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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
May092014

NRC grants years-long delays on urgent "Fukushima lessons learned" earthquake risk safety upgrades

In a press release entitled "NRC Prioritizes Detailed Earthquake Risk Analysis For Central and Eastern U.S. Reactors," the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has given nuclear utilities an extraordinarily long period of time to upgrade safety in light of the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe.

NRC speaks of having "set a priority list for 21 of 59 nuclear power plant sites in the central and eastern United States to conduct in-depth analyses of the plants’ updated earthquake risk," in recognition that seismic hazards could well be greater than the atomic reactors were originally designed and built to withstand.

And what are NRC's deadlines for the nuclear utilities to take "Fukushima lessons learned" urgent action by? Preliminary analysis, to determine if reinforcements to systems, structures, or components may be needed, is not due till Dec. 31, 2014 -- nearly four years after the Fukushima catastrophe began. If any such upgrades are needed, they need not be installed until Dec. 31, 2016 -- nearly six years post-Fukushima.

Perhaps more astounding, the "detailed," "in-depth risk" analyses described in the press release headline are not due until June 30, 2017 (over six years post-Fukushima) for 10 "priority" sites, and not till June 30, 2019 (more than eight years post-Fukushima) for another 11 "priority" sites.

At another 23 sites, NRC is still yet to decide whether or not they need to do the "in-depth risk analysis." If NRC decides they do, they have until Dec. 31, 2020 (almost a decade post-Fukushima) to get it done.

Apparently, we must simply hope earthquakes stronger than originally designed and constructed against many decades ago won't strike before NRC requires these actions to be taken.

Friday
May092014

Entergy's Palisades spills 70 gallons of oil on the edge of Lake Michigan

NRC file photo of Entergy's Palisades atomic reactor, as well as the Great Lake and surrounding countryside it puts at riskDespite the industry's claim that nuclear power is "clean energy," Entergy's Palisades atomic reactor has just spilled "approximately 70 gallons" of oil onto the ground, adjacent to the waters of Lake Michigan. As a headwaters for the Great Lakes, Lake Michigan supplies drinking water to 40 million people in eight U.S. states, two Canadian provinces, and a large number of Native American First Nations.

The Kalamazoo Gazette has reported on this oil leak. This latest incident at Palisades was made public by an Event Notification posted at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's website.

The oil spill comes a year and two days after Palisades leaked 82.1 gallons of radioactive water directly into Lake Michigan. The radioactive spill prompted a protest vigil at Palisades' front entrace, organized by Beyond Nuclear and local concerned citizens' groups, after U.S. Congressman Fred Upton (R-MI), Chair of the powerful House Committee on Energy and Commerce (whose district "hosts" Palisades), as well as NRC Commissioner Svinicki, failed to even acknowledge requests for meetings after their hastily arranged emergency tour of the problem-plagued plant.

Palisades' oil spill also comes less than two months after British Petroleum spilled 1,638 gallons of Canadian tar sands crude oil into Lake Michigan at its refinery in Whiting, IN, and less than four years after the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history, upstream of Lake Michigan: 1.4 million gallons of Canadian tar sands crude, from Enbridge's Line 6B oil pipeline, into the Kalamazoo River at Marshall, MI. To protect irreplacable surface waters like Lake Michigan, Beyond Nuclear stands in solidarity with anti-dirty energy allies against oil pipelines.

The very title of a May 7, 2014 U.S. Department of Transportation Inspector General report shows there is much to be concerned about: PHMSA's State Pipeline Safety Program Lacks Effective Management and Oversight. Before becoming PHMSA's Administrator, Cynthia L. Quaterman, she had represented oil companies, including Enbridge, as a legal counsel.

There were widespread calls for PHMSA Administrator Quaterman to block a permit for Bruce Nuclear to ship, by boat, radioactive steam generators on the Great Lakes, but she did not do so. However, it took Mohawk First Nation pledges to block the boats on the Saint Lawrence River before Bruce Nuclear stopped pushing the proposal.

Friday
May022014

"Senators to NRC: Do Not Exempt Decommissioning Nuclear Reactors from Emergency Response and Security Measures"

U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, Chairwoman, Environment and Public Works CommitteeFive Democratic U.S. Senators have written U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Chairwoman Allison Macfarlane, uring that NRC's rubberstamp of exemptions from emergency preparedness and security requirements at permanently shutdown nuclear power plants be stopped.

The five Senators are: Barbara Boxer (D-CA); Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY); Edward J. Markey (D-MA); Patrick Leahy (D-VT); Bernard Sanders (D-VT). Boxer (photo, above left) is Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, with oversight on NRC and nuclear power issues; Gillibrand, Markey, and Sanders also serve on the EPW Committee.

Their letter points out that nuclear utilities have always received requested exemptions, within just a year or two of reactor shutdowns, from NRC, at permanently shutdown nuclear power plants. This, despite the fact that the nuclear plants still have large amounts of irradiated nuclear fuel stored in pools, vulnerable to catastrophic releases of hazardous radioactivity, such as due to natural disasters, terrorist attacks, heavy load drops, etc.

The Senators list NRC's "perfect record" of such regulatory relaxation at: Humboldt Bay, CA; LaCrosse, WI; Fort St. Vrain, CO; Rancho Seco, CA; Yankee Rowe, MA; Trojan, OR; Haddam Neck, CT; Maine Yankee; Big Rock Point, MI; and Zion, IL.

Most ironically, NRC consistently stands by its indefensible claim that high-level radioactive waste storage is safe, sound, and secure, and will remain so for at least 60 years post-reactor shutdown, by citing the existence of emergency preparedness and security regulations. Yet, it is these very regulations that NRC consistently exempts shutdown nuclear plants from having to meet!

The Senators have urged NRC chief Macfarlane to not grant such requested exemptions at the five atomic reactors permanently shutdown in 2013 (Crystal River, FL; Kewaunee, WI; San Onofre 2 & 3, CA) or about to be shutdown by the end of 2014 (Vermont Yankee).

On April 10, Beyond Nuclear's Reactor Oversight Project Director, Paul Gunter, urged NRC to enforce emergency preparedness and security regulations at decommissioning nuclear power plant sites, due to the potentially catastrophic risks associated with the irradiated nuclear fuel still stored there.

Thursday
May012014

The Most Dangerous Man in Detroit: Walter Reuther

The Brothers Reuther. From left to right, Roy, Walter, Victor. Walter P. Reuther Library, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI.It is fitting, on International Workers' Day, to pay tribute to Walter Reuther.

Reuther's biographer, Nelson Lichtenstein (The Most Dangerous Man in Detroit: Walter Reuther and the Fate of American Labor, Basic Books, 1995) could have been referring to Walter Reuther's civil rights, social justice, and anti-war work as much as to his efforts on behalf of working people. And given that Walter Reuther, and especially his brother Victor, were very active internationally, perhaps they were also the most dangerous men in the world?

Less well known are the Reuther brothers' work for the environment and against nuclear risks.

Walter Reuther's United Auto Workers (UAW) took one of the very first high profile stands against nuclear power in the early 1960s, when it -- alas unsuccessfully, unfortunately -- attempted to stop the construction and operation of the Fermi 1 experimental plutonium breeder reactor in Monroe County, MI, just 25 miles south of Detroit. Between the Detroit and Toledo areas, some 500,000 UAW members lived within 50 miles of the big nuclear experiment on the Great Lakes shoreline. Even though the UAW did not prevail in its lawsuit against the Atomic Energy Commission at the U.S. Supreme Court (by a 7 to 2 vote), Reuther and the UAW would be proven right just a few years later. On Oct. 5, 1966, "We Almost Lost Detroit" (the title of John G. Fuller's iconic book, as well as Gil Scott Heron's ballad) when the Fermi 1 reactor core partially melted down. But it came precariously close to turning out much worse than it did.

Sasha Reuther, the grandson of Walter's younger brother Victor, published a documentary film in 2012 entitled "Brothers on the Line." Towards the very end of the film, U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy is quoted as saying that Walter Reuther was green before it was even invented. More.

Wednesday
Apr302014

"NRC Fails to Document Claim...that 'Majority' of Nuclear Emergency Drills Include Natural Disaster Components"

The UN IAEA's official radioactivity hazard warning signNIRS has published a press release entitled "NRC Fails to Document Claim Made in Denial of NIRS' Emergency Planning Petition that 'Majority' of Nuclear Emergency Drills Include Natural Disaster Components."

NIRS submitted the petition to NRC on Feb. 15, 2012. NRC rejected the petition in its entirety on April 9, 2014.

Beyond Nuclear is one of 37 organizational co-petitioners.