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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
Dec272012

INVITATION to CELEBRATE: The Nuclear Age in Quebec is Over! Gentilly-2 is SHUT DOWN!

"Rest in Peace, Gentilly-2". Image compliments of CentricoisES et mauricienNEs pour le déclassement nucléaireThis tremendous good news just came in from Dr. Gordon Edwards, chair of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, and co-chair of the Great Lakes United Nuclear-Free/Green Energy Task Force:

28 December: The Nuclear Age in Quebec is Over! 

Join us, in Montréal, at 1 o'clock in the afternoon

On this occasion, Sonomi and her two children-- refugees from Fukushima, Japan -- will be our special guests.

P.S. Québec will be truly out of the nuclear age only when we achieve a permanent moratorium on uranium mining, as has been done in two other provinces -- Nova Scotia and British Columbia!

(Nuclear utility Hydro-Quebec announced Gentilly-2's permanent shutdown, to occur tomorrow, last October. Gentilly-2 is a CANDU atomic reactor which has operated since 1982.)

Sunday
Dec232012

Entergy Watch: NRC approves reduced inspections on troubled Vermont Yankee steam dryer

A Bathtub Curve (referring to the graph's shape) for Nuclear Accidents, by David Lochbaum of Union of Concerned ScientistsThe U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), which is supposed to protect public health, safety, and the environment, instead often prioritizes nuclear utility profits. As reported by the Rutland Herald, NRC has now approved Entergy inspecting its troubled Vermont Yankee (VY) steam dryer not once every 1.5 years, but rather once ever 4.5 years. This, despite the fact that the steam dryer at VY has developed 65 cracks in the past 7 years alone, likely related to the 20% "power uprate" NRC has also rubberstamped there (this means that VY is being run at 120% hotter and harder than it was originally designed for, with consequently damaging vibrations). 

A decade ago at Exelon's Quad Cities nuclear power plant in Illinois, another NRC-approved power uprate's vibrations led to a steam dryer's failure, sending chunks of metal hurtling down steam lines -- some of which were never recovered, even though the reactor has been permitted to keep operating.

VY's steam dryer is not the only age-degraded system, structure, or component at the 41-year-old Fukushima Daiichi twin (a General Electric Mark I Boiling Water Reactor). Its condensor is also on its last legs, begging for replacement. Entergy seems in no hurry to pay the tens of millions of dollars for that repair, either -- and NRC is not requiring it of them.

The Bathtub Curve for Nuclear Accidents (above left) shows that age-degradation significantly increases "break down phase" reactor risks. NRC rubberstamped "power uprates" exacerbate those risks even worse.

Saturday
Dec152012

Federal government whistleblower protections strengthened

Richard H. Perkins, top, and Lawrence Criscione, are risk analysts within the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. They are also whistleblowers who say the agency is not leveling with the public.As London Guardian readers elect U.S. whistleblower Bradley Manning as Person of the Year, there is more good news on the whistleblower front in the U.S. as well. As reported by Project on Government Oversight (POGO), the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act has been signed into law, after more than a decade of campaigning.

This comes just in the nick of time for two U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) whistleblowers, Richard H. Perkins and Lawrence Criscione (photos, left). The two NRC Staffers have warned, independently, that NRC has not only neglected, but even covered up, the risk of meltdowns at U.S. atomic reactors due to flooding caused by dam failures, as at the Oconee nuclear power plant in South Carolina. The Huffington Post has published a series of articles about this story (see the most recent one here).

NRC whistleblowers are very far and few between. One that Beyond Nuclear has had the honor and privilege of working with is Dr. Ross Landsman, who served at NRC Region 3 in Chicago before retiring in 2005. Landsman testified before Congress about the Midland, Michigan nuclear power plant in the 1980s, which helped stop those two reactors from ever operating (safety-critical buildings at the plant were sinking into the ground, like the Leaning Tower of Pisa). Beginning 20 years ago, Landsman also warned NRC about earthquake safety regulation violations with high-level radioactive waste storage at Palisades in Michigan, located as close as 100 yards from the waters of Lake Michigan, drinking water supply for 40 million people downstream in North America. The violations have never been addressed.

Landsman also warned about a soft-spot (due to concrete and rebar degradation) on the already too small, too weak containment building at Cook nuclear power plant in s.w. MI, a problem that has never been corrected.

Nuclear power industry whistleblowers, however, are still very vulnerable to harassment, intimidation, blacklisting, and worse. Oscar Shirani, a nationally renowned quality assurance auditor who worked for Commonwealth Edison/Exelon, was run out of the company and blacklisted by the U.S. nuclear power industry, after revealing major QA violations on the Holtec dry storage/transport cask systems for high-level radioactive waste, used at 33 U.S. reactors. Dr. Landsman supported Shirani's allegations, but the NRC and U.S. Department of Labor did not, hanging Shirani out to dry.

Saturday
Dec152012

Entergy Watch: Indian Point, Palisades, Vermont Yankee

Entergy Watch is a campaign to bridge the resistance communities living in the shadows of Entergy's dirty dozen atomic reactors across the U.S., shown here on this map posted at Entergy Nuclear's websiteU.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Atomic Safety (sic) and Licensing Board (ASLB) hearings resumed in the Lower Hudson River Valley, as reported by the LoHud.com (note further LoHud.com coverage going back in time along the article's left-hand margin). The resistance being mounted by the Attorney General of the State of New York and environmental groups like Clearwater and Hudson Riverkeeper has led to the most admitted contentions yet against a 20-year license extension. The current round of hearings are dealing with the issue of underground pipes leaking radioactivity into soil, groundwater, and the Hudson River. NY AG Eric Schneiderman's office has alleged that “Entergy does not know the current state of its buried and underground pipes.” In April, 2010, Beyond Nuclear's Paul Gunter reported on a chronic, large-scale radioactivity leak of tritium and other radioactive substances from high-level radioactive waste storage pools at Indian Point.

At Palisades in Covert, Michigan, a coalition of local concerned residents and environmental groups butted heads with NRC and Entergy yet again, this time at a public meeting at which NRC attempted to justify its restoration of top-notch safety status to the problem-plagued reactor (despite admitting the need for 50% more inspections than normal in 2013, due to a rash of leaks this year), while Entergy attempted to assure that its completely collapsed safety culture is on the mend. Critics kept themselves awake during the dog and pony show by playing a game of Nukespeak B'Lingo, as reported by Michigan Public Radio. The South Bend, IN ABC affiliate also reported on this story, quoting Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps as warning that Palisades is a catastrophe waiting to happen.

As reported by the Vermont Digger, the New England Coalition has filed a lawsuit at the Vermont Supreme Court demanding that Entergy be forced to shutdown the Vermont Yankee atomic reactor unless and until it is issued a Certificate of Public Good by the Vermont Public Service Board (PSB). As also reported by the Digger, just last week the PSB denied motions by Entergy to amend its previous agreements with the state, in order to make legal its continued reactor operations. The PSB found “If we were to reach the conclusion urged on us by Entergy VY...it would be hard not to also conclude that Entergy VY had misled the Board.” Entergy has sued not only Gov. Peter Shumlin by name, but also all three members of the PSB, again by name, in its bid to make legal 20 more years of VY operations, despite its previous commitments to the state otherwise. Meanwhile, a year after federal district judge Murtha in Brattleboro ruled in Entergy's favor on the 20-year license extension, the AG of VT, William Sorrell, will appeal that ruling to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City: oral argument was just scheduled for January 14, 2013.

Saturday
Dec152012

Protest against NRC's absurd rush to restore Entergy Palisades to top-notch safety status

Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps testifies at NRC public meeting in South Haven, MI on 12/11/12 regarding catastrophic risks at Entergy's Palisades atomic reactor. Credit Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio.The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) held a public meeting in South Haven, MI on Tuesday, Dec. 11th in order to explain to the public its oversight role, Entergy's corrective actions at Palisades, and the reasons why the problem-plagued atomic reactor has been suddenly restored to top-notch safety status. NRC designated Palisades one of the four worst-run reactors in the U.S. last February, but restored its top-notch safety status on Nov. 9th -- under pressure from powerful U.S. Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), who chairs the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee -- despite ongoing leaks, and a complete collapse of safety culture. The safety culture collapse was covered up by Entergy and NRC for months, but was recently revealed by Palisades' whistleblowers, their attorney Billie Pirner Garde, and U.S. Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA). The public isn't buying NRC's and Entergy's flip assurances, and marked the dog and pony show with a game of "Nukespeak Bingo," or "Blinky B'Lingo."

The coalition of concerned local residents and environmental groups put out a press release, as well as a "Blinky B'Lingo" board with 25 Nukespeak words or phrases, and a listing of their translations into plain English. The coalition included in its press packets an article entitled "No Word for Meltdown: The Return of Nukespeak," written just days after the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe had begun, by Rory O'Connor and Richard Bell. Along with Stephen Hilgartner, the three co-authors had published the book Nukespeak: Nuclear Language, Myths, and Mindset in 1982, and re-issued an updated version several months after Fukushima began.

Michigan Public Radio reported on the Nukespeak bingo game in an article. Michigan Radio's "Environment Report" also published an on-air "Palisades: Year in Review." There have been so many "unplanned shutdowns" in 2011 (five safety-significant equipment breakdowns that required emergency shutdowns of the reactor) and "leaks" in 2012 (three so far), Michigan Public Radio created a timeline to keep track of it all.

South Bend's ABC57 television news also reported on this story, as did the Kalamazoo Gazette newspaper.

On the very same day as the NRC meeting in South Haven, David Lochbaum, the Union of Concerned Scientists' Nuclear Safety Project Director, published an "All Things Nuclear" blog entitled "Palisades Reprises Davis-Besse."He compared the primary coolant leaks from Palisades' control rod drive mechanisms to Davis-Besse's infamous Hole-in-the-Head fiasco of 2002.