The U.S. nuclear reactor fleet is aging but owners are applying to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for license extensions to operate reactors an additional 20 years beyond their licensed lifetimes. Beyond Nuclear is challenging and opposing relicensing efforts.



Concerns spread over "Baffling Reactor Vessel Bolts" in aging U.S. PWRs

This image, used by Lochbaum at UCS in his "All Things Nuclear" blog post, as well as his NIRS-hosted Webinar, shows the location of former plates and baffle plates at the heart of PWR reactor pressure vessels. The baffle-former bolts play a critical safety role in directly cooling water flow through the reactor core.As reported by Aaron Larson at POWER, degraded baffle-former bolts at the core of U.S. pressurized water reactors (PWRs) has raised the specter of an industry-wide safety problem. As the article reports, Salem Unit 1 in NJ has at least 18 bolts exhibiting degradation, upon visual inspection. Indian Point Unit 2 in NY, however, exhibited 227 degraded bolts, upon more rigorous Ultrasonic inspection -- a whopping 27% of the bolts there.

Such problems with bolts, the article reports, date back to the 1980s in France. However, it stands to reason that age-related degradation -- specifically, irradiation-assisted stress corrosion cracking -- contributes significantly to the bolt problems.

Both inspections -- at Salem 1 and Indian Point 2 -- resulted from 20-year license extension aging management plans. In the case of Indian Point, this was forced by the State of New York Attorney General's office, leading the state's intervention against Indian Point's license extension.

Despite the problems found at Indian Point 2, Entergy Nuclear has refused to inspect Indian Point Unit 3 to determine how bad the degradation is there. Nor does it plan to until 2019.

As reported by POWER above, PSEG has moved up its Ultrasonic inspections from 2019 to now, given the disconcerting bolt degradation revealed upon visual inspection.

As explained on April 28th by Dave Lochbaum at Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), on a Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) sponsored Webinar (entitled "Indian Point's Baffling Reactor Vessel Bolts"), baffles and formers play a critical safety role, in directing coolant flow through PWR reactor cores:

April 28, 2016. NIRS webinar on investigation of reactor pressure vessel bolts at New York's Indian Point reactors, which revealed numerous deficiencies and failures. The webinar examines those failures and explores the implications for reactors across the U.S. and world. Full video/audio of webinar. Slides only from presentation by David Lochbaum of Union of Concerned Scientists.

In an April 7 blog post at All Things Nuclear, Lochbaum praised NY Governor Cuomo and NY Attorney General Schneiderman for thier leadership in the Indian Point license extension interventions, that forced the baffle-former bolt inspections, that revealed the widespread degradation.


"Inviting disaster": Karl Grossman interviewed by RT on aging atomic reactors like Indian Point

Investigative journalist Karl Grossman, a Beyond Nuclear board memberRT has interviewed investigative journalist Karl Grossman (photo left) on the risks of age-degraded nuclear power plants like Indian Point near New York City, where rusted and even missing bolts are but the latest safety scare.

Entergy Nuclear's Indian Point Units 2 and 3 reactors, some 25 miles up the Hudson River from the New York City limits, are both operating on expired operating licenses, compliments of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's lax rules. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is leading the charge for Indian Point's shutdown.

So too is New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, whose office has sued NRC over its false Nuclear Waste Confidence policy. (Beyond Nuclear is an official party in the NY v. NRC II proceeding currently before the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.)

Karl describes the potentially "catastrophic" risks of running reactors not 40 years, but 60 and even 80 years, including with power "uprates" -- operating aged reactors harder and hotter, to make more electricity, to make more money.

Karl points out that the answer is to shut these old nuclear power plants immediately, to eliminate the Chernobyl- and Fukushima-like reactor risks, and to stop the generation of radioactive waste. The electricity can be replaced with renewables like wind and solar, which are here today.

Karl serves as a Beyond Nuclear board member.


SNL: "Palisades plant critics vow to continue fight over 'thermal shock' issue" (risks extend to Pt. Beach, Indian Pt., Diablo, & Beaver Valley)

Entergy's Palisades atomic reactor, located on the Lake Michigan shoreline in southwest Michigan.SNL Financial has published an in-depth investigative article by Matthew Bandyk, "Palisades nuclear plant critics vow to continue fight over 'thermal shock' issue."

The article revealed that Palisades' previous owner, Consumers Energy, had planned to attempt to repair the severely neutron radiation embrittled reactor pressure vessel (RPV), by undertaking experimental, expensive annealing (super-heating the metal in an attempt to restore ductility) in the late 1990s, but decided not to, for fear of public backlash and/or legal intervention against the needed License Amendment Request.

An environmental coalition, including Don't Waste MI and NIRS, battled against the Palisades' 20-year license extension rubber-stamp by NRC, but lost in early 2007. The coalition's top safety concern was RPV embrittlement/PTS risk.



Environmental coalition decries decision to extend Davis-Besse's license

The coalition of environmental groups that have been battling against FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company's (FENOC) bid to extend operations at its problem-plagued Davis-Besse atomic reactor for the past five years, have decried the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) approval of FENOC's application as a rubber-stamp. The coalition warns that the 2017 to 2037 extension, to be largely funded by multiple billions of dollars in ratepayer subsidies, if approved by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, amounts to another two decades of "radioactive Russian roulette" on the Lake Erie shoreline. 

"Davis-Besse is a contrivance of regulatory neglect and corporate welfare. Without the existence of both, it would be a fading road bump in the transition to a full-employment, safe energy future," said Terry Lodge, a Toledo attorney, and the intervening environmental coalition's legal counsel.

The coalition is comprised of Beyond Nuclear, Citizen Environmental Alliance of Southwestern Ontario, Don't Waste MI, and the Ohio Green Party.  Read the full press release.


Beyond Nuclear legal filings at NRC sets stage for appeal in federal court opposing Fermi 2 license extension

Terry LodgeOn Dec. 4, 2015, Toledo attorney Terry Lodge (photo, left), on behalf of Beyond Nuclear, filed a Motion to Reopen the Record, and a Petition to Intervene, in the Fermi 2 license extension proceeding.

The filings have set the stage, in anticipation of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's ultimate rejection, for a Beyond Nuclear appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The appeal will challenge the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's "Continued Storage of Spent Nuclear Fuel" policy, formerly known as its "Nuclear Waste Confidence" policy.

Thus, the Fermi 2 proceeding would join Beyond Nuclear's legal appeals to the D.C. Circuit Court regarding the Davis-Besse, OH license extension proceeding, as well as the Fermi 3 proposed new reactor proceeding.

The consolidated appeal is known as New York v. NRC II.

Attorneys Diane Curran of Washington D.C., and Mindy Goldstein of Emory University's Turner Environmental Law Clinic in Atlanta, serve as legal counsel for Beyond Nuclear in New York v. NRC II.

In New York v. NRC, in June 2012, a coalition of states, environmental groups, and an Indian tribe won a major legal victory, invalidating NRC's Nuclear Waste Confidence policy.

Beyond Nuclear hopes to prevail again this time. Oral arguments are to be held in spring 2016 on New York v. NRC II. Another Beyond Nuclear et al. legal victory would be a major blow to the license extensions at Fermi 2 and Davis-Besse, as well as the construction and operations license at Fermi 3.

The Fermi nuclear power plant in southeast MI, and the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant in northwest OH, are located on the shoreline of Lake Erie's shallow, fragile, and bio-diverse Western Basin, one of the planet's most productive walleye fisheries. Lake Erie, and points downstream in Lake Ontario and the Saint Lawrence River, serve as the drinking water supply for millions of Americans, Canadians, and Native Americans.

Beyond Nuclear has been joined in coalition by Don't Waste MI and Citizen Environmental Alliance of Southwestern Ontario in intervening against Fermi 2's license extension. Keith Gunter, co-chair of the Alliance to Halt Fermi 3 and a Beyond Nuclear Launch Partner, has helped provide Beyond Nuclear legal standing in the Fermi 2 legal proceedings. Citizens Resistance at Fermi Two (CRAFT) is also fighting the 20-year extension.