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.



More than $900 million cost overrun documented on Vogtle 3 & 4 new reactors construction

"Burning Money" image by Gene Case, Avenging AngelsA coalition of environmental groups, including North Carolina Waste Awareness and Reduction Network (NC WARN), has issued a press release decrying a nearly billion dollar cost overrun at the Vogtle 3 & 4 new reactor construction project in Georgia. The groups warn that further cost increases are likely, due to rushed design and construction that has led to errors, as in sub-foundation grading, rebar quality assurance, and even radiological containment "shield building" design and construction.

The coalition's expert witness Arjun Makhijani, President of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IEER), said: “Southern Company rushed into this project, as evidenced by the many requests for modifications of the license and early technical difficulties and problems including failure of ‘some details’ of early construction to conform to the Design Control Document, according to Georgia Power’s filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.  Indeed, a part of the cost increase of $900 million appears to be attributable to overcoming delays and rushing the project again despite construction non-compliance.  The cost increase should not be a surprise; rather it is déjà vu all over again.  Rushing nuclear power reactors is not prudent and stockholders and/or the vendors, not ratepayers, should bear the burden of such costs.  It would be much better if construction were suspended until all design issues were resolved.”


"Nuclear industry suffers major defeat in Iowa"

"Burning Money" image by Gene Case, Avenging AngelsFriends of the Earth (FOE) reports that the Iowa State Legislature has ended its session without approving "Construction Work in Progress" (CWIP), a gimmick by which nuclear utilities can charge ratepayers on their electricity bill for the construction of atomic reactors, even if they never recieve one watt of electricity from their involuntary "investment." The victory is thanks to the efforts of an environmental coalition, including FOE as well as grassroots groups such as Green State Solutions. The grassroots environmental victory comes despite intense lobbying efforts by Warren Buffett's MidAmerican Energy, which hoped to foist the construction costs for its proposed "dirty, dangerous, and expensive" atomic reactor onto the ratepayers of Iowa, despite 3/4ths of Iowans opposing the plan.


Groups challenge insufficiency of NRC Post Fukushima Orders to install reliable hardened vents on all U.S. GE Mark I and II reactors and modify spent fuel storage pools 

Beyond Nuclear has co-petitioned with Massachusetts-based Pilgrim Watch in a legal intervention and request for a public hearing before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission challenging the insufficiency of two of the agency’s post-Fukushima Orders issued to the nuclear industry. The groups seek a public hearing on the insufficiency of a NRC Order to require nuclear power plant operators to install “reliable hardened vents” on the unreliable containment structures at all GE Mark I and Mark II Boiling Water Reactors by December 30, 2016. The groups charge that  the Order fails to require the installation of a radiation filtration system in the venting line to the atmosphere raising the risk to worker safety and public health during a nuclear accident.  The groups have also challenged a NRC Order to require additional instrumentation and back-up power to make up water in overcrowded spent fuel pools because the Order fails to address the fundamental problem and threat from high-density storage by offloading the older and cooler nuclear waste into smaller onsite dry storage casks.  Failure to reduce overcrowding in nuclear power plant spent fuel pools present unacceptable risks such as those now facing Fukushima Daiichi Unit 4 where the damaged reactor building is threatened with collapse in the next earthquake and as a result significantly larger radioactive releases than the combined reactor accidents at Units 1, 2 and 3.


Fire at closed San Onofre nuclear plant

Despite being shuttered for months, a fire broke out at the already troubled San Onofre nuclear plant in southern California that has been closed since January 31 after a steam tube ruptured and released radioactive steam. The fire was quickly extinguished but environmental organizations and local groups are engaged in keeping the two reactors at the dangerous facility permanently shut down. Even the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has agreed that the plant should not reopen for the time being given problems with the piping and while officials conduct technical investigations at both reactors. The plant sits on a beach near San Clemente in a popular surfing area.


US Sen. Wyden tours Fukushima Daiichi, reveals situation worse than reported, urges Japan to accept international assistance

U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), a senior member of the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, recently donned a radiation suit and investigated firsthand the devastated Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan. He reveals the situation is worse than reported, and is urging the Japanese Ambassador to the United States, Ichiro Fujisaki, to accept international assistance to address ongoing risks of catastrophic radioactivity releases, especially from the hundreds of tons of high-level radioactive waste stored in precarious pools vulnerable to earthquakes and tsunamis. Wyden has issued a press release, and posted his letter to the Japanese Ambassador.

In the letter, Wyden wrote: “The scope of damage to the plants and to the surrounding area was far beyond what I expected and the scope of the challenges to the utility owner, the government of Japan, and to the people of the region are daunting. The precarious status of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear units and the risk presented by the enormous inventory of radioactive materials and spent fuel in the event of further earthquake threats should be of concern to all and a focus of greater international support and assistance.” 

Wyden also wrote U.S. Energy Secretary ChuSecretary of State Clinton, and NRC Chairman Jaczko, urging the full resources and expertise of the United States government be offered to Japan to prevent yet another catastrophic radioactivity release at Fukushima Daiichi due to a failed pool fire.

Please contact Sen. Wyden to thank him for his vital efforts, and contact Secretary ChuSecretary Clinton, andChairman Jaczko, urging they do what Sen. Wyden calls for. You can also contact your U.S. Senators andRepresentative, to urge them to add their voices to Sen. Wyden's effort.