David Lochbaum, Director of the Nuclear Safety Project at Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS, photo left), recently shared the following insights about reactor pressure vessel (RPV) embrittlement risks at Entergy's Palisades atomic reactor located in Covert, MI. And he gave us permission to share them:
"Embrittlement is the issue that compelled the owners of the Yankee Rowe nuclear plant to permanently shut it down in September 1991.
Palisades has the least embrittlement margin of any U.S. nuclear power reactor vessel. And it would not be allowed to operate if the standards applied to Yankee Rowe were applied to Palisades. The NRC worked behind the scenes with the nuclear industry to revise the standards and now - magically - Palisades has ample margin.
So, the NRC colludes with industry to move the goal posts and then does not allow the coalition to contest the new location of the goal posts. Welcome to the Soviet Union of Michigan.
The NRC encourages public participation -- until the public seeks to participate.
To be fair (or less unfair) to the NRC, they don't have a clue where the embrittlement line is drawn. They are conducting an experiment in Michigan hoping that the redrawn line doesn't kill anyone. If no one gets killed in the experiment, the NRC might allow other reactors in other states to give it a try. Or maybe even redraw the line again.
Even if moving the goal posts was technically sound, doing it after conspiring with the industry while barring the public moves the sleaze meter to 11. Someone really needs to take the NRC to the wood shed for antics like these.
If no one gets killed in Michigan, it'll be due more to luck than the NRC working even-handedly with all its stakeholders to do the greatest good for the greatest number.
P.S. - I wonder which NRC senior manager will soon retire and find employment by Entergy at a very healthy salary?".
Beyond Nuclear hosted a MI and OH speaking tour featuring Lochbaum in April 2013, including southwest MI events focused on Palisades. Palisades had suffered three near-misses in just a two year time period, vying for worst such record in the entire country, as documented in Lochbaum's annual nuclear safety report that year, that year entitled Tolerating the Intolerable.
Lochbaum just published an "All Things Nuclear"/"Fission Stories" blog about yet another example of the abnormally high risks at Palisades.