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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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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.

Monday
Oct292012

"A Mountain of Radioactive Waste 70 Years High: Ending the Nuclear Age," Chicago, December 1-3

A number of experts have confirmed they will speak, including (alphabetical by last name): Kinnette Benedict, Executive Director & Publisher, Bulletin of the Atomic ScientistsRobert Chavez, indigenous youth anti-uranium activist, Okayowingeh (San Juan Pueblo), New Mexico; Diane D'Arrigo, Radioactive Waste Project Director, Nuclear Information and Resource ServiceKay Drey, Beyond Nuclear board member, and nearly four decade long anti-nuclear activist; Norma M. Field, Ph.D., Robert S. Ingersoll Distinguished Service Professor in Japanese Studies in East Asian Languages and Civilizations, University of Chicago; Arnie Gundersen, Chief Engineer, Fairewinds AssociatesPaul Gunter, Reactor Oversight Project Director, Beyond NuclearKristen Iversen, author, Full Body Burden: Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky FlatsArne Jungjohann, Director for the Environment and Global Dialogue Program of the Washington, D.C. office, Heinrich Boell FoundationKevin Kamps, Radioactive Waste Watchdog, Beyond Nuclear; and Dr. Arjun Makhijani, President, Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, and author, Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free: A Roadmap for U.S. Energy PolicyDr. Jeff Patterson, Board of Directors, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Madison, Wisconsin; Kathleen Rude, conducting Active Hope (a workshop to deal with Nuclear Despair, based on the works of Joanna Macy); Kendra UlrichFriends of the Earth USA, Washington, DC; Charmaine White Face, Coordinator, Defenders of the Black Hills, Rapid City, South Dakota; and  Akiko YoshidaFriends of the Earth, Tokyo, Japan

In addition, a film has been confirmed to be screened: The Atomic States of Americaby Sheena Joyce and Don Argot of 9.14 Pictures in Philadelphia.

Finally, on Monday, December 3rd, an optional field trip to Red Gate Woods is being organized. This is the forest preserve in the southwestern suburbs of Chicago where Fermi's first radioactive wastes of the Atomic Age were buried under a mound of earth, and marked with a simple stone marker. Bicycle and hiking paths pass close by. Previous tours to the site have not registered higher than normal background radioactivity levels, although concerns persist about eventual leakage of radioactivity from the site into the environment. We will be sure to take radiation monitors on our Dec. 3rd field trip, in order to document radioactivity levels, as well as to protect ourselves.