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.



Protest against NRC's absurd rush to restore Entergy Palisades to top-notch safety status

Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps testifies at NRC public meeting in South Haven, MI on 12/11/12 regarding catastrophic risks at Entergy's Palisades atomic reactor. Credit Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio.The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) held a public meeting in South Haven, MI on Tuesday, Dec. 11th in order to explain to the public its oversight role, Entergy's corrective actions at Palisades, and the reasons why the problem-plagued atomic reactor has been suddenly restored to top-notch safety status. NRC designated Palisades one of the four worst-run reactors in the U.S. last February, but restored its top-notch safety status on Nov. 9th -- under pressure from powerful U.S. Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), who chairs the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee -- despite ongoing leaks, and a complete collapse of safety culture. The safety culture collapse was covered up by Entergy and NRC for months, but was recently revealed by Palisades' whistleblowers, their attorney Billie Pirner Garde, and U.S. Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA). The public isn't buying NRC's and Entergy's flip assurances, and marked the dog and pony show with a game of "Nukespeak Bingo," or "Blinky B'Lingo."

The coalition of concerned local residents and environmental groups put out a press release, as well as a "Blinky B'Lingo" board with 25 Nukespeak words or phrases, and a listing of their translations into plain English. The coalition included in its press packets an article entitled "No Word for Meltdown: The Return of Nukespeak," written just days after the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe had begun, by Rory O'Connor and Richard Bell. Along with Stephen Hilgartner, the three co-authors had published the book Nukespeak: Nuclear Language, Myths, and Mindset in 1982, and re-issued an updated version several months after Fukushima began.

Michigan Public Radio reported on the Nukespeak bingo game in an article. Michigan Radio's "Environment Report" also published an on-air "Palisades: Year in Review." There have been so many "unplanned shutdowns" in 2011 (five safety-significant equipment breakdowns that required emergency shutdowns of the reactor) and "leaks" in 2012 (three so far), Michigan Public Radio created a timeline to keep track of it all.

South Bend's ABC57 television news also reported on this story, as did the Kalamazoo Gazette newspaper.

On the very same day as the NRC meeting in South Haven, David Lochbaum, the Union of Concerned Scientists' Nuclear Safety Project Director, published an "All Things Nuclear" blog entitled "Palisades Reprises Davis-Besse."He compared the primary coolant leaks from Palisades' control rod drive mechanisms to Davis-Besse's infamous Hole-in-the-Head fiasco of 2002.


Judge refuses to send VT Yankee protesters to jail following jury trial and “guilty” verdict

A Vermont Superior Court judge refused the request of the six members of the “Shut It Down Affinity Group” to send them to jail following a jury’s verdict of “guilty” on charges of criminal trespass.  Instead, Judge John Wesley banned the women from further protest at the Fukushima-style nuclear reactor during a 45-day suspended sentence and fined them $350 each.  The women refused to pay any fines and vowed that they would return to the controversial reactor site. The activists, Mary Kehler, Ellen Graves, Nancy First, Hattie Nestel, Frances Crowe and Paki Wieland, all Massachusetts women ranging in ages from 69 to 93 years old, had freely admitted that they entered, walked onto the property of Vermont Yankee operated by the New Orleans-base nuclear utility Entergy, pad locked the front gate closed and chained themselves to the fence.  The affinity group has carried out 22 nonviolent direct actions at the GE Mark I Boiling Water Reactor since 2006. “This is about shutting Vermont Yankee down. The state should be putting a padlock on the gate,” said Hattie Nestel.  As American historian, Professor Howard Zinn has eloquently pointed out, civil disobedience and democracy are inseparably intertwined in many major policy changes and social movements.


Small modular reactors latest "last gasp" resuscitation offer to nuclear industry

"The SMRs are without a doubt going to be more expensive than even large reactors. Their economics are only getting worse." Dr. Edwin Lyman, physicist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, commenting on the US Department of Energy's latest "last gasp" attempt to keep the US nuclear power sector alive. The DOE is looking to throw a multi-million dollar bone to Babcock & Wilcox and the Tennessee Valley Authority to build small modular reactors (SMRs) that would be located under ground, hard to access and with a smaller workforce. "What Fukushima has shown us is that existing nuclear power plants don't have the personnel or resources to cope with severe emergencies," said Lyman. In addition, the modular design could make it more difficult to inspect and maintain key components, many of which would be located within the pressure vessel at the heart of the reactor, he said. More.


"Shut It Down!" affinity group members face jail and fine for Vermont Yankee arrests

In this Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2010 photo, Frances Crowe holds a sign while protesting at Entergy Vermont Yankee, in Vernon, Vt. Crowe, of Northampton, Mass., and several others were arrested after they walked past the main gate at Vermont Yankee. They read a statement calling for the closure of Vermont's only nuclear plant. AP Photo | The Brattleboro Reformer, Zachary P. Stephens.As reported by Eesha Williams in the Valley Post, six women, who are members of the "Shut It Down!" affinity group, will face trial, beginning at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, November 27th in downtown Brattleboro, VT, for their non-violent civil disobedience arrests at Entergy Nuclear's Vermont Yankee atomic reactor. If convicted of the misdemeanor trespassing charges, they could be sentenced to a year in jail, and a $500 fine, Williams reports.

The six defendants are: Hattie Nestel (age 73) of Athol, Massachusetts; Paki Wieland (age 68), Nancy First (age 82), and Frances Crowe (age 93) of Northampton, MA; Betsy Corner (age 64) of Colrain, MA; and Ellen Graves (age 69) of West Springfield, MA.

The "Shut It Down!" affinity group has been arrested nearly two dozen times at the VY reactor, or in related actions, as at other Entergy Nuclear offices.

Beyond Nuclear board member Karl Grossman was quoted in Williams' article.

The Associated Press also reported on this story"Asked how many time she had been arrested in such protests, [Frances Crowe] pointed to the fact that war, nuclear weapons and nuclear power plants continue to exist. 'Not enough,' she said. 'I don't know. I don't count. But I know I haven't achieved what I'm trying to achieve.'"

(The AP has reported that the defendants, if convicted, face not a year in jail, but rather three months.)


Vermonters urge State Public Service Board to deny Entergy Vermont Yankee a Certificate of Public Good

Vermont State HouseWith a rally on the front lawn of the Vermont State House in Montpelier (pictured, left) on Sat., Nov. 17th, and state-wide public testimony to the State of Vermont Public Service Board (PSB) on Mon., Nov. 19th, the people of the Green Mountain State made clear their ongoing, strong opposition to any grant of a renewed Certificate of Public Good (CPG) to Entergy Nuclear for the continued operation of the Vermont Yankee atomic reactor. The grassroots efforts were organized by such groups as the SAGE AllianceCitizens Awareness Network (CAN), and the Vermont Yankee Decommissioning Alliance (VYDA).

Debra Stoleroff, a key organizer with VYDA, shared "Nine Good Reasons for the Public Service Board to Reject Entergy's CPG Request." Debra also provided instructions on how to submit comments, including in writing, to the PSB. Comments by persons from out-of-state are not precluded. (Debra served as a coordinator of an exhibition of Chernobyl photographs by Gabriela Bulisova, which opened on St. Patrick's Day, 2011 at Montpelier City Hall. The exhibit was organized to mark the 25th anniversary of the beginning of the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe on April 26, 1986. The exhibit then moved to Dartmouth College on 4/26/11, hosted by the Upper Valley Sierra Club chapter. Beyond Nuclear co-sponsored the exhibits.) 

Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps was in Vermont and attended both the rally and the hearings, as well as Vermont Public Interest Research Group's (VPIRG) annual Environmental Summit in Randolph at the Vermont Technical College, where Vermont Yankee shutdown workshops were also held. At the conference, Kevin met Richard Watts, author of Public Meltdown: The Story of Vermont Yankee. 

Kevin also discussed the expansion of the Entergy Watch network with staff from the Toxics Action Center in Boston. Recently, a number of municipalities near Entergy Nuclear's Pilgrim power plant in Plymouth, MA have passed resolutions opposed to the operations of the atomic reactor. Toxics Action Center is 25 years old, formed in response to the W.R. Grace toxic chemical pollution of drinking water in Woburn, MA, made famous by the book and film A Civil Action.

Chris Williams, a key organizer of VYDA as well as VCAN, served as spokesman on the Vermont Yankee issue at the VPIRG Environmental Summit. Chris traveled to west Michigan on Oct. 11th, to educate Michiganders on the rogue corporation (a phrase oft repeated by political leadership in Vermont) Entergy, which operates the Palisades atomic reactor in Covert on the Lake Michigan shoreline. 

Vermont Yankee and Pilgrim are both General Electric Mark I boiling water reactors, identical in design to Fukushima Daiichi's Units 1 to 4. Entergy also own the Mark I at FitzPatrick, NY, and operates (on behalf of owner Nebraska Public Power District) the Mark I at Cooper, NE. Altogether, Entergy owns or operates a "dirty dozen" atomic reactors of various designs across the U.S.

The Barre Montpelier Times Argus reported on the rally, as well as on the state-wide hearings.

A gentleman sitting near Kevin at the hearing session in Brattleboro kept count of the number of those favoring and opposing a Certificate of Public Good for Vermont Yankee's continued operations. The grand tally was 68 opposed to a CPG, with 26 in favor. The man had also attended another PSB hearing in Vermont Yankee's hometown of Vernon on November 9th. There, 37 persons who testified were in favor of the CPG, while 34 were opposed.

Without a CPG, Vermont Yankee cannot continue operating, under state law. Entergy Nuclear actually signed a Memorandum of Understanding recognizing the Vermont PSB's authority in this regard, when it purchased Vermont Yankee a decade ago. Despite Entergy's subsequent lawsuit contesting the Public Service Board's authority, it was upheld in a federal court decision last January.