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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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Tuesday
Mar052013

No shame as NRC schedules new nuke review on March 11

Thumbing its nose and what should be a sombre reminder of the perils of nuclear energy, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission will hold a "public" meeting on March 11, 2013 to review the seemingly DOA proposal for a third, redundant reactor at Calvert Cliffs, MD. (And note the NRC's laughable slogan encapsulating precisely what it tries so hard NOT to do - at least at the Commission level where NRC staff safety concerns are routinely over-ridden.)

Sunday
Mar032013

Nuclear Relapse? Canceled! Nuclear power? Game over!

Peter BradfordAs reported by ScienceDaily in an article entitled "U.S. May Face Inevitable Nuclear Power Exit,"  the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists (BAS) has concluded its three part "Nuclear Exit" series with a look at the United States. The previous two installments examined the nuclear power phase-out in Germany, and the nuclear power status quo in France.

The BAS U.S. coverage features former U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Commissioner, Union of Concerned Scientists board member, and Vermont Law School professor Peter Bradford's "How to close the U.S. nuclear industry: Do nothing," which concludes that, without massive taxpayer or ratepayer infusions, almost all proposed new reactors will not happen, and currently operating reactors will permanently shutdown by mid-century, unless the NRC rubber-stamps 80 years of operations (as opposed to the current, already risky 60). More.

Thursday
Feb212013

Fermi 3 Final Environmental Impact Statement incomplete: intervenors reveal major inadequacies; NRC announces major delays in Safety Evaluation Report; major setbacks projected

An artist's rendition of the ESBWR targeted to be built at Fermi 3On Feb. 19, 2013, the environmental coalition intervening in opposition to the construction and operation of Detroit Edison's proposed new Fermi 3 atomic reactor filed new and amended contentions in response to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Final Environmental Impact Statement about the proposal. The coalition issued a news release.

Documents related to environmental intervenors' filing of Feb. 19, 2013 in opposition to the General Electric-Hitachi so-called "Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor" (or ESBWR, see image, left) proposed to be constructed and operated at the Fermi nuclear power plant in Monroe County, Michigan, on the Lake Erie  shoreline, as well as documents reveal the major schedule delays afflicting the project:

Intervenors' Feb. 19, 2013 "MOTION FOR RESUBMISSION OF CONTENTIONS 3 AND 13, FOR RESUBMISSION OF CONTENTION 23 OR ITS ADMISSION AS A NEW CONTENTION, AND FOR ADMISSION OF NEW CONTENTIONS 26 AND 27";

Current Fermi 3 COLA Review Schedule (Feb. 15, 2013), showing 2 years and 10 month of delay;

Original Fermi 3 Schedule (June 30, 2009).

Wednesday
Feb202013

Latest "leak per week" at Entergy's Palisades atomic reactor

Entergy Nuclear's problem-plagued Palisades atomic reactor, and the inland "sweet water sea" (Lake Michigan) and countryside (southwest Michigan) which it threatens.As shown at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) "Current Power Reactor Status Report", Entergy's Palisades atomic reactor in Covert, Michigan on the Lake Michigan shoreline is at zero percent power. Why? Because, yet again, it has suffered a leak and breakdown -- but the latest of many in recent years.

As reported at the NRC Event Notification:

"TECHNICAL SPECIFICATION REQUIRED SHUTDOWN DUE TO COMPONENT COOLING WATER TRAIN OUT OF SERVICE 

'At 2030 hours [EST] on February 14, 2013, technical specification (TS) 3.7.7 condition A was entered due to the right train of the component cooling water (CCW) system being declared inoperable. The cause of the inoperable train was the identification of an approximate 40 gallon per hour CCW system to service water system leak inside the 'A' CCW heat exchanger. TS 3.7.7 condition A requires restoration of the inoperable train within 72 hours. If the restoration is not completed within 72 hours, the plant must be in Mode 3 within 6 hours and in Mode 5 within the subsequent 36 hours.' 

'Due to the inability to repair the leak within the required 72 hour time frame during power operation, a plant shutdown was initiated at approximately 1300 hours on February 15, 2013. Entry into Mode 3 is expected at approximately 1700 hours on February 15, 2013. The plant will enter Mode 5 to execute leak repair. Mode 5 entry is expected at approximately 0800 hours on February 16, 2013.'"

No explanation is given as to why this incident, dated Feb. 14, was not publicly reported until Feb. 19.

However, NRC Region 3 spokeswoman Viktoria Mytling told WSBT-TV in South Bend, IN that "NRC resident inspectors at Palisades have been aware of a leak from the cooling water system and followed the plant’s actions to find the location after the leakage increased from 2 to 35 gallons an hour in less than a week."

No explanation is given for the disparity between Mytling's 35 gallon per hour figure, and the NRC incident report's 40 gallon per hour figure, above.

The Kalamazoo Gazette quotes Mytling as admitting that the leakage began as early as Feb. 8. NRC has provided no explanation as to why the public was not informed about the problem for 11 days. 

(Last year, U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) demanded an NRC investigation into Mytling's downplaying of a reactor leak at the troubled Davis-Besse atomic reactor near Toledo. In addition, Chicago watchdog group Nuclear Energy Information Service, via a Freedom of Information Act Request to the State of Illinois Dept. of Nuclear Safety, documented that Mytling's flip assurance -- that a radioactive steam leak at the Byron atomic reactor must have contained exceedingly low levels of hazardous radioactive tritium, as radiation monitors had not detected any -- was baseless and misleading, as no real-time tritium monitoring capability existed at the plant.)

However, an 11 day delay in informing the public is nothing new, in light of Entergy and NRC behavior at Palisades in recent years. For example, in June, 2012, courageous Palisades whistleblowers and their attorney, Billie Pirner Garde of Washington D.C., working with U.S. Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), made public a leak into Palisades' safety critical control room (where electrical circuitry and equipment cannot be allowed to get wet) that had been ongoing for more than a year, with leakage being caught in buckets near the central control panel. That leak had been kept not only from the public, but even from the NRC's Chairman, despite his tour of the problem-plagued plant on May 25, 2012. NRC internal investigations supposedly continue as to why the agency's own chairman was kept in the dark about the control room leak.  

WSBT has also posted an additional NRC statement about the latest "leak per week" (a phrase coined by watchdogs on Entergy's controversial and troubled Vermont Yankee atomic reactor) at Palisades:

"NRC STATEMENT: WHAT IS THIS LEAK ALL ABOUT?

The leak came from the component cooling water system whose function is to remove heat from pipes, pumps and other equipment running at high temperatures. Workers identified the source of the leak to be one of the plant’s two heat exchangers which are a part of this system. Heat exchangers, which consist of about 2,000 tubes each, are used to remove heat during normal operation but also during potential accident scenarios. Palisades has two heat exchangers, which cool equipment important to safety, and are required to be in working condition. According to NRC regulations, if there is a problem with one of the heat exchangers it would need to be fixed within in [sic] 72 hours.  If that’s not possible the plant would have to shut down to find and fix the leak. Palisades made the decision to shut down before reaching the established limit.  The plant has to repair the heat exchanger before returning online.

NRC resident inspectors, in consultation with our expert in the region, continue to monitor [sic] situation." (Emphasis added.)

Thus, this equipment breakdown does have safety significance.

The Holland Sentinel was perhaps the first news outlet to report on this story.

Wednesday
Feb202013

5-year prison sentence for perpetrator of bomb plot hoax involving Entergy's Palisades atomic reactor

Entergy Nuclear's Palisades atomic reactor, Covert, MI, on the Lake Michigan shoreAs reported by WSBT-TV in South Bend, Indiana, a federal judge has sentenced an individual to five years in prison for bomb plot hoaxes. 36-year old Anthony Fortuna of Allendale, MI admitted filing false reports with both the FBI and U.S. Marshalls Service about bomb plots supposedly targeting the Entergy Nuclear Palisades atomic reactor in Covert, Michigan, as well as the Gerald R. Ford Federal Building in Grand Rapids, MI. 

As reported by WSBT, "His sentence was imposed by Chief U.S. District Judge Paul L. Maloney in Kalamazoo, who said the maximum sentence of 5 years in prison was necessary based on Fortuna’s prior criminal history...and because the false reports required both the FBI and USMS to waste time and resources conducting extensive investigations of what, if true, would have been extremely serious plots." (emphasis added)

Palisades has experienced a number of real security breaches over the past decade, however. It has been cited by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission for security violations. Esquire Magazine broke the story in May, 2007 that Palisades' security chief was a fraud, unqualified for his position, although able to convince local, state, and federal officials that his nuclear security approach should be implemented as a model nationwide. And on the first anniversary of 9/11 attacks, the New York Times reported that an armed Palisades security guard had suffered a nervous breakdown on the job, due to being forced to work 72 hours per week, for months on end; additionally, three suspicious cars had penetrated deep into Palisades' property, but got away because Palisades' security had phoned the wrong local law enforcement agency for response.