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.



Environmental coalitions defend Lake Erie against reactor risks

Terry Lodge, Toledo-based environmental coalition legal counselEnvironmental coalitions continue to strive to defend Lake Erie against atomic reactor risks, both old and new.

At the age-degraded Davis-Besse atomic reactor near Toledo on the Lake Erie shore, a coalition has defended its new contention challening Shield Building wall gaps, cracks, and rebar damage. The coalition includes Beyond Nuclear, Citizens Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario, Don't Waste MI, and the OH Green Party.

Another coalition, resisting the proposed new reactor at the Fermi nuclear power plant in Monroe County, MI, has just suffered a major setback, but vows to fight on.

Late in the afternoon on the Friday before the Memorial Day holiday long weekend (May 23, 2014), a Nuclear Regulatory Commission Atomic Safety (sic) and Licensing Board (ASLB) hearing the Fermi Unit 3 intervention announced its ruling against the coalition's quality assurance (QA) contention, as well as its endangered species contention. (However, the coalition's Nuclear Waste Confidence contention is still in play, as its challenge against proposed new transmission lines.)

Arnie Gundersen, Chief Engineer at Fairewinds Associates, serves as the coalition's expert witness on QA. Gundersen warned last Halloween that the ASLB's adverse ruling would undermine whistleblower protections, and in fact all safety regulations, not just at Fermi 3, but would set a bad precedent that could lead to abuses at all proposed new reactors.

Regarding the endangered species contention, the ASLB declared its own ruling a "NEPA [National Environmental Policy Act] success story." Intervenors beg to differ. Detroit Edison's mitigation plan is woefully inadequate. The ASLB points out that the threatened Eastern Fox Snake, the subject of the contention, has four habitat ranges in Michigan and Ontario on the shoreline of Lake Erie -- implying that the loss of one of them, at Fermi 3, is no big deal. Combined with other ecological pressures, including climate chaos, the ASLB's flippant ruling could well spell the extinction of this species. But the Eastern Fox Snake is only one of many threatend and endangered plant and animal species put at further risk by the Fermi 3 proposal.

The coalition officially intervening against Fermi 3 includes Beyond Nuclear, Citizens for Alternatives to Chemical Contamination, Citizens Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario, Don't Waste MI, and the Sierra Club, Michigan Chapter.

Terry Lodge, Toledo based attorney, serves as legal counsel for the environmental coalitions in both the Davis-Besse and Fermi 3 ASLB proceedings.

The intervening groups are joined by others, including Citizens Resistance at Fermi 2, and the Alliance to Halt Fermi 3. Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps will speak at an Alliance press conference and rally in Detroit on May 30th. See the Alliance's press advisory, as well as its flyer.


Coalition defends its challenge against Davis-Besse Shield Building cracks, gaps, and rebar damage

Environmental coalition attorney Terry LodgeAn environmental coalition, represented by attorney Terry Lodge of Toledo (photo, left), has filed a defense of its contention alleging that FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company's (FENOC) Davis-Besse atomic reactor on the Lake Erie shore should be denied a 20-year license extension by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Most recently, Davis-Besse's concrete containment Shield Building has exhibited ever more severe cracking, steel reinforcement damage, as well as wall gap 80% of the way through its 2.5 foot thickness (an air space, or void, through 24 of 30 inches of the wall). The filing rebuts challenges against the contention by FENOC and NRC Staff.

As official intervenors in the NRC Atomic Safety (sic) and Licensing Board (ASLB) proceeding, the coalition, comprised of Beyond Nuclear, Citizens Environment Coalition of Southwestern Ontario, Don't Waste Michigan, and the Ohio Green Party, has resisted Davis-Besse's 20-year license extension since the end of 2010. Davis-Besse's 40-year operating license expires on Earth Day (April 22), 2017. This is the coalition's sixth contention filed.


"Senators Markey, Boxer and Sanders Introduce Legislation to Increase Safety at Nuclear Plants"

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairwoman of the Environment and Public Works CommitteeU.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA, photo at left), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA) introduced three bills today aimed at improving the safety and security of decommissioning reactors and the storage of spent nuclear fuel at nuclear plants across the nation. 

The three bills address safety of spent fuel storage and decommissioning plans. They are entitled: Safe and Secure Decommissioning Act of 2014; Nuclear Plant Decommissioning Act of 2014 (see the bill, Sen. Sanders' press release, and a one-page summary); Dry Cask Storage Act of 2014. To learn more, see the press release at Sen. Markey's website.

The EPW Committee will hold and webcast a hearing entitled “Nuclear Reactor Decommissioning: Stakeholder Views” on Wed., May 14th, at 10 AM Eastern. Witnesses include CA and VT officials, and spokespeople from NRDC and NEI.

Please urge your two U.S. Senators to support these three bills. You can contact your Senators via the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121.


Updated "Southeast MI in the Radioactive Cross Hairs" backgrounder

At the urging of environmental allies in southeast Michigan, Beyond Nuclear in March 2012 prepared a backgrounder on reactor, radioactive waste, and other nuclear risks in the region. The backgrounder has been updated for use at a presentation by Beyond Nuclear's Radioactive Waste Watchdog, Kevin Kamps, to be held at the Huron Valley Sierra Club Chapter meeting in Ann Arbor, MI on May 20th. The backgrounder complements the "Great Lakes Region Nuclear Hot Spots" map, prepared by Anna Tilman at International Coalition of Concern for Public Health last year.


NRC grants years-long delays on urgent "Fukushima lessons learned" earthquake risk safety upgrades

In a press release entitled "NRC Prioritizes Detailed Earthquake Risk Analysis For Central and Eastern U.S. Reactors," the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has given nuclear utilities an extraordinarily long period of time to upgrade safety in light of the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe.

NRC speaks of having "set a priority list for 21 of 59 nuclear power plant sites in the central and eastern United States to conduct in-depth analyses of the plants’ updated earthquake risk," in recognition that seismic hazards could well be greater than the atomic reactors were originally designed and built to withstand.

And what are NRC's deadlines for the nuclear utilities to take "Fukushima lessons learned" urgent action by? Preliminary analysis, to determine if reinforcements to systems, structures, or components may be needed, is not due till Dec. 31, 2014 -- nearly four years after the Fukushima catastrophe began. If any such upgrades are needed, they need not be installed until Dec. 31, 2016 -- nearly six years post-Fukushima.

Perhaps more astounding, the "detailed," "in-depth risk" analyses described in the press release headline are not due until June 30, 2017 (over six years post-Fukushima) for 10 "priority" sites, and not till June 30, 2019 (more than eight years post-Fukushima) for another 11 "priority" sites.

At another 23 sites, NRC is still yet to decide whether or not they need to do the "in-depth risk analysis." If NRC decides they do, they have until Dec. 31, 2020 (almost a decade post-Fukushima) to get it done.

Apparently, we must simply hope earthquakes stronger than originally designed and constructed against many decades ago won't strike before NRC requires these actions to be taken.