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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
Feb062015

Exelon's Ginna atomic reactor in upstate NY also at risk of near-term shutdown

NRC file photo of Exelon's Ginna atomic reactor on the Lake Ontario shore of upstate NY near RochesterAs reported by the Democrat and Chronicle, Exelon Nuclear's Ginna atomic reactor -- one of the oldest in the U.S. -- is at risk of near-term shutdown. Dr. Mark Cooper of Vermont Law School, in his July 2013 report Renaissance in Reverse, identified Ginna as one of a dozen atomic reactors across the U.S. most at risk of near-term, permanent shutdown, for a variety of safety, financial, and societal reasons.

The 45-year-old Ginna reactor is located in Ontario, NY, near Rochester, on the shoreline of Lake Ontario (photo, left).

It joins five of Exelon's atomic reactors in the utility's home state of IL at risk of permanent closure due to economic uncompetitiveness. Just yesterday, Public Citizen, Maryland PIRG, and others protested at Exelon's Baltimore HQ against the utility's attempt to plunder Mid-Atlantic ratepayers to prop up its failing reactors across the country.

Exelon is also trying to stick it to IL ratepayers, but is not alone in the attempted gouging of its own customers: FirstEnergy has sought permission to overcharge Ohio ratepayers to the tune of billions, to prop up its problem-plagued Davis-Besse atomic reactor near Toledo on the Lake Erie shore, as well as a dirty coal plant on the Ohio River. See Beyond Nuclear's "Nuclear Costs" website section for more news on these and related issues.

Tuesday
Feb032015

Photos released from 2013 Entergy ANO fatal drop of a very heavy load

The 500+ ton stator crashed through the floor, on top of its heavy haul vehicle, causing extensive damage, killing one worker, and injuring several others.David Lochbaum, director, Nuclear Safety Project at the Union of Concerned Scientists, writes:

"On March 31, 2013, workers were removing a large, heavy part of the main generator at Arkansas Nuclear One when this load dropped. It killed one worker and injured others.

Pictures of the dropped part being removed from the plant and of the damage it did to the floor and walls of the turbine building were released via the Freedom of Information Act. Some of those pictures along with captions explaining what the images are showing are in a file posted to the UCS blog this morning at: http://allthingsnuclear.org/arkansas-nuclear-one-pictures-of-an-accident/"

Lochbaum stands by his takeaway, published not long after the fatal accident in 2013:

"Our Takeaway

The NRC reviewed U.S. nuclear plant experience with lifting loads with cranes between 1968 and 2002. The NRC reported that about two load drops per year happened during this period with ten incidents causing deaths. The NRC’s review concluded that there had been only three very heavy load drops (defined as a load weighing more than 30 tons). ANO-1 makes four.

Gravity never takes a minute off. Neither can vigilance to safety or tragedy can occur." (emphasis added)

When, during an NRC public meeting in Michigan, Entergy Palisades' site vice president, Anthony Vitale, bragged about his atomic reactor's spotless industrial safety record, just a few days after this Easter Sunday, 2013, fatal accident at Palisades' sister plant in Arkansas, Beyond Nuclear corrected the record, by sharing the tragic news from Arkansas. As Beyond Nuclear reported at the time, the worker killed at ANO was named Wade Walters of Russellville, AR. He was 24 years old.

Monday
Feb022015

"Nuclear power plant’s security changes mixed one year after ‘unusual’ death"

Cooper atomic reactor is shown here during a historic flood in the 1990s.As reported by Joe Jordan at Nebraska Watchdog, security protocols have changed little, if at all, at the Cooper nuclear power plant (photo, left) in Nebraska, a full year after a worker was found dead on the "critical refueling floor," 17 hours after he was last seen. 66-year old Ronald Nurney died of a heart attack, although it is unclear how long he suffered. None of the many cameras in the area detected his distress, and no one thought to look for him, despite his long absence.

As reported, 'Nurney’s widow, Donna, told Nebraska Watchdog she didn’t understand “how anybody in a nuclear power plant can go missing for that long and nobody look for him.”'

For their part, Cooper's owner, Nebraska Public Power District, its operator, Entergy Nuclear, and its supposed regulator, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) have not seen fit to change security procedures, a full year later.

The Cooper atomic reactor is identical in design, and vintage, to the Fukushima Daiichi Units that melted down and exploded in Japan beginning on March 11, 2011.

Tuesday
Jan272015

Entergy's Pilgrim atomic reactor to remain on NRC's "degraded cornerstone" list for second year, as winter storm bears down

NRC file photo of Entergy Nuclear's Pilgrim atomic reactor on Cape Cod Bay near BostonAs reported by The Enterprise, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has kept Entergy Nuclear's Pilgrim atomic reactor (photo, left), near Boston, on its "degraded cornerstone" list of worst performing atomic reactors in the country. Ironically, Entergy failed an NRC inspection, even though it told the agency when it was ready to be inspected. First of all, when do students get to tell the teacher when they're ready for the exam? And then fail the test?! Who's the regulator, and who's the regulated?!

This comes as a severe winter storm bears down on Boston. As the industry lobby and PR front, Nuclear Energy Institute, brags up nuclear power's supposed reliability during severe winter weather, anti-nuclear and environmental watchdogs near Pilgrim put out a press release warning that severe weather increases the safety risks of reactor operations and high-level radioactive waste (HLRW) management. Despite this, the reactor remains at 100% power, and inherently risky HLRW pool to dry cask transfer operations continue as if business is usual.

During Superstorm Sandy in 2012, the storm surge came precariously close to flooding safety-significant pumps needed to keep cooling water circulating in the HLRW storage pool at Pilgrim.

Pilgrim is an age-degraded, General Electric Mark I Boiling Water Reactor, identical in design to Fukushima Daiichi Units 1-4.

Sunday
Jan252015

Battle lines drawn over Vermont Yankee decommissioning: "A Herculean task ahead"

In an email action alert with the subject line "A Herculean Task Ahead," Leslie Sullivan Sachs of the Safe and Green Campaign in Brattleboro, Vermont has written today:

"Dear Friends of the Safe & Green Campaign,     

Listen to Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear:

"I can point out to people that shutting down Vermont Yankee was a miracle, right? We weren’t, as the people, supposed to have that power. And people did it anyway. They insisted on it and they saw it through and made it happen. And so the same kind of courage and vision will have to be applied now to the decommissioning process. People have to stay in there, attend all the meetings, read all the documents. It’s a Herculean task and if anybody can do it, it’s the folks who have already forced the shutdown of Vermont Yankee." [Nuclear Free Future Yankee Post-Mortem 01.06.15]

It’s time – again - to show up and create a miracle. We need your courage and vision for the next month, while the focus is on Entergy’s decommissioning plan for Vermont Yankee. There are a lot of inspiring stories in this newsletter, most created by our own folks. First, mark your calendar with these events:

  •       Jan. 28  NDCAP Meeting
  •       Feb. 5   NRC Webinar on Yankee Decommissioning
  •       Feb. 9   Forum to prep for NRC Public Hearing (Safe & Green and CAN)
  •       Feb. 19 NRC Public Hearing on decommissioning plan

All the above, as well as events planned for March and April, are on the agenda of the Safe and Green Campaign steering committee’s next meeting on February 2nd. We meet once or twice a month on Mondays at 5:30pm, and it’s always a pot luck supper. Email safeandgreencampaign@gmail.com if you’re interested in more info.

NDCAP January 28: Vermont's Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel will meet next Wednesday, January 28 at the Quality Inn (Putney Road, Brattleboro) from 6-9pm. (This is a change from the Jan. 22 date set at the December meeting). All NDCAP meetings are open to the public, and there is time after each Agenda item for public comment. We will post an agenda on our website once it is available.

NRC webinar on VT Yankee on February 5 at 3:00pm “to provide key facts about the decommissioning process and how the NRC regulates such activities through on-site inspections and other reviews… view slides prepared by NRC staff and ask questions in writing via a web page set up to host the session. Online registration is required to take part.” Click here to register.

Arnie Gundersen and Deb Katz will speak at a Forum on Entergy’s decommissioning plan on February 9th, from 6-9pm at Marlboro Graduate Center, downtown Brattleboro. The Safe and Green Campaign and the Citizens Awareness Network will co-host. The presentations, with time for Q&A, will help you prepare remarks for the one and only NRC hearing, and to write your comments to the NRC (March 23 deadline). Forums before the NRC public hearing are also planned for Montpelier and Greenfield. Please visit to our Decommissioning Resources page for issues we have identified to date and for info how to comment.

NRC public hearing on decommissioning Vermont Yankee - February 19, 6-9pm at the Quality Inn in Brattleboro).  Details on the hearing and how to submit written comments are on our website here..."

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