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.



"Rickety & risky": Applying RPV embrittlement lessons learned at Palisades to Diablo Canyon

Diablo Boys Cartoon by Mark Bryan – ArtOfMarkBryan.comIn a post entitled NRC: ‘Diablo Canyon among ‘most embrittled plants in the U.S.,’ Mary Beth Brangan and James Heddle have posted an article at applying the lessons learned about reactor pressure vessel (RPV) embrittlement at Diablo Canyon.

In a document dated March/April 2013 (see point #4, on p. 5 of 15 of PDF counter), the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission listed Diablo Canyon Unit 1 as having one of the worst neutron radiation embrittled RPVs in the country, surpassing safety screening criteria by 2033. However, given that Palisades' own End-of-Life dates have been predicted as early as the mid-1990s, or even the early 1980s, only to be postponed to 2017, with applications for regulatory relief out to 2031, Diablo Canyon's "good to go" till 2033 NRC seal of approval must be subjected to critical scrutiny.

Pacific Gas & Electric has applied to NRC for 20-year license extensions at Diablo Canyon 1 & 2. Friends of the Earth recently won a hearing from the NRC's Atomic Safety and Licensing Board for a hearing on earthquake risks. A similar legal victory in 2013 led to the permanent closure of San Onofre 2 & 3 in southern CA.


UCS's Lochbaum's insights on RPV embrittlement risks at Entergy's Palisades atomic reactor

David Lochbaum, UCSDavid Lochbaum, Director of the Nuclear Safety Project at Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS, photo left), recently shared the following insights about reactor pressure vessel (RPV) embrittlement risks at Entergy's Palisades atomic reactor located in Covert, MI. And he gave us permission to share them:

"Embrittlement is the issue that compelled the owners of the Yankee Rowe nuclear plant to permanently shut it down in September 1991.

Palisades has the least embrittlement margin of any U.S. nuclear power reactor vessel. And it would not be allowed to operate if the standards applied to Yankee Rowe were applied to Palisades. The NRC worked behind the scenes with the nuclear industry to revise the standards and now - magically - Palisades has ample margin.

So, the NRC colludes with industry to move the goal posts and then does not allow the coalition to contest the new location of the goal posts. Welcome to the Soviet Union of Michigan.

The NRC encourages public participation -- until the public seeks to participate.

To be fair (or less unfair) to the NRC, they don't have a clue where the embrittlement line is drawn. They are conducting an experiment in Michigan hoping that the redrawn line doesn't kill anyone. If no one gets killed in the experiment, the NRC might allow other reactors in other states to give it a try. Or maybe even redraw the line again.

Even if moving the goal posts was technically sound, doing it after conspiring with the industry while barring the public  moves the sleaze meter to 11. Someone really needs to take the NRC to the wood shed for antics like these. 

If no one gets killed in Michigan, it'll be due more to luck than the NRC working even-handedly with all its stakeholders to do the greatest good for the greatest number.


Dave Lochbaum


P.S. - I wonder which NRC senior manager will soon retire and find employment by Entergy at a very healthy salary?".

Beyond Nuclear hosted a MI and OH speaking tour featuring Lochbaum in April 2013, including southwest MI events focused on Palisades. Palisades had suffered three near-misses in just a two year time period, vying for worst such record in the entire country, as documented in Lochbaum's annual nuclear safety report that year, that year entitled Tolerating the Intolerable.

Lochbaum just published an "All Things Nuclear"/"Fission Stories" blog about yet another example of the abnormally high risks at Palisades.


NIW: "The Palisades Embrittlement Battle"

Entergy Nuclear's Palisades atomic reactor is located on the Lake Michigan shore in Covert, MI.Rosa Lin at Nuclear Intelligence Weekly (NIW) has written an article entitled "United States: The Palisades Embrittlement Battle" (reproduced here with permission from the publisher), about dueling appeals submitted to the full U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

Environmental intervenors, including Beyond Nuclear, have appealed an Atomic Safety and Licensing Board Panel's (ASLBP) rejection, on May 8th, of its contention against an Entergy Nuclear License Amendment Request (LAR) for regulatory relief regarding brittle fracture risk in Palisades' reactor pressure vessel (RPV) at colder temperatures. Entergy has just appealed the same ASLBP's granting of an evidentiary hearing, on June 18th, to the intervenors regarding an Entergy LAR for RPV ductile fracture risk at hotter temperatures.

NRC has recognized, on numerous occassions, that Palisades has the worst neutron radiation embrittled RPV in the U.S., but numerous other pressurized water reactors (including Point Beach, WI; Indian Point 3, NY; Diablo Canyon 1, CA; Beaver Valley 1, PA; and Davis-Besse, OH) are not far behind. Embrittled RPVs are at risk of pressurized thermal shock through-wall fracture, which would lead to core meltdown.

Lin quotes Beyond Nuclear, as well as Dave Lochbaum, Director of the Nuclear Safety Project at UCS:

Palisades "would not be allowed to operate if the standards applied to Yankee Rowe were applied" to it, said Dave Lochbaum of the Union of Concerned Scientists, referring to a plant shut down in 1992 due to embrittlement.


"Palisades 50," by Dave Lochbaum, UCS

Entergy Nuclear's Palisades atomic reactor, on the Lake Michigan shore in Covert, MIDave Lochbaum, Director of the Nuclear Safety Project at Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), has penned another of his "Fisson Stories," entitled "Palisades 50," yet another installment in his watchdogging of Entergy Nuclear's problem-plagued atomic reactor.

Remarkably, during U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission CDBI (Component Design Bases Inspections) in 2014, 10 violations were discovered at Palisades, out of 20 components (with "vitally imporant safety functions") inspected. This was nearly three times the national average.

Lochbaum concluded: "The testing and inspection programs are supposed to demonstrate that the public is adequately protected.

That’s not happening.

That must get fixed before impaired safety components contribute to the next nuclear disaster."


Letter to the Editor: NRC's rules too weak at Davis-Besse

Davis-Besse's weather sealant "White Wash" of 2012, applied 40 years too late, ended up locking water in the walls. The ice-wedging crack propagation thus generated worsens Shield Building cracking by a half-inch, every time it freezes!Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps wrote a letter to the editor of the Port Clinton, OH News Herald on June 26, 2015, warning about safety significant systems, structures, and components that are too age-degraded to keep operating safely during FirstEnergy Nuclear's proposed 2017-2037 license extension at its problem-plagued Davis-Besse atomic reactor on the Lake Erie shore in Oak Harbor, OH.

Despite a severely cracked, and ever worsening, concrete containment Shield Building, and questions about how long its reactor lid will last this time, and how its experimental steam generator replacements will go, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is poised to rubber-stamp Davis-Besse's license extension.