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.



"Nuclear Rubberstamp Commission" by Karl Grossman

Investigative journalist, and Beyond Nuclear board of directors member, Karl Grossman (pictured, left), has published an article entitled "Nuclear Rubberstamp Commission" which has appeared at the Huffington Post and elsewhere. In it, Karl reports that U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Chairman, Dr. Gregory Jaczko, has been pressured to resign over a year early due to withering attacks by the nuclear power industry and its friends within the NRC and on Capitol Hill, due to his safety advocacy. Karl points out that NRC has never, in its nearly 40 years of existence, denied a license to construct or operate a commercial atomic reactor. It has also rubberstamped 73 license extensions for 20 additional years of operation at U.S. atomic reactors, with 13 other license extensions already applied for.


New York Times editorial: "Nuclear Power After Fukushima"

In a May 25th editorial, the New York Times lauded outgoing U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman, Gregory Jaczko, for his devotion to safety -- such as his call for clear and ambitious deadlines for "Fukushima lessons learned" to be applied at U.S. atomic reactors -- and called on his nominated replacement, Dr. Allison Macfarlane, to keep holding NRC's and the nuclear power industry's feet to the fire.

But, as Beyond Nuclear board of directors member Karl Grossman has put it in his article "Nuclear Rubberstamp Commission," the New York Times "misses the institutional point": Jaczko was crucified by the nuclear power industry, and its friends within the NRC and on Capitol Hill, for his safety advocacy, a fate that could easily befall Macfarlane as well.


Environmental coalition, concerned residents, met with NRC Chairman Jaczko after his tour of problem-plagued Palisades

Michael Keegan, Alice Hirt, and Kevin Kamps of Don't Waste MI call for Palisades' shutdown at the August 2000 Nuclear-Free Great Lakes Action Camp. Palisades' cooling tower steam, as well as Lake Michigan, are visible in the background.On May 25th, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Chairman Gregory Jaczko toured Entergy Nuclear's Palisades atomic reactor in Covert, MI on the Lake Michigan shoreline. NRC lowered Palisades' safety status to one of the four worst-run reactors in the U.S., out of 104 operating, after five euphemistically termed "unplanned shutdowns" in 2011 alone. After Jaczko's tour of the plant, he held a press conference with area media, then met with representatives of environmental groups from Michigan and Illinois, as well as concerned local residents. The environmental coalition included Beyond Nuclear, Clean Water Action, Coalition for a Nuclear-Free Great Lakes, Don't Waste Michigan, League of Women Voters, Michigan Land Trustees, and Nuclear Energy Information Service. The environmental movement of Michigan, and beyond, has long called for Palisades' permanent shutdown, for a multitude of safety and environmental reasons.

The single greatest safety concern, of many afflicting Palisades, is embrittlement of its reactor pressure vessel, the worst in the U.S. Michael Keegan of Coalition for a Nuclear-Free Great Lakes (pictured, left) warned about this in 1993; a year ago, the Associated Press exposed NRC's weakening of embrittlement safety regulations in order to allow Palisades to keep running. But Palisades' replacements of age-degraded steam generators (for the second time in the plant's history) as well as its reactor lid -- in the aftermath of the Davis-Besse, Ohio "Hole-in-the-Head" near-disaster -- are more than five years overdue. Palisades is thus deep into its "break-down" phase of increased reactor accident risk, as termed by David Lochbaum of Union of Concerned Scientists on his "Bathtub Curve" graphic (so named because of the curve's shape). Citizens Nuclear Information Center-Tokyo has just reported alarming news about reactor pressure vessel embrittlement/pressurized thermal shock risks at Japanese reactors.

Beyond Nuclear issued a statement, as did Don't Waste MI's Alice Hirt (pictured, left): "We do not want a Fukushima here on the shore of Lake Michigan...We plead with you to help us close down this plant NOW." Area summertime resident Gail Snyder also issued a statement.

WMUK, the NPR radio station in Kalamazoo, MI, interviewed Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps (pictured, left) about reactor risks at Palisades. Kevin warned that NRC should shut Palisades down, before it melts down (the Associated Press quoted this as well), because the reactor is the worst embrittled in the U.S., with age-degraded steam generators and reactor lid, and vitally needs fire protection upgrades. Entergy promised to make these repairs over five years ago when it took over ownership from Consumers Energy at Palisades, but has broken these promises. Michigan Radio also quoted Kevin.  The Kalamazoo Gazette also reported on this story, as did theSt. Joe Herald-Palladium.

Kalamazoo News Channel 3 interviewed Maynard Kaufman and Barbara Geisler of Michigan Land Trustees in Bangor, less than 10 miles from Palisades. They warned of risks to west Michigan's vibrant shoreline agriculture from a Fukushima- or Chernobyl-like disaster. Grand Rapids TV 8 also reported on this story. TV 57 in South Bend, IN also briefly reported on Jaczko's visit.


Beyond Nuclear et al take NRC to court to oppose Seabrook relicensing

Beyond Nuclear, Seacoast AntiPollution League and the New Hampshire Chapter of the Sierra Club have filed an appeal to Federal Court challenging the NRC Commissioners (5-0) ruling to overturn the federal agency's own Atomic Safety Licensing Board Order to admit the groups for a  hearing in the proposed 20-year license extension of the Seabrook nuclear generating station. The groups had filed a October 2010 request to hold a hearing under the National Environmental Policy Act in support of an environmentally-friendly deepwater wind energy alternative project as opposed to twenty more years of dirty, dangerous and expensive nuclear power.

NextEra (aka "Next Error") submitted an application to extend their current 40-year license by 20 years, 20 years before the nuke license expires and argued that the future of renewable energy alternatives is "too speculative" to consider for the license extension period of 2030 to 2050.  The groups argue that the company's environmental review failed to even consider a 5 Gigawatts of deep water offshore wind project under development as an environmental friendly alternative already in the works for the Gulf of Maine and scheduled to come on-line in the Seabrook region-of-service at the same time the nuke is requesting its extension by 2030.

You can view the May 14, 2012 joint press statement here.  A copy of  the October 20, 2010 petition and links to supporting documents on the deepwater wind alternative can be viewed here.



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.”