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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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Wednesday
Oct242012

"Aging and Expensive, Reactors Face Mothballs"

The Kewaunee atomic reactor on Wisconsin's Lake Michigan shoreThe New York Times has reported on the economics that have not only led to the Kewaunee atomic reactor's (photo, left) announced closure in Wisconsin, but also other pressures and forces on reactors, from Entergy's Indian Point near New York City to Vermont Yankee, Duke's Crystal River in Florida, Exelon's Oyster Creek in New Jersey, and Southern California Edison's San Onofre. The article speaks of "[t]he industry’s renewed glimpse of its mortality" and states "the nuclear industry may be nearing its first round of retirements since the mid-1990s."  Kewaunee's closure will be the first at an American atomic reactor since several (Yankee Rowe, Massachusetts; Zion 1 & 2, Illinois; Big Rock Point, Michigan; Millstone Unit 1, Connecticut) in the mid to late 1990s. 

Tuesday
Oct232012

Nearly half of the atomic reactors on Lake Michigan's shores have closed over the past 15 years

NRC's file photo of KewauneeFrom The Washington Post: "Dominion Resources Inc. said Monday that it plans to close and decommission its Kewaunee Power Station in Wisconsin after it was unable to find a buyer for the nuclear power plant".

As nuclear power continues to crumble under the weight of its own disastrous economics, Dominion CEO, Thomas F. Farrell II,  becomes the latest industry CEO to lose confidence in the nuclear business. "This decision was based purely on economics," Farrell said. Dominion also operates the two North Anna, VA reactors, where a proposed third reactor plan looks fragile at best. It also operates Millstone, CT and Surry, VA.

Reuters also reported on this story, stating that more atomic reactors could follow suit, their bad economics forcing their closure:

"Especially vulnerable under this scenario would be small, old single reactor sites.

Other units that could be on the hit list because they fit the profile include Exelon Corp's Oyster Creek in New Jersey, Xcel Energy Inc's Monticello in Minnesota, and Entergy Corp's Palisades in Michigan, Vermont Yankee in Vermont and Pilgrim in Massachusetts."

In 1997, Big Rock Point in Michigan was permanently closed, as were Zion 1 & 2 in Illinois in 1998. Kewaunee's closure in 2013 will be the fifth reactor shut down on Lake Michigan's shores in 15 years. This will leave Point Beach 1 & 2 in WI, Palisades in MI, and Cook 1 & 2 in MI still operating on Lake Michigan's shores. Lake Michigan is a headwaters for the Great Lakes, 20% of the world's surface fresh water, providing drinking water for 40 million people in 8 U.S. states, 2 Canadian provinces, and a large number of Native American First Americans.

Several years ago, Kewaunee had more U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) "yellow findings" (the second highest category of safety violation) than the other (at the time) 102 operating reactors in the entire country. The very same year, Point Beach had more "red findings" (NRC's worst category of safety violation) than the rest of the industry combined. Kewaunee and Point Beach are a mere seven miles apart, the same distance as between Fukushima Daiichi and Daini in Japan. Daiichi and Daini's proximity, as well as their proximity to Tokai nearer Tokyo, led the Japanese federal government to prepare worst case scenario plans to evacuate 30 million people from Tokyo in the event of a "demonic chain reaction" of reactor melt downs and radioactive waste storage pool fires.

An NRC daily event report revealed that Dominion's announcement to decommission Kewaunee caused a security incident, as reporters descended on the reactor to cover the story.

The New York Times and Greenwire have also reported on this story, as has World Nuclear News.

Thursday
Oct182012

Beyond Nuclear debates "thorium power" proponent at Sierra Club meeting

On October 10th, Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps debated Timothy Maloney, a proponent of so-called "thorium (nuclear) power," at a meeting of the Nepessing Group of the Sierra Club's Michigan Chapter, at Mott Community College's Regional Technical Center in Flint. The Nepessing Group of Michigan represents Sierra Club members in Genesee, Lapeer, and northern Oakland counties.

Kevin's research in preparation for the debate depended on: a Beyond Nuclear backgrounder compiled by Linda Gunter; "Thorium Fuel -- No Panacea for Nuclear Power," by Dr. Arjun Makhijani of Institute for Energy and Environmental Research and Michele Boyd of Physicians for Social Responsibility (2009); a Science Friday program entitled "Is Thorium a Magic Bullet for our Energy Problems?" featuring Dr. Makhijani (May 4, 2012); "Thinking about Thorium" by Dr. Gordon Edwards of Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility (Sept. 16, 2012); "Thorium Reactors: Back to the Dream Factory," by Dr. Edwards (July 13, 2011); and "What is the Thorium Cycle?" by Dr. Edwards (1978).

The Thorium-232/Uranium-233 nuclear fuel chain shares many similarities with the Uranium-235 and Plutonium-239 nuclear fuel chains, including the risk of nuclear weapons proliferation, the risk that reactors could unleash catastrophic amounts of radioactivity (particularly from intentional terrorist attacks or acts of warfare), the unsolved (unsolvable?!) radioactive waste problem, the astronomical expense of RDD (research, development, and demonstration) for "thorium reactors," and the environmental ruination downwind and downstream (as well as up the food chain and down the generations) from reprocessing facilities.

Thursday
Oct182012

People power pressure against Entergy intensifies nationwide

Entergy Nuclear's ironic motto, "The Power of People" (see left), has backfired, with concerted pressure intensifying against its dirty dozen atomic reactors across the country. In New York, hearings have begun on the State's and environmental groups' opposition to Indian Point's license extensions; the Alliance for a Green Economy and Beyond Nuclear have followed up their emergency enforcement petition with a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request against the FitzPatrick Mark I; and Beyond Nuclear has been invited to speak in Stony Point on October 21st, and on Long Island on October 27th. A lawsuit has been launched against the Pilgrim Mark I near Boston, objecting to Entergy's impacts on Cape Cod Bay. And at Vermont Yankee, the drum beat of citizen actions continues, as oral arguments at the federal court of appeals against the Mark I's extended operations are scheduled for next month.

Thursday
Oct182012

NRC ASLB oral argument pre-hearings on Davis-Besse license extension, Nov. 5 & 6, Toledo

Nuclear Regulatory Commission photos taken in late 2011 show the laminar subsurface cracking (left) at the Shield Building and core bore samples from the Shield Building. Despite the severe cracking, NRC Staff has strenuously opposed the environmental coalition's attempts to raise the issue in the license extension proceedings.The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Atomic Safety (sic) and Licensing Board (ASLB) panel presiding over the Davis-Besse atomic reactor license extension proceeding has ordered oral argument pre-hearings at the Common Pleas Courtroom in the Lucas County Courthouse, located at 700 Adams Street in downtown Toledo, Ohio, to be held from 9 AM to 4:30 PM on Monday, November 5th and Tuesday, November 6th (yes, Election Day!).

Beyond Nuclear, along with Citizens Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario, Don't Waste Michigan, and the Green Party of Ohio, represented by Toledo attorney Terry Lodge, launched an official intervention against Davis-Besse's 20 year license extension on December 27, 2010. At these oral argument pre-hearings, the environmental coalition will strive to fend off FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company's (FENOC) and NRC Staff's attempts to gut their Severe Accident Mitigation Alternatives (SAMA) analyses contention, which alleges that FENOC's SAMA models significantly underestimate the casualties and costs of a catastrophic radioactivity release from Davis-Besse.

The coalition will also argue for a hearing on the merits of its concrete containment cracking contention, first filed on January 10, 2012, and supplememted numerous times this year based on new revelations contained in FENOC and NRC documents, including those made public by a Beyond Nuclear Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

Members of the public and news media reporters are encouraged to attend these critical oral argument pre-hearings. But, as the ASLB itself has noted: "We recognize that November 6 is Election Day. We encourage those who will have to travel out-of-town to attend this oral argument to vote early if their jurisdiction permits or to request an absentee ballot."