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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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Thursday
Nov222012

"Shut It Down!" affinity group members face jail and fine for Vermont Yankee arrests

In this Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2010 photo, Frances Crowe holds a sign while protesting at Entergy Vermont Yankee, in Vernon, Vt. Crowe, of Northampton, Mass., and several others were arrested after they walked past the main gate at Vermont Yankee. They read a statement calling for the closure of Vermont's only nuclear plant. AP Photo | The Brattleboro Reformer, Zachary P. Stephens.For some people, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) outrageous rubberstamp of a 20 year license extension at the Vermont Yankee atomic reactor, just days after the beginning of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe in Japan at reactors of identical design (GE BWR Mark Is), would not be the final word on the subject.

As reported by Eesha Williams in the Valley Post, six women, who are members of the "Shut It Down!" affinity group, will face trial, beginning at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, November 27th in downtown Brattleboro, VT, for their non-violent civil disobedience arrests at Entergy Nuclear's Vermont Yankee atomic reactor. If convicted of the misdemeanor trespassing charges, they could be sentenced to a year in jail, and a $500 fine, Williams reports.

The six defendants are: Hattie Nestel (age 73) of Athol, Massachusetts; Paki Wieland (age 68), Nancy First (age 82), and Frances Crowe (age 93) of Northampton, MA; Betsy Corner (age 64) of Colrain, MA; and Ellen Graves (age 69) of West Springfield, MA.

The "Shut It Down!" affinity group has been arrested nearly two dozen times at the VY reactor, or in related actions, as at other Entergy Nuclear offices.

Beyond Nuclear board member Karl Grossman was quoted in Williams' article.

The Associated Press also reported on this story"Asked how many time she had been arrested in such protests, [Frances Crowe] pointed to the fact that war, nuclear weapons and nuclear power plants continue to exist. 'Not enough,' she said. 'I don't know. I don't count. But I know I haven't achieved what I'm trying to achieve.'"

(The AP has reported that the defendants, if convicted, face not a year in jail, but rather three months.)

Thursday
Nov222012

Vermonters urge State Public Service Board to deny Entergy Vermont Yankee a Certificate of Public Good

Vermont State House

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's outrageous rubberstamp of the Vermont Yankee atomic reactor's 20 year license extension, just days after the beginning of multiple meltdowns at reactors of identical design at Fukushima Daiichi, Japan, did not mark the end of the story for the people of Vermont. As the SAGE Alliance makes clear with a rally at the Vermont State House in Montpelier (pictured, left) on the 1st of every month, "We Are Not Going Away Until VT Yankee is Shut Down and Safely Decommissioned!"

And, with a rally at the State House in Montpelier on Sat., Nov. 17th, and state-wide public testimony to the State of Vermont Public Service Board (PSB) on Mon., Nov. 19th, the people of the Green Mountain State made clear their ongoing, strong opposition to any grant of a renewed Certificate of Public Good (CPG) to Entergy Nuclear for the continued operation of the Vermont Yankee atomic reactor. The grassroots efforts were organized by such groups as the SAGE AllianceCitizens Awareness Network (CAN), and the Vermont Yankee Decommissioning Alliance (VYDA).

Debra Stoleroff, a key organizer with VYDA, shared "Nine Good Reasons for the Public Service Board to Reject Entergy's CPG Request." Debra also provided instructions on how to submit comments, including in writing, to the PSB. Comments by persons from out-of-state are not precluded. (Debra served as a coordinator of an exhibition of Chernobyl photographs by Gabriela Bulisova, which opened on St. Patrick's Day, 2011 at Montpelier City Hall. The exhibit was organized to mark the 25th anniversary of the beginning of the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe on April 26, 1986. The exhibit then moved to Dartmouth College on 4/26/11, hosted by the Upper Valley Sierra Club chapter. Beyond Nuclear co-sponsored the exhibits.) 

Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps was in Vermont and attended both the rally and the hearings, as well as Vermont Public Interest Research Group's (VPIRG) annual Environmental Summit in Randolph at the Vermont Technical College, where Vermont Yankee shutdown workshops were also held. At the conference, Kevin met Richard Watts, author of Public Meltdown: The Story of Vermont Yankee. 

Kevin also discussed the expansion of the Entergy Watch network with staff from the Toxics Action Center in Boston. Recently, a number of municipalities near Entergy Nuclear's Pilgrim power plant in Plymouth, MA have passed resolutions opposed to the operations of the atomic reactor. Toxics Action Center is 25 years old, formed in response to the W.R. Grace toxic chemical pollution of drinking water in Woburn, MA, made famous by the book and film A Civil Action.

Chris Williams, a key organizer of VYDA as well as VCAN, served as spokesman on the Vermont Yankee issue at the VPIRG Environmental Summit. Chris traveled to west Michigan on Oct. 11th, to educate Michiganders on the rogue corporation (a phrase oft repeated by political leadership in Vermont) Entergy, which operates the Palisades atomic reactor in Covert on the Lake Michigan shoreline. 

Vermont Yankee and Pilgrim are both General Electric Mark I boiling water reactors, identical in design to Fukushima Daiichi's Units 1 to 4. Entergy also own the Mark I at FitzPatrick, NY, and operates (on behalf of owner Nebraska Public Power District) the Mark I at Cooper, NE. Altogether, Entergy owns or operates a "dirty dozen" atomic reactors of various designs across the U.S.

The Barre Montpelier Times Argus reported on the rally, as well as on the state-wide hearings.

A gentleman sitting near Kevin at the hearing session in Brattleboro kept count of the number of those favoring and opposing a Certificate of Public Good for Vermont Yankee's continued operations. The grand tally was 68 opposed to a CPG, with 26 in favor. The man had also attended another PSB hearing in Vermont Yankee's hometown of Vernon on November 9th. There, 37 persons who testified were in favor of the CPG, while 34 were opposed.

Without a CPG, Vermont Yankee cannot continue operating, under state law. Entergy Nuclear actually signed a Memorandum of Understanding recognizing the Vermont PSB's authority in this regard, when it purchased Vermont Yankee a decade ago. Despite Entergy's subsequent lawsuit contesting the Public Service Board's authority, it was upheld in a federal court decision last January.

Monday
Nov122012

"Reading Radioactive Tea Leaves": Kewaunee reactor to shut down

John LaForge of Nukewatch in Luck, WIJohn LaForge of Nukewatch in Luck, WI (pictured left) has penned an op-ed, "Reading Radioactive Tea Leaves: Without a Buyer for Old Kewaunee Reactor, Owner Chooses Shut Down." In it, he details the many radioactive bullets Wisconsin has dodged, and has not dodged, at Kewaunee, just in recent years, including: "...a 2009 emergency shutdown caused by improper steam pressure instrument settings; a 2007 loss of main turbine oil pressure; an emergency cooling water system design flaw found in 2006; [the August 2006 discovery of radioactive tritium leaking into groundwater, for an unknown period, from unidentified pipes somewhere beneath the reactor complex]; a possible leak in November 2005 of highly radioactive primary coolant into secondary coolant which is discharged to Lake Michigan; a simultaneous failure of all three emergency cooling water pumps in February 2005, etc.".

John also wrote:

"...Governor Scott Walker announced his disappointment with Kewaunee’s termination and said it “highlights the need to decrease unnecessary federal regulations.” Walker’s sort of de-regulation agenda has caused disasters like Three Mile Island and Fukushima, and wouldn’t save nuclear power, in any case, because the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) rules are hardly ever enforced.

According to a year-long investigation of reactor aging problems by the Associated Press last year, when operators are found violating federal rules, the NRC routinely just weakens the requirements. For example, in the ‘60s and ‘70s, the industry andregulators said unequivocally that U.S. reactors were built to operate for a maximum of 40 years. Today they insist the very same reactors can run for 100 years. True to form, the NRC rubber-stamped a 20-year license extension for Kewaunee in March 2011 —like it’s done previously with 71 other 40-year-old reactors.

The AP’s four-part series found that such relicensing often lacks independent safety reviews, and that paperwork of the NRC sometimes matches word-for-word the language used in a reactor operator’s application..."

Nukewatch has watchdogged Kewaunee for decades. On April 23, 2011, Nukewatch organized a "Walk for a Nuclear-Free Future" from Kewaunee to Point Beach's two reactors -- a distance of seven miles, the same as the distance between Fukushima Daiichi and Daini nuclear power plants -- to commemorate the 25th year since the Chernobyl atomic reactor exploded and burned beginning on April 26, 1986. The event took place just six weeks after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe had begun. Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps took part in the walk, and as a keynote speaker along with Natasha Akulenko, a native of Kiev, Ukraine and surivor of the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe.

Tuesday
Nov062012

Environmental coalition defends Davis-Besse intervention at ASLB oral argument pre-hearings in Toledo

Environmental coalition attorney Terry Lodge of Toledo speaks out against Davis-Besse's 20 year license extension at a press conference at Oak Harbor High School, Oak Harbor, OH on August 9, 2012The environmental coalition comprised of Beyond Nuclear, Citizens Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario, Don't Waste Michigan, and the Green Party of Ohio has defended its intervention contentions against the proposed 20 year license extension at FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company's (FENOC) Davis-Besse atomic reactor. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Atomic Safety (sic) and Licensing Board (ASLB) oral argument pre-hearings took place on Nov. 5th and 6th (yes, Election Day) in Toledo, Ohio at the Lucas County Courthouse. The coalition's representatives, including attorney Terry Lodge of Toledo (photo, left), Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear, and Michael Keegan of Don't Waste Michigan, squared off against opposition to the contentions mounted by FENOC's and NRC's legal teams and experts.

The environmental coalition defended its Severe Accident Mitigation Alternatives (SAMA) analyses contentions -- already admitted for a full hearing on the merits by ASLB -- against a motion for summary disposition mounted by FENOC. The coalition also advocated for admission of its cracked concrete containment contention for a full hearing on the merits, while FENOC and NRC staff opposed it.

On Monday, the Toledo Blade published an editorial, "Tough enough to last?", questioning the structural integrity of the shield building for 25 more years (2012 to 2037). Today, it ran an article, "Davis-Besse hearings open." U.S. Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), a long-time watchdog on Davis-Besse and other FENOC atomic reactors,submitted a statement for the hearing record.

Friday
Oct262012

"The Rust-Bucket Reactors Start to Fall"

Harvey WassermanHarvey Wasserman, editor of Nukefree.org and author of Solartopia, has written a blog inspired by the announced closure of the Kewaunee atomic reactor in Wisconsin. He begins by stating 'The US fleet of 104 deteriorating atomic reactors is starting to fall. The much-hyped "nuclear renaissance" is now definitively headed in reverse.' Harvey adds 'Ironically, Kewaunee was recently given a license extension by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.'

He points out that Kewaunee may be but the first domino to fall, describing the impact of "low gas prices, declining performance, unsolved technical problems and escalating public resistance" at numerous other old, age-degraded, troubled reactors across the U.S., including San Onofre, CA; Crystal River, FL; Cooper and Fort Calhoun in NE; Vermont Yankee; Indian Point, NY; Oyster Creek, NJ; and Davis-Besse, OH. But Harvey also points out the momentum applies to new reactors as well, such as at Vogtle, GA and Summer, SC, as well as overseas, in the wake of Fukushima, not only in Japan, but also India, and even Europe, led by Germany's nuclear power phase out.

Harvey, a senior advisor to Greenpeace USA and Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS), will address "From Fukushima to Fermi-3: Getting to Solartopia Before It's Too Late" in Dearborn, MI on Dec. 7th at the official launch event for the new organization, the Alliance to Halt Fermi-3.