As reported by a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) event report, "At 2305 EDT on September 13, 2015, a manual scram was initiated in response to a loss of all Turbine Building Closed Cooling Water (TBCCW)" at Detroit Edison's Fermi 2 atomic reactor in Monroe County, MI, on the Lake Erie shore.
Two updates to the NRC event report the next day revealed that the "ongoing event" had resulted in the reportable actuation of two safety systems: "Operators were manually controlling Reactor Pressure Vessel (RPV) level and pressure with Reactor Core Isolation Cooling (RCIC) and Safety Relief Valves (SRV)."
Fermi 2 is the largest General Electric Mark I Boiling Water Reactor in the world. It is a super-sized version of Fukushima Daiichi -- nearly as big as Units 1 and 2 at the devastated Japanese nuclear power plant put together.
Just five days earlier, the NRC Commission unanimously voted to overrule its own Atomic Safety and Licensning Board Panel, and rejected environmental groups' hard-won hearing in opposition to Fermi 2's 20-year license extension.
Beyond Nuclear, along with Citizens Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario and Don't Waste MI, represented by Toledo attorney Terry Lodge, had won a hearing on the safety risks of Fermi 2 and the proposed new Fermi 3 atomic reactor sharing a common transmission line corridor. This risks a common mode failure, whether due to natural disaster, terrorist attack, etc. Combined with loss of emergency diesel generators -- for which Fermi 2 has an infamous track record -- the two unit complex could be plunged into Station Black Out, leaving both reactors, and both high-level radioactive waste storage pools, vulnerable to meltdowns and fires, respectively.
The full NRC Commission thus effectively rubber-stamped Fermi 2's operation till 2045 -- all that's left is the paperwork. But ironically enough, instead of being good to go for 30 more years, Fermi 2 instead suffered a breakdown, just a week later!
Then, just over 48 hours after the Fermi 2 unplanned shutdown, a couple hundred miles to the west, Entergy's Palisades atomic reactor scrammed, at 1:17am on Sept. 16. The NRC event report states "Initial investigation into the cause of the turbine trip appears to be from a DEH [Digital Electro-Hydraulic] power supply failure."
Palisades is located in Covert, MI, on the Lake Michigan shoreline.
However, critics have said Palisades is “old” and “falling apart.”
“These unplanned shutdowns and sudden “reactor trips” are like slamming the brakes in your jalopy of a car—not good for the integrity of systems, structures, and components going forward,” said Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear.
Beyond Nuclear, along with Don't Waste MI, MI Safe Energy Future, and Nuclear Energy Information Service of Chicago, has dueling appeals with Entergy Nuclear, before the full NRC Commission, regarding age-related degradation of Palisades' reactor pressure vessel (RPV). Palisades' RPV is the worst neutron-embrittled in the U.S., at risk of pressurized thermal shock fracture, Loss-of-Coolant-Accident, core meltdown, and catastrophic release of hazardous radioactivity.
Given that around 90% of the electricity generated at American Electric Power's two unit Cook nuclear power plant in Bridgman is exported out of the state, and the fact that the lights stayed on despite both Palisades and Fermi 2 being down, Michiganders may begin to wonder: why are these risky reactors still operating?!
That question is even more perplexing, considering the 745 gigawatts of potential offshore wind electricity on the Great Lakes, over 300 gigawatts of which is directly accessible by the Great Lakes State itself (Michigan's four operating reactors generate a grand total of just over 4 gigawatts-electric). And with none other than Fermi nuclear power plant's owner, Detroit Edison, successfully deploying Michigan's largest ever solar PV array, with much bigger plans in the works, it is becoming more and more clear that nuclear power's days are numbered. The future is renewables and efficiency.