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.



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.


More than 2,500 to call on NRC to revoke reactor licenses: Join May 2 call!

Representatives from 24 organizations from across the United States have petitioned the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to revoke the operating license of the General Electric Mark I and Mark II boiling water reactors like those at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear site in Japan. More than 2,500 co-petitioners are calling for the emergency closure. The NRC public meeting will be broadcast live in a webcast and toll-free telephone conference call by the agency on Thursday, May 2, 2013 from 1 to 3PM Eastern. 

“Anybody paying attention during the Fukushima disaster knows that if a nuclear accident happens here these same reactor designs very likely will not protect us from radiation releases,” said Paul Gunter, Director of the Reactor Oversight Project for Takoma Park, MD-based Beyond Nuclear. Read the full press release.


Tritium contamination of growing stockpile of radioactive water leads to outcry against release to Pacific at Fukushima Daiichi

Gray and silver storage tanks filled with radioactive wastewater are sprawling over the grounds of the Fukushima Daiichi plant. Kyodo News, via Associated Press.In an article entitled "Flow of Tainted Water Is Latest Crisis at Japan Nuclear Plant," the New York Times has reported that continuing leaks of groundwater into the rubblized Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is causing a flood of radioactively contaminated water requiring a sprawling -- and ever growing -- complex of water storage tanks.

As the New York Times reports:

'...But the biggest problem, critics say, was that Tepco and other members of the oversight committee appeared to assume all along that they would eventually be able to dump the contaminated water into the ocean once a powerful new filtering system was put in place that could remove 62 types of radioactive particles, including strontium.

The dumping plans have now been thwarted by what some experts say was a predictable problem: a public outcry over tritium, a relatively weak radioactive isotope that cannot be removed from the water.

Tritium, which can be harmful only if ingested, is regularly released into the environment by normally functioning nuclear plants, but even Tepco acknowledges that the water at Fukushima contains about 100 times the amount of tritium released in an average year by a healthy plant...

...The public outcry over the plans to dump tritium-tainted water into the sea — driven in part by the company’s failure to inform the public in 2011 when it dumped radioactive water into the Pacific — was so loud that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe personally intervened last month to say that there would be “no unsafe release.”

Meanwhile, the amount of water stored at the plant just keeps growing.

“How could Tepco not realize that it had to get public approval before dumping this into the sea?” said Muneo Morokuzu, an expert on public policy at the University of Tokyo who has called for creating a specialized new company just to run the cleanup. “This all just goes to show that Tepco is in way over its head.”...'

It should be pointed out that tritium is not a "relatively weak radioactive isotope," but rather a relatively powerful one, once incorporated into the human body. Tritium is a clinically proven cause of cancer, birth defects, and genetic damage.

It must also be corrected that ingestion is not the only pathway for tritium incorporation -- inhalation, and even absorption through the skin, are hazardous exposure pathways.


Former NRC Chairman Jaczko calls for all U.S. atomic reactors to be shut down

Gregory Jaczko, who served as U.S. NRC Chairman from 2009-2012As reported by the New York Times, former U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Chairman Gregory B. Jaczko recently came to the realization that all U.S. atomic reactors have unfixable safety flaws, and should be shut down. He added, however, that "new and improved" so-called small modular reactors could take their place.

Jaczko thinks that perhaps none of the reactors that have received NRC rubber-stamps for 20-year license extensions will ever last that long, in reality, let alone an additional 20-year extension NRC is currently flirting with the idea of allowing (40 years of initial operation, plus two 20-year license extensions, adding up to 80 years of operations!).

Oyster Creek, NJ (a Mark I) is the oldest still-running reactor in the U.S., although it is already planned to close by 2019, ten years short of its 20-year extension. Dominion Nuclear has also announced the permanent shutdown of Kewaunee in WI next month, although it still have decades of permitted operations on its license.

Ironically, Jaczko himself approved many 20-year license extensions, including at Palisades in MI (opposed by NIRS and a state-wide environmental coalition) and Vermont Yankee (opposed by the vast majority of Green Mountain State residents and elected officials). Jaczko even voted to not hearing Beyond Nuclear's contentions at the Seabrook, NH and Davis-Besse, OH license extension proceedings regarding renewable alternatives, such as wind power, to the 20-year extensions at the dangerously degraded old reactors.

Jaczko reached out to Beyond Nuclear in May 2012 to set up a meeting between his entourage from NRC and concerned local residents and environmental group representatives near Palisades after he toured the problem-plagued reactor. During the closed-door meeting, concerned locals pressed Jaczko on why the 42-year-old, dangerously age-degraded reactor was allowed to operate. He responded, ironically enough, given his yes vote on Palisades' license extension in 2007, that once NRC grants an atomic reactor a license to operate, there is little that can then be done about it.

Jaczko did, however, earn the enmity of the nuclear power industry and his fellow NRC Commissioners, as by his past work against the proposed Yucca Mountain dumpsite, his invocation of emergency powers during the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe, and his votes against proposed new reactors in GA and SC because Fukushima "lessons learned" had not yet been applied or required. Although Jaczko often voted the industry's way, as above, he didn't always (often the sole dissenting vote), making him "insufficiently pro-nuclear" for the nuclear establishment, as Beyond Nuclear board member and investigative journalist Karl Grossman put it.

Jaczko was first appointed to the NRC Commission in 2005. In 2009, President Obama appointed him the chair the agency, which he did till 2012. He had previously worked on Capitol Hill, as a staffer for U.S. Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), and as a science fellow for U.S. Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), working on the Yucca Mountain and other nuclear power and radioactive waste issues.


1 killed, 4-8 injured, offsite electricity lost due to drop of 500 ton load at Entergy's Arkansas Nuclear One plant

NRC's file photo of Entergy's Arkansas Nuclear One twin reactor stationAs reported by Dow Jones Business News, a 24-year-old worker named Wade Walters of Russellville, Arkansas was killed when a crane dropped a 500-ton piece of equipment called a generator stator at Entergy's twin reactor Arkansas Nuclear One station (see photo, left), located six miles west-northwest of Russellville in London, Arkansas. Eight other workers were injured, one of whom remains hospitalized.

In 2001, NRC rubber-stamped a 20-year license extension on top of Unit 1's 1974 to 2014 original operating permit, blessing its operation till 2034. In 2005, NRC followed suit at Unit 2, enabling it to run not from 1978 till 2018, but till 2038.

As the article reports: "When the generator stator fell, it damaged other equipment and a water pipeline used for extinguishing fires. Water spilled from the pipeline into the building that contains the power turbine, the NRC said. The water seeped into an electrical component, causing a short-circuit that cut off power to the plant from the electric grid, according to Entergy and the NRC."

Unit 1 was reportedly shut down for maintenance at the time of the accident, but Unit 2 was operating at full power. For a yet to be explained reason, Unit 2 "automatically" shut down after the accident. Emergency diesel generators are reportedly supplying electricity to emergency, safety, cooling, and other systems at both reactors.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) "Current Reactor Status Report" shows that both Arkansas Nuclear One reactors are at zero power levels. An Event Notification Report has been posted at the NRC's website. Note that the Event Notification Report filed by Entergy reports only four injuries. The extent of damage to Unit 1 facilities has yet to be determined.