At a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) webinar on Sat., Jan. 12, another large turnout of local residents and environmental group representatives critical of the problem-plagued Palisades atomic reactor grilled agency staff with questions regarding "recent through-wall leaks" (NRC's title for the webinar). Early in the meeting, NRC staff admitted that critics' questions were "overloading the system."
Palisades suffered a through-wall leak on safety-critical control rod drive mechanism (CRDM) housing, revealed on Aug. 12. Palisades had experienced an earlier CRDM through-wall leak in 2001, as well as a uniquely bad 40 years worth of CRDM seal leaks, as documented by David Lochbaum of Union of Concerned Scientists. Lochbaum also explained that the Aug. 12 leak had been ongoing for over a month, even though NRC regulations require that reactor pressure boundary leakage lead to reactor shutdown within 6 hours. Lochbaum calculated that, at $130,000 per day, Entergy should have been fined $3 to $4 million for the violation. Instead, NRC did not fine Entergy one penny.
Most recently, Palisades suffered a through-wall leak on a valve in the service water system, also safety-significant. The service water system had also experienced previous breakdowns in recent years, which played a part in NRC designating Palisades one of the four worst run reactors in the country in Feb., 2012.
NRC's "recent through-wall leaks" webinar slide show has been posted online. Photos reveal cracks and severe rust on various safety-significant systems, structures, and componets at Palisades. One slide shows a steam leak likely drenchning electrical cords and plugs in condensation, as well as the adjacent wall and floor, begging the question whether this was not a short circuit, fire, and even electrocution hazard.
Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps fired a litany of questions at NRC staff, only some of which were addressed during the short one hour long webinar.
Due to intense public concern about Palisades, NRC announced that such webinars will continue every other month. March's webinar will address the risks of pressurized thermal shock (PTS) due to reactor pressure vessel (RPV) embrittlement. On Feb. 29, 2012, NRC staff, under intense grilling by concerned citizens, admitted that Palisades has the worsed embrittled RPV in the U.S. PTS risks were the single most significant safety concern raised by environmental coalition interveners opposed to the 20-year license extension at Palisades, but NRC rubberstamped it anyways. Michael Keegan of Coalition for a Nuclear-Free Great Lakes reported in 1993 thatPalisades had first violated NRC's PTS safety regulations in 1981, ten short years into operation. But NRC continued to weaken PTS safety regulations, again and again, in order to accommodate Palisades. Jeff Donn of the Associated Press reported in June 2011, in the first installment of his four part series entitled "Aging Nukes," that"US Nuke Regulators Weaken Safety Rules." His top example was PTS.
May's webinar will be about radiological effluents into the environment. Besides "routine" radiological releases into air, soil, and Lake Michigan that are "allowed" by lax federal or state government "permits," Palisades has also suffered radiological leaks, such as tritium into groundwater. In fact, in his April 2010 report "Leak First, Fix Later," Beyond Nuclear's Paul Gunter devoted an entire chapter to Palisades.