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Relicensing

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.

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Monday
Jun092014

Two dozen groups urge State of MA to divest from Entergy due to safety and economic risks at Pilgrim

NRC file photo of Entergy's Pilgrim GE BWR Mark I on Cape Cod Bay in Plymouth, MABeyond Nuclear has signed onto an effort spearheaded by the Association to Preserve Cape Cod, and endorsed by two dozen local groups, to urge the State of Massachusetts to divest more than $8 million invested in Entergy. The signatory groups cited the economic and safety risks associated with the nuclear utility's problem-plagued Pilgrim atomic reactor. A June 4th letter was sent to Governor Patrick and Treasurer Grossman, as described in a June 9th press release.

NRC recently placed Pilgrim on its "degraded" performance short list. The only other reactor in the country with a worse performance designation is FitzPatrick in upstate New York. Both Pilgrim and FitzPatrick are General Electric Mark I boiling water reactors, identical in design to Fukushima Daiichi Units 1 to 4.

Entergy's Palisades atomic reactor in Michigan was similarly designated one of the worst performers in the U.S. a couple years ago, after not one but two near-misses in 2011, and yet another one in 2012, as documented by David Lochbaum at Union of Concerned Scientists.

A year ago, energy economist Mark Cooper of Vermont Law School identified Entergy's six merchant reactors (half its national fleet), including Pilgrim, as at risk of near-term shutdown. This is due to a variety of factors, including economic uncompetitiveness and needed, costly safety repairs. In August 2013, Cooper was proven right, when Entergy announced the permanent shutdown of Vermont Yankee (another Entergy GE BWR Mark I) by the end of 2014.

Despite the risks, a number of Entergy's merchant reactors, including its GE BWR Mark Is, have already received 20-year license extensions from NRC. The Pilgrim license extension was resisted by Pilgrim Watch for over six years. Similarly, the State of New York and others, such as Riverkeeper, have officially intervened against license extensions at Entergy's Indian Point 2 & 3 reactors near New York City for many years.

Friday
May232014

Coalition defends its challenge against Davis-Besse Shield Building cracks, gaps, and rebar damage

Environmental coalition attorney Terry LodgeAn environmental coalition, represented by attorney Terry Lodge of Toledo (photo, left), has filed a defense of its contention alleging that FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company's (FENOC) Davis-Besse atomic reactor on the Lake Erie shore should be denied a 20-year license extension by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Most recently, Davis-Besse's concrete containment Shield Building has exhibited ever more severe cracking, steel reinforcement damage, as well as wall gap 80% of the way through its 2.5 foot thickness (an air space, or void, through 24 of 30 inches of the wall). The filing rebuts challenges against the contention by FENOC and NRC Staff.

As official intervenors in the NRC Atomic Safety (sic) and Licensing Board (ASLB) proceeding, the coalition, comprised of Beyond Nuclear, Citizens Environment Coalition of Southwestern Ontario, Don't Waste Michigan, and the Ohio Green Party, has resisted Davis-Besse's 20-year license extension since the end of 2010. Davis-Besse's 40-year operating license expires on Earth Day (April 22), 2017. This is the coalition's sixth contention filed.

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 risk

Entergy's Palisades atomic reactor was originally licensed to operate from 1967 to 2007. But, in the early 2000s, NRC granted it a flippant four-year extension, till 2011. Then, in 2007, despite widespread opposition, NRC rubber-stamped a license extension till 2031.

Despite 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.

Wednesday
Apr302014

"Exelon CEO: 'We are not asking the state for a bailout'"

David Kraft, Director, Nuclear Energy Information Service (NEIS) of ILThe Chicago Tribune reports that Exelon CEO Chris Crane denies the largest nuclear utility in the U.S. is seeking a bailout from the State of Illinois in order to stabilize its flagging fleet of atomic reactors:

'Crane told the Tribune Wednesday that a legislative fix is not in the offing.

“We are not – are not – asking the state for a bailout,” he said. “We are looking at different ways to contract/ sell energy from those plants into other markets, into other buyers, but there is not a state bailout.”

Crane said the company does not support subsidies for wind and does not support a 500-mile high voltage transmission line project pending approval at the Illinois Commerce Commission that would bring more wind into the state from Iowa.

“We are not considering a legislative fix to subsidize the nuclear plants in the state,” Crane said in an interview. ‘That is not anything we are working on.”'

On Nov. 6, 2013, E&E's reporter at Greenwire reported on Exelon's hypocricy in an article entitled "Nuclear giant taps wind tax credit that it's trying to kill."

Exelon has indicated that its reactors at Clinton, Quad Cities, and Byron could be permanently closed due to their inability to compete economically. This, despite the fact that Quad Cities 1 & 2 (Fukushima Daiichi twin designs -- GE BWR Mark Is) already has gotten its NRC rubberstamp for a 20-year operating license extension. Byron has applied for a 20-year extension at its Units 1 and 2.

As watchdog Dave Kraft (photo, above left), Director of Nuclear Energy Information Service (NEIS) in IL, points out, Exelon's denial of seeking a state bailout comes on the very same day it announced the takeover of Washington, D.C. area electrical utility PEPCO: "This may be the case -- for now. Who would need a bailout when all one has to do is 'buy' a marketful of unwilling sheeple, who would legally be available for fleecing?  And if the merger is not approved (as the Washington DC PUC will have something to say about this, and hasn't been favorable granting this type of merger in the past to even smaller nuclear-reliant utilities), Crane can always come back to Springfield at a later date to try again."

Dave published an analysis on March 3, 2014, "Exelon Nuclear -- Holding Illinois Hostage Yet Again?", as well as a related April 27th fact sheet, NO RATEPAYER BAILOUTS FOR EXELON’S “NUCLEAR HOSTAGE CRISIS."

Tuesday
Apr222014

Opponents to 20 More Years at Davis-Besse Challenge New Flaws: Renewables Cited as Inevitable Replacement

Toledo attorney Terry Lodge speaks out against a 20-year license extension at the cracked Davis-Besse atomic reactor at Oak Harbor High School, OH in August 2012.On Earth Day, 2014, opponents to 20 more years at Davis-Besse called for the problem-plagued atomic reactor to be shut down by Earth Day, 2017, or preferably earlier, before it melts down and its severely compromised containment releases catastrophic amounts of hazardous radioactivity downwind and downstream into the Great Lakes basin. Davis-Besse's 40-year license expires on April 22, 2017.

Citing renewable sources of electricity, such as wind power and solar photo-voltaics (PV), as ready replacements, a coalition of environmental groups, including Beyond Nuclear, filed comments by last night’s midnight deadline on the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) regarding FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company’s (FENOC) proposed 20-year license extension.

At the same time, a coalition of official interveners resisting the license extension launched its latest salvo in the three-and-a-half-year-long NRC Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) proceeding. The coalition is represented by Toledo attorney Terry Lodge (photo, left). The filing deadline was also April 21st -- 60 days after a Shield Building wall gap, and rebar damage, were officially reported by NRC.

The coalition issued a press release.

ASLB filing:

MOTION FOR ADMISSION OF CONTENTION NO. 6 ON SHIELD BUILDING CONCRETE VOID, CRACKING AND BROKEN REBAR PROBLEMS

Exhibits: #1, NRC Preliminary Notice of Event or Occurrence (Feb. 19, 2014); #2, Toledo Blade article, “Davis-Besse Had Air Gap in Shield Building,” (Feb. 15, 2014); #3, Declaration of Victoria Clemons (April 14, 2014); #4, Minutes of Internal Meeting of Davis-Besse Oversight Panel (Oct. 18, 2001); #5, Minutes of Internal Meeting of Davis-Besse Oversight Panel (Oct. 29, 2002); #6, NRC Preliminary Notice of Event or Occurrence (Sept. 20, 2013); #7, NRC Request for Additional Information (April 15, 2014); #8, Expert Witness Report of Arnold Gundersen, 50-246-LA (2013).

DEIS comments:

1. Amory Lovins' "Nuclear power’s competitive landscape and climate opportunity cost," March 28, 2014 (TMI+35), Dartmouth College, NH

Amory Lovins on uncompetitiveness of old atomic reactors. At page 5 Lovin’s writes: "Reactors are promoted as costly to build but cheap to run. Yet as Daniel Allegretti ably described, many existing, long-paid-for U.S. reactors are now starting to be shut down because just their operating cost can no longer compete with wholesale power prices, typically depressed by gas-fired plants or windpower."

2. PJM Interconnect: 30% grid integration of renewables not a problem.

In fact, it was well known to PJM (Pennsylvania/Jersey/Maryland) Interconnect, covering 13 states and this nation's largest single electric grid, as published in this 2010 2010 ISO/RTO Metrics Report, posted at the website of the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, that wind power and solar PV are available in abundance and that there is no disruption or destabilizing of "baseload grid" associated with their integration. Replacement power was available in 2010, and is available now, and certainly in 2017.

On Dec. 27, 2010, the environmental coalition -- with University of Toledo professor emeritus Al Compaan as its expert witness -- contended that wind and solar PV, combined with compressed air energy storage, could easily replace Davis-Besse's 908 megawatts of electricity during the 2017-2037 period. In 2011, the ASLB agreed to hear the contention. But on March 27, 2012, the five-member NRC Commission, responding to an appeal by FENOC, unanimously overruled the ASLB, rejecting the renewables-as-alternative-to-license-extension hearing. Interveners reassert their contention and call for the NRC Commissioners' order to be reversed, because they are simply wrong. The coalition reserves the right to appeal the rejection of its renewables contention to federal court, once the ASLB proceeding has concluded.

3. Beyond Nuclear's Radioactive Waste Watchdog, Kevin Kamps, also submitted five comments to NRC: #1, Jan. 10, 2012 SB cracking contention's relevance to DEIS; #2, four 2012 cracking contention supplements' (Feb. 27; June 4; July 16; July 23) relevance to DEIS; #3, fifth cracking contention supplement's (Aug. 16, 2012) relevance to DEIS; #4, Dec., 2010 backgrounder, "Davis-Besse Atomic Reactor: 20 MORE Years of Radioactive Russian Roulette on the Great Lakes Shore?!"; #5, Aug. 2012 SB summary report, "What Humpty Dumpty Doesn't Want You to Know: Davis-Besse's Cracked Concrete Containment Snow Job". 

4. Joe DeMare's comments. Joe is a local resident near Davis-Besse. He is also an official intervener, as part of the environmental coalition, against the license extension. Joe is affiliated with the Ohio Green Party.