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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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Friday
Aug172012

Kucinich weighs in on NRC OIG investigation of Ostendorff

U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH)U.S. Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) today weighed in on the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) Office of Inspector General (OIG) investigation into whether or not NRC Commissioner William C. Ostendorff interfered with another OIG investigation, into why former NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko was kept in the dark about radioactive and acidic water leaks, being caught in buckets in the control room of Entergy Nuclear's Palisades atomic reactor in Covert, Michigan. The Huffington Post broke that story yesterday.

Here is the text of Rep. Kucinich's press release:

Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) today issued the following statement concerning an investigation by the Inspector General of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission examining the possibility that a Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Commissioner undermined a probe of the Palisades [Nuclear] Power Plant in Michigan.

Yesterday, Congressman Kucinich requested the Inspector General investigate the agency’s public response to problems at Davis-Besse. Kucinich’s request came after the Nuclear Regulatory Commission held a hearing in Ohio to reassure the public about the safety of the plant. Official answers from NRC employees made at that hearing differed dramatically from what NRC engineers had previously told Kucinich and his staff.

“I can’t say the cases are related, but the similarities between these two investigations are troubling. In Michigan, an effort to determine why a radioactive leak was kept from the Chairman of NRC may have been undermined. In Ohio, we witnessed agency officials give public statements that varied dramatically from what engineers had told my staff. I cannot determine what caused this change in the answers of these Region III engineers, but I am concerned that it was in response to political pressure. I hope that the Inspector General is able to restore confidence in the NRC’s ability to provide effective oversight of our nation’s nuclear power plants,” said Kucinich.

Friday
Aug172012

Crack contention against Davis-Besse 20-year extension bolstered by NRC FOIA revelations

At the reactor's front gate, "Homer Simpson and Humpty Dumpty act out" FENOC's "Blizzard of '78" snow job explanation for how/when/why Davis-Besse's concrete containment shield building cracked. This street theater was held in solidarity with the SAGE Alliance's day of action to shut down Vermont Yankee, and protested FENOC's Feb. 28th "root cause report."The environmental coalition challenging FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company's (FENOC) proposed 20-year license extension at the problem-plagued Davis-Besse atomic reactor, near Toledo on the Lake Erie shore, has bolstered its contention on the severe shield building cracking by citingU.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) documents revealed through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request submitted by Beyond Nuclear. The coalition has issued a media release about its latest contention supplementation.

Toledo attorney Terry Lodge filed this FOIA supplement, the coalition's fifth this year, since filing the original contention on January 10th, just five days after the environmental intervenors confronted NRC and FENOC about the cracking at a special public meeting at Camp Perry, OH. The others include: (1) a Feb. 27th filing, based on U.S. Rep. Kucinich's (D-OH) revelation that the shield building's outer rebar layer was no longer structurally functional, due to the cracking; (2) a June 4th filing, in response to FENOC's woefully inadequate Aging Management Plan (AMP) for the shield building's cracks; (3) a July 16th filing, in response to FENOC's revised root cause analysis report, which revealed that shield building cracking was first observed not in October 2011, but rather August 1976; (4) a July 23rd filing, based on revelations in FENOC contractor Performance Improvement International's revised root cause assessment report, which revealed 27 areas of skeptical NRC questioning about FENOC's "Blizzard of 1978" theory of shield building cracking (the environmental Intervenors also posted documents supportive of its fourth supplement). The environmental coalition also defended its crack contention, on February 14th, against challenges by NRC staff and FENOC.

Beyond Nuclear has prepared a report, entitled "What Humpty Dumpty Doesn't Want You to Know: Davis-Besse's Cracked Containment Snow Job," which summarizes the coalition's work in 2012 on Davis-Besse's dangerously degraded condition.

Wednesday
Aug152012

Kucinich demands OIG investigation of NRC's two-faced "snow job" on Davis-Besse's cracked containment

U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) is a long time watchdog on the problem-plagued Davis-Besse atomic reactorU.S. Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-OH, photo at left) has written to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) Office of Inspector General (OIG), demanding an investigation of NRC wrongdoing in regards to its Region 3 safety engineers telling him and his staff one thing months ago about Davis-Besse's shield building cracking, and another thing last Thursday night. Rep. Kucinich's office has issued a press release about his demand as well.

Kucinich referenced Beyond Nuclear's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to NRC, which has revealed, among many other things, that NRC staff worked evenings, weekends, and even through the Thanksgiving holiday, in order to rush approval for FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company (FENOC) to restart Davis-Besse on December 2, 2011 -- despite not knowing the "root cause," extent, and safety and environmental risk significance of the cracking in the concrete shield building, nor what corrective actions needed to be made.

Kucinich joined with environmental coalition allies seeking to block Davis-Besse's proposed 20 year license extension at a press conference in the reactor's hometown of Oak Harbor, OH, 21 miles from Toledo on the Lake Erie shore, prior to a special NRC public meeting about the cracking scandal. Beyond Nuclear unveiled a new report, "What Humpty Dumpty Doesn't Want You to Know: Davis-Besse's Cracked Containment Snow Job," which summarizes NRC's FOIA revelations. The environmental coalition's Toledo-based attorney, Terry Lodge, will file a motion this week to introduce into the record of the NRC Atomic Safety (sic) and Licensing Board operations extension proceeding these FOIA revelations.

Wednesday
Aug152012

"Crisis du jour" at Entergy Nuclear's Palisades atomic reactor

Anti-nuclear watchdogs have long called for Palisades' shutdown. Here, Don't Waste Michigan board members Michael Keegan of Monroe, Alice Hirt of Holland, and Kevin Kamps of Kalamazoo, speak out at the 2000 Nuclear-Free Great Lakes Action Camp, with Palisades' cooling tower steam, and Lake Michigan, visible in the backgroundOn Sunday, Palisades shut down due to a leak of radioactive and acidic primary coolant, escaping from safety-critical control rod drive mechanisms attached to its degraded lid, atop its "worst embrittled reactor pressure vessel in the U.S." Two years ago, in a report entitled "Headaches at Palisades: Broken Seals & Failed Heals," David Lochbaum, Director of the Nuclear Safety Project at Union of Concerned Scientists, warned about closely related problems extending back 40 years at Palisades. The CRDM leaks are so chronic at Palisades, as reflected in 20072009, and 2010 NRC PNOs (Preliminary Notifications of Occurrence), that NRC cut and paste verbage from one incident to the next, and even admitted: "While limited CRD seal leakage is not unusual for the CRD seal design at Palisades, elevated CRD seal leakage rates and increasing leak-rate trends are indicators of CRD seal degradation. The site has experienced elevated CRD seal leakage rates and increasing leak-rate trends in the past which required similar plant shutdowns."

Arnie Gundersen, nuclear engineer at Fairewinds Associates, points out that boric acid leakage inside containment has led to containment liner degradation at a number of U.S. reactors, including Turkey Point, increasing the risk that containments will fail to prevent radioactivity releases during reactor accidents. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) just announced the deployment of a special inspection team to Palisades to investigate this latest leak.

Today, HuffPost Hill has broken the story that NRC's Office of Inspector General (OIG) has launched an investigation into the behavior of NRC Commissioner William C. Ostendorff, for allegedly yelling at a female NRC staffer regarding an investigation ordered by former NRC Chairman Greg Jaczko. Ironically enough, Ostendorff joined three other NRC Commissioners in late 2011, writing the White House that Jaczko's alleged bullying of female NRC staffers had chilled the agency work environment. Pro-nuclear Hill Republicans jumped on the opportunity, carrying out "witch hunt" hearings, which eventually forced the (as investigative journalist and Beyond Nuclear board member Karl Grossman has put it) "insufficiently pro-nuclear" Jaczko's ouster from the agency.

Jaczko had met with an environmental coalition in South Haven, Michigan a short time after having toured the problem-plagued Palisades atomic reactor on May 25th. Jaczko's office had reached out to Beyond Nuclear a month earlier, asking for assistance in setting up the meeting, which included key environmental group representatives from across Michigan, as well as local anti-nuclear watchdogs and concerned residents. However, during the meeting, not a peep was shared with the concerned public about the Safety Injection Refueling Water (SIRW) storage tank leak, into buckets in the control room. Courageous Palisades whistleblowers, their attorney Billie Pirner Garde, and U.S. Representative Ed Markey (D-MA) brought this to light in mid-June.

The coalition immediately wrote Jaczko, asking why he had not informed them about the SIRW storage tank leak at the May 25th meeting. Jaczko never wrote back before leaving office. However, as reported by the HuffPost Hill, he did order an investigation into why his own staff had not informed him of the SIRW storage tank leak --he was as in the dark as the public! Jaczko had been accompanied on his Palisades tour, and at his press conference and meeting with the public afterwards, by NRC Region 3 Administrator Chuck Casto, NRC Office of Public Affairs director Elliot Brenner, several NRC HQ and Region 3 staff persons, as well as NRC's Palisades resident inspectors. It is inconceivable that none of them knew about the SIRW storage tank leak, as it had been ongoing for over a year.

Friday
Aug102012

What Humpty Dumpty doesn't want you to know: Davis-Besse's cracked concrete containment snow job

U.S. Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH)Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps has prepared a comprehensive backgrounder about an environmental coalition's efforts to win a hearing against the Davis-Besse atomic reactor's proposed 20-year license extension based on the safety risks presented by its severely cracked shield building. FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company (FENOC) claims the cracking was caused by the Blizzard of 1978, is not aging related, and will be easily solved by the application of a weather sealant (albeit 40 years late). The backgrounder, prepared for a special NRC meeting about the shield building cracking to be held on Nagasaki Day (Thursday, August 9) in Oak Harbor, Ohio, reports on NRC's response documents to a Beyond Nuclear Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, as well as recent revisions to FENOC's root cause reports and aging management plan. Also contained in the backgrounder are citations to the environmental coalition's four supplements to its original cracking contention, over the course of many months. (See links to FOIA documents here.)

Kevin will speak, along with Don't Waste Michigan's Michael Keegan and Terry Lodge, Toledo based attorney who represents the coalition, at a press conference before the NRC meeting, at 5:30 PM at the Oak Harbor High School. U.S. Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-OH, photo at left), a long-time Davis-Besse watchdog, who has outed much of the truth about the severity of the cracking over the past 10 months, will also take part in the press conference.