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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
Apr102012

Toledo Blade editorializes in support of consideration of renewables as alternative to Davis-Besse license extension

The Toledo Blade, which in the past has often taken pro-nuclear editorial positions, has nonetheless come out in support of an environmental coalition's contention that renewables, such as wind and solar power, should be considered as an alternative to a 20 year license extension at the problem-plagued Davis-Besse atomic reactor, with its cracked containment. Beyond Nuclear authored a wind power contention in Dec., 2010 that won admission from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) for a hearing on the merits; the ASLB likewise admitted a solar photovoltaic (PV) contention authored by the environmental coalition's expert witness, Dr. Al Compaan, an emeritus professor and former chair of the University of Toledo physics dept., a PV inventer. However, the full five member NRC Commission recently sided with FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company's appeal of the ASLB rulings, and overrode them, rejecting any consideration of renewable alternatives. The NRC Commission did the same thing at Seabrook, NH, where Beyond Nuclear authored a contention that offshore wind power in the Gulf of Maine could replace that atomic reactor's electrical output. Terry Lodge of Toledo is the attorney representing the environmental coalitions in both proceedings.

Tuesday
Apr102012

"Lessons from Fukushima: is Ohio next?" Antioch University Midwest, Yellow Springs, Ohio, Sat., April 21st

Beyond Nuclear is honored to take part in an Earth Day forum on Sat., April 21st at Antioch University Midwest in Yellow Springs, Ohio entitled "Lessons from Fukushima: is Ohio next?" A schedule for the forum, as well as a promotional flyer, are available. Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps has been invited to speak about "What really happened at Fukushima-Daiichi in Japan?" While focusing on the cause of the nuclear power catastrophe, he will also provide an update on the ongoing dangerous state of what is left of the atomic reactors at Fukushima, and the relevance of "lessons learned" for the problem-plagued Davis-Besse and Perry atomic reactors in Ohio. Beyond Nuclear has, along with environmental coalition allies Citizens Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario, Don't Waste Michigan, and the Green Party of Ohio, officially intervened against FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company's proposed 20 year license extension at Davis-Besse near Toledo; FENOC's Perry plant near Cleveland is ranked by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission as one of the five least safe reactors in the U.S.

Tuesday
Apr102012

Take action to block teetering nuclear loan guarantees!

The latest essay by Harvey Wasserman (pictured, left) of Nukefree.org,"America's Two New Nukes are on the Brink of Death," describes how President Obama's Office of Management and Budget has some newly revealed, serious concerns about the financial viability of an $8.33 billion taxpayer-backed nuclear loan guarantee for the two new proposed reactors, Toshiba-Westinghouse AP1000s, at Vogtle 3 & 4 in Georgia. Harvey also reports how ratepayers in North Carolina could block new reactors targeted at South Carolina, Summer Units 2 & 3 (also proposed AP1000s). He shows how grassroots anti-nuclear activism from Japan to Germany, Vermont to California, India and beyond represents a global nuclear power retreat, and renewable ("Solartopian") renaissance. EcoWatch and the Waterkeeper Alliance have provided a petition where you can take action against the teetering Vogtle 3 & 4 federal loan guarantee, before it gets finalized!

Friday
Mar302012

NRC has rubber-stamped license extensions and "power uprates" at 22 of 23 GE BWR Mark I reactors operating in the U.S.

Pat Birnie of the GE Shareholders Alliance has compiled U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) data on "power uprates" which the agency has approved at 22 of the 23 General Electric boiling water reactors of the Mark I design still operating across the U.S. (Nine Mile Point Unit 1 in NY is the only exception). Her chart is accessible here. The Fukushima Daiichi Units 1 to 4 which exploded and melted down beginning in March 2011 are also GE BWR Mark Is.

The single biggest power uprate, as a percentage of heat output (measured as Megawatts-thermal, or MWt), was a 20% "extended" type power uprate, granted in 2006 to Entergy Nuclear at its 34 year old (at the time) Vermont Yankee atomic reactor. This amounted to a 319 MWt power uprate (MWt must be divided by three to determine the Megawatts-electric, MWe, generated, due to the fact that 2/3rds of the heat generated by splitting atoms is lost as waste). The vibrational stresses caused by Vermont Yankee's power uprate led to the collapse of its cooling tower (see photo at left), and even contributed to a separate fiery explosion, when the increased pressure of flowing steam picked up loose metallic slag that had lain dormant for decades and slammed it into an operational transformer.

However, even bigger power uprates have been rubberstamped by NRC. The single biggest, at an individual Mark I reactor, was the 547 MWt of power uprates, granted in two installments (one a "Measurement Uncertainty Recapture" type uprate), at the Hope Creek, New Jersey Mark I. However, both Brunswick Mark Is, Units #1 and #2 in North Carolina, have each enjoyed a total of 487 MWt of power uprates, including a "stretch" type uprate, for a whopping 974 MWt of power uprates at the Brunswick nuclear power plant.

NRC gave the newly formed Exelon Nuclear Corporation (formed by the merger of Commonwealth Edison of Chicago and Philadelphia Electric Company, the first and second largest nuclear utilities in the U.S.) an early Christmas gift in 2001: a 17.8% power uprate at both of its Quad Cities 1 & 2 Mark Is, worth 446 MWt each; and a 17% power uprate, worth 430 MWt, at each of its Dresden 2 & 3 Mark Is. All four approvals took place on a single day, December 21, 2001. The combined power uprates at the four Mark I reactors netted Exelon 1,752 MWt of additional output.

While the nuclear utilities enjoy increased profits from the additional electricity sales associated with power uprates, the public downwind and downstream bears the risks of running these Mark Is harder and hotter than they were originally licensed or designed for. To make safety risks even worse, 22 of the 23 operating Mark Is have already received NRC rubberstamps for 20 year license extensions; Fermi 2 is the only exception, and it plans to apply for one in 2014. Pat Birnie has also compiled a listing of the 23 operating Mark Is in the U.S., including the reactor units' names, locations, expiration dates for their original 40 year licenses, and expiration dates for their NRC-authorized 20 year license extensions.

Pat Birnie has succeeded in getting an anti-nuclear shareholder resolution, written in the aftermath of the Fukushima Nuclear Catastrophe, onto the agenda of the General Electric annual shareholders meeting, to be held in downtown Detroit on April 25th.

Wednesday
Mar282012

NRC violates its own environmental protection mandate: 5 Commissioners reject renewables alternative at Davis-Besse atomic reactor

Davis-Besse, located in Oak Harbor, OH on the Lake Erie shorelineOn the eve of the 33rd annual commemoration of the Three Mile Island meltdown, the five NRC Commissioners voted unanimously yesterday to reject an environmental coalition's contention that wind power and solar power could readily replace the 908 Megawatts-electric from Davis-Besse, instead of FirstEnergy's proposed 20 year license extension at the problem-plagued atomic reactor with a cracked concrete containment. The environmental coalition put out a media release, and plans to appeal to the federal courts at the first opportunity.

NRC's Atomic Safety (sic) and Licensing Board (ASLB) presiding over the Davis-Besse license extension proceeding has ordered pre-hearing oral arguments about the latest, cracked concrete containment contention. The oral arguments will take place on Friday, May 18th, beginning at 9 a.m. in the Common Pleas Courtroom at the Ottawa County Courthouse, 315 Madison Street, Port Clinton, Ohio -- about ten miles from Davis-Besse.