VYDA).

Debra Stoleroff, a key organizer with VYDA, shared "Nine Good Reasons for the Public Service Board to Reject Entergy's CPG Request." Debra also provided instructions on how to submit comments, including in writing, to the PSB. Comments by persons from out-of-state are not precluded. (Debra served as a coordinator of an exhibition of Chernobyl photographs by Gabriela Bulisova, which opened on St. Patrick's Day, 2011 at Montpelier City Hall. The exhibit was organized to mark the 25th anniversary of the beginning of the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe on April 26, 1986. The exhibit then moved to Dartmouth College on 4/26/11, hosted by the Upper Valley Sierra Club chapter. Beyond Nuclear co-sponsored the exhibits.) 

Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps was in Vermont and attended both the rally and the hearings, as well as Vermont Public Interest Research Group's (VPIRG) annual Environmental Summit in Randolph at the Vermont Technical College, where Vermont Yankee shutdown workshops were also held. At the conference, Kevin met Richard Watts, author of Public Meltdown: The Story of Vermont Yankee. 

Kevin also discussed the expansion of the Entergy Watch network with staff from the Toxics Action Center in Boston. Recently, a number of municipalities near Entergy Nuclear's Pilgrim power plant in Plymouth, MA have passed resolutions opposed to the operations of the atomic reactor. Toxics Action Center is 25 years old, formed in response to the W.R. Grace toxic chemical pollution of drinking water in Woburn, MA, made famous by the book and film A Civil Action.

Chris Williams, a key organizer of VYDA as well as VCAN, served as spokesman on the Vermont Yankee issue at the VPIRG Environmental Summit. Chris traveled to west Michigan on Oct. 11th, to educate Michiganders on the rogue corporation (a phrase oft repeated by political leadership in Vermont) Entergy, which operates the Palisades atomic reactor in Covert on the Lake Michigan shoreline. 

Vermont Yankee and Pilgrim are both General Electric Mark I boiling water reactors, identical in design to Fukushima Daiichi's Units 1 to 4. Entergy also own the Mark I at FitzPatrick, NY, and operates (on behalf of owner Nebraska Public Power District) the Mark I at Cooper, NE. Altogether, Entergy owns or operates a "dirty dozen" atomic reactors of various designs across the U.S.

The Barre Montpelier Times Argus reported on the rally, as well as on the state-wide hearings.

A gentleman sitting near Kevin at the hearing session in Brattleboro kept count of the number of those favoring and opposing a Certificate of Public Good for Vermont Yankee's continued operations. The grand tally was 68 opposed to a CPG, with 26 in favor. The man had also attended another PSB hearing in Vermont Yankee's hometown of Vernon on November 9th. There, 37 persons who testified were in favor of the CPG, while 34 were opposed.

Without a CPG, Vermont Yankee cannot continue operating, under state law. Entergy Nuclear actually signed a Memorandum of Understanding recognizing the Vermont PSB's authority in this regard, when it purchased Vermont Yankee a decade ago. Despite Entergy's subsequent lawsuit contesting the Public Service Board's authority, it was upheld in a federal court decision last January.

Monday
Nov192012

Large nuclear debt leaves Long Island utility unable to cope with Sandy

Nearly three weeks after Hurricane Sandy slammed into New York and New Jersey, the lights and heat have finally come back on across most of the region.

But nowhere was the wait for power longer than on Long Island, where about 1,000 customers are still in the cold and dark, and utility mismanagement has deep roots.

McCallion says to understand what ails LIPA, you have to go back to its roots. The Long Island Power Authority is a state agency that was formed to take over a private power company — one with a deeply troubled history — called Long Island Lighting Company, or LILCO.

In the 1960s, when LILCO started building Shoreham, the utility said it would cost between $65 million and $75 million. The final bill was 100 times larger — more than $6 billion.

"LIPA really takes over as the utility on Long Island from LILCO," McCallion says, "but is saddled with this multibillion-dollar Shoreham debt."

Financially, Grossman says, it was a bad deal for consumers, but Long Islanders backed it anyway because the LIPA takeover meant the Shoreham nuclear plant would never open.

"The sentiment at the time was very clear — better our money than our lives," Grossman says.

Today, the Long Island Power Authority is still deeply in debt. Long Island consumers pay some of the highest electric rates in America. But most of LIPA's cash goes to debt service. And that's likely one reason it was so unprepared for Sandy and its aftermath. Recording. Transcript.

Wednesday
Nov142012

Oyster Creek likely first casualty in mounting post-Fukushima capital costs

 

Old nukes are an increasingly risky business venture. The Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan is having economic fallout here in the United States. Take Oyster Creek in Toms River, New Jersey for example.

Bloomberg Business Week is reporting that Chicago-based nuclear giant Exelon Corporation is considering permanently closing its Oyster Creek nuclear power station before the current 2019 decommissioning date as agreed with the State of New Jersey. Oyster Creek is the first GE Mark I Boiling Water Reactor, identical to the destroyed units at  Fukushima Dai-Ichi, to operate in the world. It went critical in October 1969 and started commercial operation in December 1969.

The mounting capital cost for reactor safety system modifications arising from the Fukushima disaster coupled with degraded reactor conditions is pushing the nation's oldest nuclear power station closer to closure.  The financial community is sending warnings to nuclear corporations that operating  a decrepit reactor is increasing risky venture and will damage credit ratings.

Exelon's announcement that Oyster Creek is teetering on closure sounds like the company's business sense has finally kicked in.

Oyster Creek recently reported that is has discovered degraded conditions found in reactor core internals with cracking in vital reactor safety equipment, the control rod drive mechanisms. 

 

Given its vulnerable Fukushima design, degraded plant conditions and the havoc that Hurricane Sandy  has wrought in the emergency planning zone, Oyster Creek should not be allowed to restart, period.


Monday
Nov122012

"Reading Radioactive Tea Leaves": Kewaunee reactor to shut down

John LaForge of Nukewatch in Luck, WIJohn LaForge of Nukewatch in Luck, WI (pictured left) has penned an op-ed,"Reading Radioactive Tea Leaves: Without a Buyer for Old Kewaunee Reactor, Owner Chooses Shut Down." In it, he details the many radioactive bullets Wisconsin has dodged, and has not dodged, at Kewaunee, just in recent years, including: "...a 2009 emergency shutdown caused by improper steam pressure instrument settings; a 2007 loss of main turbine oil pressure; an emergency cooling water system design flaw found in 2006; [the August 2006 discovery of radioactive tritium leaking into groundwater, for an unknown period, from unidentified pipes somewhere beneath the reactor complex]; a possible leak in November 2005 of highly radioactive primary coolant into secondary coolant which is discharged to Lake Michigan; a simultaneous failure of all three emergency cooling water pumps in February 2005, etc.".

Nukewatch has watchdogged Kewaunee for decades. On April 23, 2011, Nukewatch organized a "Walk for a Nuclear-Free Future" from Kewaunee to Point Beach's two reactors -- a distance of seven miles, the same as the distance between Fukushima Daiichi and Daini nuclear power plants -- to commemorate the 25th year since the Chernobyl atomic reactor exploded and burned beginning on April 26, 1986. The event took place just six weeks after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe had begun. Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps took part in the walk, and as a keynote speaker along with Natasha Akulenko, a native of Kiev, Ukraine and surivor of the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe.

Tuesday
Nov062012

Environmental coalition defends Davis-Besse intervention at ASLB oral argument pre-hearings in Toledo

Environmental coalition attorney Terry Lodge of Toledo speaks out against Davis-Besse's 20 year license extension at an NRC meeting at Oak Harbor High School, Oak Harbor, OH on August 9, 2012The environmental coalition comprised of Beyond Nuclear, Citizens Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario, Don't Waste Michigan, and the Green Party of Ohio has defended its intervention contentions against the proposed 20 year license extension at FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company's (FENOC) Davis-Besse atomic reactor. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Atomic Safety (sic) and Licensing Board (ASLB) oral argument pre-hearings took place on Nov. 5th and 6th (yes, Election Day) in Toledo, Ohio at the Lucas County Courthouse. The coalition's representatives, including attorney Terry Lodge of Toledo (photo, left), Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear, and Michael Keegan of Don't Waste Michigan, squared off against opposition to the contentions mounted by FENOC's and NRC's legal teams and experts.

The environmental coalition defended its Severe Accident Mitigation Alternatives (SAMA) analyses contentions -- already admitted for a full hearing on the merits by ASLB -- against a motion for summary disposition mounted by FENOC. The coalition also advocated for admission of its cracked concrete containment contention for a full hearing on the merits, while FENOC and NRC staff opposed it.

On Monday, the Toledo Blade published an editorial, "Tough enough to last?", questioning the structural integrity of the shield building for 25 more years (2012 to 2037). Today, it ran an article, "Davis-Besse hearings open." U.S. Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), a long-time watchdog on Davis-Besse and other FENOC atomic reactors,submitted a statement for the hearing record.