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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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Saturday
Dec152012

Entergy Watch: Indian Point, Palisades, Vermont Yankee

Entergy Watch is a campaign to bridge the resistance communities living in the shadows of Entergy's dirty dozen atomic reactors across the U.S., shown here on this map posted at Entergy Nuclear's websiteThe U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) rubberstamped Entergy Palisades' 20-year license extension in 2007, and Entergy Vermont Yankee's in March 2011, just days after the identically designed Units 1-4 at Fukushima Daiichi, Japan had melted down and exploded. Entergy wants 20 more years at both Indian Point Units 2 and 3, precariously close to New York City on the Hudson River.

Atomic Safety (sic) and Licensing Board (ASLB) hearings resumed in the Lower Hudson River Valley, as reported by the LoHud.com (note further LoHud.com coverage going back in time along the article's left-hand margin). The resistance being mounted by the Attorney General of the State of New York and environmental groups like Clearwater and Hudson Riverkeeper has led to the most admitted contentions yet against a 20-year license extension. The current round of hearings are dealing with the issue of underground pipes leaking radioactivity into soil, groundwater, and the Hudson River. NY AG Eric Schneiderman's office has alleged that “Entergy does not know the current state of its buried and underground pipes.” In April, 2010, Beyond Nuclear's Paul Gunter reported on a chronic, large-scale radioactivity leak of tritium and other radioactive substances from high-level radioactive waste storage pools at Indian Point.

At Palisades in Covert, Michigan, a coalition of local concerned residents and environmental groups butted heads with NRC and Entergy yet again, this time at a public meeting at which NRC attempted to justify its restoration of top-notch safety status to the problem-plagued reactor (despite admitting the need for 50% more inspections than normal in 2013, due to a rash of leaks this year), while Entergy attempted to assure that its completely collapsed safety culture is on the mend. Critics kept themselves awake during the dog and pony show by playing a game of Nukespeak B'Lingo, as reported by Michigan Public Radio. The South Bend, IN ABC affiliate also reported on this story, quoting Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps as warning that Palisades is a catastrophe waiting to happen.

As reported by the Vermont Digger, the New England Coalition has filed a lawsuit at the Vermont Supreme Court demanding that Entergy be forced to shutdown the Vermont Yankee atomic reactor unless and until it is issued a Certificate of Public Good by the Vermont Public Service Board (PSB). As also reported by the Digger, just last week the PSB denied motions by Entergy to amend its previous agreements with the state, in order to make legal its continued reactor operations. The PSB found “If we were to reach the conclusion urged on us by Entergy VY...it would be hard not to also conclude that Entergy VY had misled the Board.” Entergy has sued not only Gov. Peter Shumlin by name, but also all three members of the PSB, again by name, in its bid to make legal 20 more years of VY operations, despite its previous commitments to the state otherwise. Meanwhile, a year after federal district judge Murtha in Brattleboro ruled in Entergy's favor on the 20-year license extension, the AG of VT, William Sorrell, will appeal that ruling to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City: oral argument was just scheduled for January 14, 2013.

Saturday
Dec152012

Protest against NRC's absurd rush to restore Entergy Palisades to top-notch safety status

Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps testifies at NRC public meeting in South Haven, MI on 12/11/12 regarding catastrophic risks at Entergy's Palisades atomic reactor. Credit Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio.The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) held a public meeting in South Haven, MI on Tuesday, Dec. 11th in order to explain to the public its oversight role, Entergy's corrective actions at Palisades, and the reasons why the problem-plagued atomic reactor has been suddenly restored to top-notch safety status. Despite environmental resistance, NRC rubberstamped Palisades' 20-year license extension in 2007, enabling the now 45-year-old, age-degraded, troubled reactor to operate till 2031.

NRC designated Palisades one of the four worst-run reactors in the U.S. last February, but restored its top-notch safety status on Nov. 9th -- under pressure from powerful U.S. Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), who chairs the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee -- despite ongoing leaks, and a complete collapse of safety culture. The safety culture collapse was covered up by Entergy and NRC for months, but was recently revealed by Palisades' whistleblowers, their attorney Billie Pirner Garde, and U.S. Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA). The public isn't buying NRC's and Entergy's flip assurances, and marked the dog and pony show with a game of "Nukespeak Bingo," or "Blinky B'Lingo."

The coalition of concerned local residents and environmental groups put out a press release, as well as a "Blinky B'Lingo" board with 25 Nukespeak words or phrases, and a listing of their translations into plain English. The coalition included in its press packets an article entitled "No Word for Meltdown: The Return of Nukespeak," written just days after the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe had begun, by Rory O'Connor and Richard Bell. Along with Stephen Hilgartner, the three co-authors had published the book Nukespeak: Nuclear Language, Myths, and Mindset in 1982, and re-issued an updated version several months after Fukushima began.

Michigan Public Radio reported on the Nukespeak bingo game in an article. Michigan Radio's "Environment Report" also published an on-air "Palisades: Year in Review." There have been so many "unplanned shutdowns" in 2011 (five safety-significant equipment breakdowns that required emergency shutdowns of the reactor) and "leaks" in 2012 (three so far), Michigan Public Radio created a timeline to keep track of it all.

South Bend's ABC57 television news also reported on this story, as did the Kalamazoo Gazette newspaper.

On the very same day as the NRC meeting in South Haven, David Lochbaum, the Union of Concerned Scientists' Nuclear Safety Project Director, published an "All Things Nuclear" blog entitled "Palisades Reprises Davis-Besse."He compared the primary coolant leaks from Palisades' control rod drive mechanisms to Davis-Besse's infamous Hole-in-the-Head fiasco of 2002.

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.