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.



Markey Questions Palisades Nuclear Plant In Light of New Leak, On-going Safety Issues

U.S. Congressman Ed Markey (D-MA)U.S. Congressman Ed Markey (Democrat-Massachusetts, pictured left) issued an August 30th press release entitled "Markey Questions Palisades Nuclear Plant In Light of New Leak, On-going Safety Issues," containing a link to his letter to U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Chairman Allison Macfarlane. Entergy Nuclear's Palisades atomic reactor is located in southwest MI, on the shoreline of Lake Michigan.

Markey serves as Ranking Member of the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee, and as a Senior Member of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee. He has watch-dogged nuclear power issues in the U.S. for decades, including safety and security risks at the problem-plagued Palisades atomic reactor for many years running.

In his press release and letter, Congressman Markey questions the safety implications of Palisades' latest leak-related shutdown, on August 12th, involving primary reactor coolant water, leaking through-wall from a Control Rod Drive Mechanism (CRDM). CRDMs are involved in the safety-critical control of the nuclear chain reaction in the atomic reactor's core. Palisades has been shutdown since the August 12th leak investigation began, but Congressman Markey notes that Palisades began reactor restart on August 30th. Palisades is now operating at full power.

Markey also questions NRC about an investigation, ordered by former NRC Chairman Jaczko, and allegedly interferred with by NRC Commissioner Ostendorff. Jaczko ordered an investigation into why he was kept in the dark about a leak of acidic and radioactive water into Palisades' control room, being caught in buckets, while he toured the atomic reactor on May 25th. Markey revealed the significance of that leak in June, after a tip off from courageous Palisades whistleblowers and their Washington, D.C.-based attorney, Billie Pirner Garde.

NRC will hold a public meeting in South Haven about Palisades' (lack of) safety culture, on Wed., 9/12 from 6-8:30 PM. Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps, who hails from southwest Michigan, will speak on "The Radioactive Catastrophe Waiting to Happen at Palisades, and What You Can Do to Prevent It," in his hometown of Kalamazoo, on Thurs., 9/13 from 7:30-9 PM. Click here for more details on those two events, as well as for extensive background information regarding recently revealed, as well as very long term, safety, health, and environmental risks at Palisades.


Entergy Nuclear's Palisades atomic reactor "a disaster waiting to happen"

Don't Waste Michigan board members Michael Keegan of Monroe, Alice Hirt of Holland, and Kevin Kamps of Kalamazoo call for Palisades' shutdown at the August 2000 Nuclear-Free Great Lakes Action Camp. Palisades' cooling tower steam and Lake Michigan are visible in the background.The Detroit News has quoted Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps in an article about the problem-plagued Palisades atomic reactor in Covert, Michigan, on the Lake Michigan shoreline. The article reports:

"...At a May appearance in East Lansing, Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear — a group that espouses abandoning nuclear energy — described how Palisades earned its approval for the next 20 years.

'We resisted it,' he told a crowd at the Peace Education Center. 'In fact, the entire environmental movement in Michigan resisted the license extension for Palisades. But we were steamrolled by the nuclear industry, by the NRC.' …

In four decades, Palisades has been fined by the NRC numerous times, and unscheduled shutdowns are almost an annual occurrence. To those who would characterize that as run-of-the-mill problems, Beyond Nuclear's Kamps disagrees.

There are many factors lining up for major problems, he said.

The NRC's license renewal process has a 'premeditated outcome' and, as proof, he noted the agency's 73-for-73 track record on renewal requests. He also pointed to the length of time Palisades officials have taken over the years to address NRC-identified problems.

'Palisades is a disaster waiting to happen,' Kamps said."


FENOC weather seals severely cracked Davis-Besse shield building exterior -- 40 years too late

Painters work high off the ground to apply a protective weatherproof coating to Davis-Besse’s concrete Shield Building. Cracks were discovered in the fall that were blamed on the Blizzard of 1978. THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGTAs reported by the Toledo Blade in an article entitled "Work crews apply waterproof coating to Davis-Besse: Project not silencing critics of plant," the only "corrective action" FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company (FENOC) plans to take, in response to severe cracking of its radiological containment "shield building," is to weather seal the exterior of the steel-reinforced concrete structure -- four decades too late. FENOC blames the cracking on the "brutal Blizzard of 1978,"which Beyond Nuclear has dubbed a snow job -- a charge repeated on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives by long-time Davis-Besse watchdog, Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), whose constituents live immediately downwind and downstream from the problem-plagued plant. 

The article quoted both Terry Lodge, Toledo-based attorney representing the environmental coalition (Beyond Nuclear, Citizens Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario, Don't Waste Michigan, and the Green Party of Ohio) battling against Davis-Besse's 20-year license extension, as well as Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps:

"I'm not at all comforted that they discovered an error that never should have happened to the most expensive and safety-significant building on the site," Mr. Lodge said Thursday.

Added Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear, "It's 40 years too late. Weather sealant will not fix the cracks that are there."

As reported by Fox 8 Cleveland, a FENOC spokesman outright lied: “The shield building meets all its design parameters, we have evaluated it for all its parameters, and it is fully operable,” said Jon Hook, the design engineer manager at the plant.

In fact, both the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and FENOC itself have acknowledged that Davis-Besse's severe shield building cracking violates the atomic reactor's design and licensing bases. At an August 9th public meeting in Oak Harbor, OH, an NRC spokesman, with an audible scoff, admitted that NRC has generously granted FENOC until December 2012 to merely come up with a "plan for a plan" to "restore conformance" -- that is, pencil whip the violations, making everything appear okay on paper.  

Hook also told the Toledo Blade the shield building "wasn't coated originally because 'there was no requirement that it be done...'." Why such a basic no brainer as weather sealant was not required -- on the shoreline of Lake Erie, which suffers severe winter weather -- has never been explained, neither by FENOC nor NRC. Further deepening the mystery is the fact that all other -- much less safety significant and expensive -- concrete structures on site were weather sealed. When asked to explain, FENOC spokeswoman Jennifer Young has simply said it was done for aesthetic reasons, as those other structures appeared "splotchy." 

WNWO also reported on this story.


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.


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.