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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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Wednesday
Aug222012

Beyond Nuclear et. al. take NRC to federal court in Seabrook relicensing: Wind power vs. nuclear power

Three environmental groups (Beyond Nuclear, Seacoast Anti-Pollution League and the New Hampshire Chapter of the Sierra Club) have taken the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit (Boston, MA) in a legal challenge to NextEra Corporation’s application to extend the operating license of New Hampshire’s Seabrook nuclear generating station application from 2030 to 2050.

The public’s legal suit was filed in Boston on August 16, 2012 after the NRC’s five member Commission unanimously reversed an earlier ruling of the agency’s own licensing board admitting the citizen groups into the re-licensing hearing on the future of offshore deepwater wind in the Gulf of Maine as an energy alternative to a 20-year license extension of the nuclear power station. The groups claim that the Commission’s decision to overrule the licensing board decision has caused “procedural injury” and violates the Atomic Energy Act (AEA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).  

The citizen groups want the court to remedy this injury by ordering NRC to re-admit the groups back into Seabrook hearing process to review the wind energy alternative to the relicensing of the nuclear power station for 2030 to 2050. Oral arguments by the parties in the case are likely to be heard in the Boston federal court by early 2013.

In May 2010 NextEra Seabrook made application to the NRC to extend their current 40-year operating license of the Seabrook nuclear power plant in Seabrook, NH which expires in 2030 for another 20 years through 2050.  The three environmental groups petitioned the NRC on October 20, 2010 in request of a public hearing and charged that the power company did not conduct an adequate environmental review of less harmful energy alternatives as required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Specifically, the groups presented expert documents excluded by NextEra from its application demonstrating that offshore deepwater wind is a reasonable and less environmentally harmful energy alternative to the Seabrook license extension in 2030.

On February 15, 2011, the NRC Atomic Safety Licensing Board issued an Order granting the environmental groups a hearing as provided under NEPA to require the industry to take a “hard look” at a current plan to generate 5 Giga-watts (5000 Megawatts) of interconnected deepwater wind energy farms floating 10 to 50 miles offshore in the Gulf of Maine by 2030. On February 25, 2011, NextEra appealed the licensing board Order to the five member Commission. On March 8, 2012, the Commission issued an Order upholding the NextEra appeal and denying the three parties admission to a NEPA hearing.

Monday
Aug202012

Greg Palast: "Fukushima, They Knew"

Investigative reporter Greg PalastFrom Shoreham nuclear power plant on Long Island, NY in 1986 to Fukushima Daiichi, Japan in 2011, investigative reporter Greg Palast (photo left) documents that "they knew" that atomic reactor seismic qualifications were not up to real world risks. See Palast's article, "Fukushima: They Knew," here.

Friday
Aug172012

Kucinich weighs in on NRC OIG investigation of Ostendorff

U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH)U.S. Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) today weighed in on the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) Office of Inspector General (OIG) investigation into whether or not NRC Commissioner William C. Ostendorff interfered with another OIG investigation, into why former NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko was kept in the dark about radioactive and acidic water leaks, being caught in buckets in the control room of Entergy Nuclear's Palisades atomic reactor in Covert, Michigan. The Huffington Post broke that story yesterday.

Here is the text of Rep. Kucinich's press release:

Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) today issued the following statement concerning an investigation by the Inspector General of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission examining the possibility that a Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Commissioner undermined a probe of the Palisades [Nuclear] Power Plant in Michigan.

Yesterday, Congressman Kucinich requested the Inspector General investigate the agency’s public response to problems at Davis-Besse. Kucinich’s request came after the Nuclear Regulatory Commission held a hearing in Ohio to reassure the public about the safety of the plant. Official answers from NRC employees made at that hearing differed dramatically from what NRC engineers had previously told Kucinich and his staff.

“I can’t say the cases are related, but the similarities between these two investigations are troubling. In Michigan, an effort to determine why a radioactive leak was kept from the Chairman of NRC may have been undermined. In Ohio, we witnessed agency officials give public statements that varied dramatically from what engineers had told my staff. I cannot determine what caused this change in the answers of these Region III engineers, but I am concerned that it was in response to political pressure. I hope that the Inspector General is able to restore confidence in the NRC’s ability to provide effective oversight of our nation’s nuclear power plants,” said Kucinich.

Friday
Aug172012

Crack contention against Davis-Besse 20-year extension bolstered by NRC FOIA revelations

At the reactor's front gate, "Homer Simpson and Humpty Dumpty act out" FENOC's "Blizzard of '78" snow job explanation for how/when/why Davis-Besse's concrete containment shield building cracked. This street theater was held in solidarity with the SAGE Alliance's day of action to shut down Vermont Yankee, and protested FENOC's Feb. 28th "root cause report."The environmental coalition challenging FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company's (FENOC) proposed 20-year license extension at the problem-plagued Davis-Besse atomic reactor, near Toledo on the Lake Erie shore, has bolstered its contention on the severe shield building cracking by citingU.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) documents revealed through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request submitted by Beyond Nuclear. The coalition has issued a media release about its latest contention supplementation.

Toledo attorney Terry Lodge filed this FOIA supplement, the coalition's fifth this year, since filing the original contention on January 10th, just five days after the environmental intervenors confronted NRC and FENOC about the cracking at a special public meeting at Camp Perry, OH. The others include: (1) a Feb. 27th filing, based on U.S. Rep. Kucinich's (D-OH) revelation that the shield building's outer rebar layer was no longer structurally functional, due to the cracking; (2) a June 4th filing, in response to FENOC's woefully inadequate Aging Management Plan (AMP) for the shield building's cracks; (3) a July 16th filing, in response to FENOC's revised root cause analysis report, which revealed that shield building cracking was first observed not in October 2011, but rather August 1976; (4) a July 23rd filing, based on revelations in FENOC contractor Performance Improvement International's revised root cause assessment report, which revealed 27 areas of skeptical NRC questioning about FENOC's "Blizzard of 1978" theory of shield building cracking (the environmental Intervenors also posted documents supportive of its fourth supplement). The environmental coalition also defended its crack contention, on February 14th, against challenges by NRC staff and FENOC.

Beyond Nuclear has prepared a report, entitled "What Humpty Dumpty Doesn't Want You to Know: Davis-Besse's Cracked Containment Snow Job," which summarizes the coalition's work in 2012 on Davis-Besse's dangerously degraded condition.

Wednesday
Aug152012

Kucinich demands OIG investigation of NRC's two-faced "snow job" on Davis-Besse's cracked containment

U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) is a long time watchdog on the problem-plagued Davis-Besse atomic reactorU.S. Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-OH, photo at left) has written to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) Office of Inspector General (OIG), demanding an investigation of NRC wrongdoing in regards to its Region 3 safety engineers telling him and his staff one thing months ago about Davis-Besse's shield building cracking, and another thing last Thursday night. Rep. Kucinich's office has issued a press release about his demand as well.

Kucinich referenced Beyond Nuclear's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to NRC, which has revealed, among many other things, that NRC staff worked evenings, weekends, and even through the Thanksgiving holiday, in order to rush approval for FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company (FENOC) to restart Davis-Besse on December 2, 2011 -- despite not knowing the "root cause," extent, and safety and environmental risk significance of the cracking in the concrete shield building, nor what corrective actions needed to be made.

Kucinich joined with environmental coalition allies seeking to block Davis-Besse's proposed 20 year license extension at a press conference in the reactor's hometown of Oak Harbor, OH, 21 miles from Toledo on the Lake Erie shore, prior to a special NRC public meeting about the cracking scandal. Beyond Nuclear unveiled a new report, "What Humpty Dumpty Doesn't Want You to Know: Davis-Besse's Cracked Containment Snow Job," which summarizes NRC's FOIA revelations. The environmental coalition's Toledo-based attorney, Terry Lodge, will file a motion this week to introduce into the record of the NRC Atomic Safety (sic) and Licensing Board operations extension proceeding these FOIA revelations.