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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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Sunday
Mar082015

"PG&E overlooked key seismic test at Diablo Canyon nuclear plant"

As reported by David R. Baker in the San Francisco Chronicle, "Pacific Gas and Electric Co. replaced $842 million of equipment at the heart of the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant without first making sure the new gear could pass a vital seismic safety test required in the facility’s license, The Chronicle has learned." (See full text of article here.)

The systems, structures and components in question include new lids, as well as replacement steam generators, for the twin unit nuclear power plant. The revelation comes in the aftermath of the permanent shutdown of California's other operating nuclear power plant, San Onofre Units 2 and 3, due to widepsread damage from defective replacement steam generators. That fiasco has turned into a multi-billion dollar boondoggle.

The Chronicle article quotes Dan Hirsch:

“I’m frightened that they’re making almost the exact same mistake we saw at Fukushima,” said Daniel Hirsch, a lecturer in nuclear policy at UC Santa Cruz...

“There was a too-cozy relationship between the nuclear industry and regulators in Japan, and that led to the fiction that it was very unlikely that you’d have an earthquake and a tsunami and a loss-of-coolant accident at the same time,” said Hirsch, who also serves as president of Committee to Bridge the Gap, a grassroots nuclear safety group.

The article also quotes Damon Moglen:

“If key safety equipment has been installed using the wrong data, (Diablo Canyon) needs to be shut down, and we need a public, transparent investigation into the adequacy of the license and the safety of this plant,” said Damon Moglen, senior adviser to the Friends of the Earth environmental group...

Friends of the Earth last year filed a lawsuit claiming the Nuclear Regulatory Commission illegally allowed PG&E to amend the seismic safety portion of its license without public hearings. The move came after one of the commission’s own former inspectors at Diablo Canyon argued that the plant was no longer operating within the terms of its license and should be shut down until PG&E demonstrated it could withstand earthquakes from several recently discovered fault lines, including the Shoreline. The commission rejected that idea.

“This is a regulator who’s not prepared to regulate and didn’t come down on a key safety issue,” Moglen said. “It’s a regulator who’s looking the other way.”

In related subject matter, the 1986 book The Whale and the Reactor: A Search for Limits in an Age of High Technology (University of Chicago Press), by Langdon Winner, warned about the risks presented by nuclear power to life on Earth. The author happened to see whales migrating past the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, just out to sea to the west. The realization struck him that this new technology, nuclear power, puts at risk even ancient forms of life, such as whale species tens of millions of years old.

Thursday
Feb262015

EXELON LEGISLATION, FERC COMMENTS A “DECLARATION OF WAR” ON RENEWABLES AND EFFICIENCY, GROUP ASSERTS

In a press release, Nuclear Energy Information Service (NEIS) of Chicago has warned the energy future of IL is at stake, as Exelon Nuclear lobbyists have unveiled their wish list bill seeking $580 million from state legislators, at ratepayers' expense. In addition, Exelon seeks another $560 million from transmission grid operator, PJM Interconnection, also at ratepayers' expense.

NEIS has been defending IL ratepayers and residents against the state's nuclear utilities since 1981.

Tuesday
Feb242015

Security guards sue Entergy for overtime pay at Palisades

NRC file photo of Entergy's Palisades atomic reactor on the Lake Michigan shoreline in southwest Michigan.As reported by Jim Hayden at the Holland Sentinel, nearly two dozen security guards and security department supervisors at the Palisades atomic reactor in Covert, MI (photo, left) have launched a legal action against Entergy Nuclear. They are demanding back overtime pay due them, but Entergy refuses to pay. Vermont Yankee atomic reactor security guards previously prevailed in a similar lawsuit against Entergy.

Although the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) claims the "chilled work environment" in Palisades' security guard department has been resolved, security guards themselves seem to think otherwise -- including their feeling that as soon as NRC enhanced oversight ends, Entergy will return to harassing guards who "make waves" (that is, do their jobs, and call attention to problems).

Monday
Feb232015

"Appeals Court will hear case on cover-up of Diablo Canyon quake risks"

PG&E's Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, near San Luis Obispo, CAAs reported by a Friends of the Earth news release, subtitled "Friends of the Earth [FOE] petition says NRC illegally let PG&E alter nuclear plant's license," a 9th Circuit federal appeals court panel has rejected motions by Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, allowing FOE's lawsuit to proceed to a hearing on the merits.

FOE alleges that NRC and PG&E colluded to secretly alter the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant (photo, left) operating license regarding the capability of the twin reactors to survive earthquake magnitudes greater than the facility was ever designed to withstand. In recent years, the lengths and interconnections of earthquake fault lines, and their proximity to Diablo Canyon, were revealed to be significantly greater than previously understood.

FOE is demanding a public adjudicatory hearing on the increased seismic risks, something that should have happened in the first place. In the meantime, FOE is calling for both units to be shutdown, until its concerns are fully addressed.

Harvey Wasserman has blogged about FOE's preliminary legal victory at EcoWatch.

Monday
Feb232015

"Pilgrim Nuclear Plant shutdowns leave questions unanswered for Outer Cape"

NRC file photo of Entergy Nuclear's Pilgrim atomic reactor in Plymouth, MA on Cape Cod Bay, south of BostonAs reported by Peter J. Brown at Wicked Local Wellfleet, concerns continue to simmer downwind of Entergy Nuclear's Pilgrim atomic reactor (photo, left) in the aftermath of two severe winter storm related shutdowns in the span of just a couple weeks. Numerous elected and other public officials, from Massachusetts State legislators to local Selectmen, to spokespeople for the Cape Cod National Seashore advisory body, are quoted in the article, calling for Pilgrim's permanent shutdown as a safety precaution in the unevacuable Cape Cod region.

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