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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
Jun132013

45-year-old construction error revealed in leaking tank at Entergy's Palisades atomic reactor

Entergy and NRC have just discovered that, at Palisades, plant diagrams are not accurate depictions of "as-built" realityAs reported by Andrew Lersten at the St. Joe Herald-Palladium, a 45-year-old construction error has been discovered at Entergy Nuclear's problem-plagued Palisades atomic reactor on the Lake Michigan shoreline in southwest MI. While repairing a 300,000 gallon tank of water that has been leaking for over two years -- including into the safety-critical control room, as well as directly into Lake Michigan -- workers found that a grout ring and sand bed region called for in the blueprints had never been installed back in 1968. Entergy and NRC now admit that phantom structures assumed to have been there all along may go a long way to explaining why the floor of the tank has suffered repeated leaks, despite multiple attempted repairs.

As recently as April 25, 2013, in a submission to NRC, Entergy gave engineering credit to structures which, in reality, didn't even exist: "Pressure stress loads are carried by the sand base, concrete grout ring, and concrete foundation beneath the tank bottom."

The discrepancy between Palisades' blueprints (see image, left), and the actual "as-built" reality, raises serious safety significant questions about the entire atomic reactor.

The Herald-Palladium, for whom Palisades unquestionably could do no wrong for decades on end, published a blistering editorial on May 23rd. The editorial board concluded:

"...as events in Japan proved in 2011, there is really no second chance when it comes to a catastrophic nuclear event.

We know that Entergy officials will say emphatically that they understand the stakes and are doing everything possible to maintain safety. But talk is cheap, and past problems at the plant don’t inspire confidence. What is really needed are better results.

Should Palisades continue to stumble along in the next months and years, then we hope the NRC takes a much harder look at Palisades’ license. Energy production and commerce are important, but not nearly as important as the safety and well-being of an entire region."

NRC rubber-stamped Palisades' 20-year license extension in 2007, allowing it to operate till 2031.

Wednesday
Jun122013

Davis-Besse's "San Onofre-like" shortcuts on safety with steam generator replacement focus of NRC public meeting

Terry Lodge speaks out against Davis-Besse in August 2012 at an NRC public meeting held at Oak Harbor High SchoolBeyond Nuclear set up an info. table at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) "annual performance review" public meeting in Carroll Township, Ohio, just a few miles down the road from FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company's (FENOC) problem-plagued Davis-Besse atomic reactor. Beyond Nuclear was there to let the public know about the ongoing resistance by an environmental coalition to Davis-Besse's 20-year license extension, and its recently filed intervention against FENOC's San Onofre-like shortcuts on safety regarding its proposed 2014 steam generator replacements.

Toledo attorney Terry Lodge (photo, left) represents the coalition, and Fairewinds Associates, Inc's Chief Engineer, Arnie Gundersen, serves as its expert witness. Gundersen also serves as Friends of the Earth's (FOE) expert, which just successfully forced Edison International to permanently shutdown the San Onofre 2 & 3 atomic reactors due to fatally flawed replacement steam generators.

WTOL's Jennifer Steck quoted Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps (print articletelevision report):

'..."We want to prevent a Chernobyl or Fukishima on the shoreline of the Great Lakes," said Kevin Kamps, of Beyond Nuclear. "There is no reactor in this country that's come closer to that as many times as Davis-Besse has."

Davis-Besse is licensed for operation through 2017, and in the process of a 20-year license renewal. Delaying that renewal and preventing a steam generator replacement in 2014 are the main goals of Beyond Nuclear.

"We've long strived to shut down Davis-Besse, and we're not going to give up now," Kamps said. "We're just going to re-double our efforts."...'

The Toledo Blade's Roberta Gedert also quoted Kevin:

“They went way out of their way to avoid a license amendment on this major organ transplant,” said Kevin Kamps, radioactive waste watchdog for Beyond Nuclear. “If they have made any mistakes, they have wasted hundreds of millions of dollars because we are going to challenge them at every turn.”

Saturday
Jun082013

Swan SONGS as Edison opts to permanently close San Onofre

Image by J. DeStafano, 2012Southern California Edison has decided to permanently shutter its Units 2 and 3 San Onofre Nuclear Generating Stations (SONGS) reactors in Southern Cal! Congratulations to all who fought so hard for this great victory! Read the Edison press release.

As reported in certain media coverage, the likelihood that the fatal flaws with its steam generators would end up blocking its U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) 20-year license extension rubberstamp contributed to SCE's decision to permanently shutdown both reactors.

"This is very good news for the people of Southern California," said [a] statement from Friends of the Earth president Erich Pica. "We have long said that these reactors are too dangerous to operate and now Edison has agreed. The people of California now have the opportunity to move away from the failed promise of dirty and dangerous nuclear power and replace it with the safe and clean energy provided by the sun and wind." 

Beyond Nuclear has compiled comprehensive media coverage on, and other reactions to, the San Onofre 2 & 3 closures at its Nuclear Retreat page.

Friday
Jun072013

Davis-Besse Intervention Looms Large as San Onofre Units 2 & 3 Terminated Because Of Faulty Steam Generators

Arnie Gundersen, Chief Engineer at Fairewinds Associates, IncOn May 20th, an environmental coalition, including Beyond Nuclear, petitioned to intervene against the steam generator replacement proposed at FirstEnergy's Davis-Besse atomic reactor in Oak Harbor, Ohio. The coalition's intervention petition, expert witness Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds Associates, Inc's expert testimony, Gundersen's Curriculum Vitae, and a coalition press release are posted at this link.

Today, the coalition issued a media release, pointing out the similarities between their intervention at Davis-Besse, and the Friends of the Earth (FOE) intervention at San Onofre, CA. Earlier today, Southern California Edison threw in the towel, and announced the permanent shutdown of San Onofre Units 2 & 3, due to the fatal degradation of their replacement steam generators. Gundersen (pictured, above left) serves as FOE's expert witness at San Onofre.

On Dec. 27, 2010, an overlapping environmental coalition, including Beyond Nuclear, intervened against Davis-Besse's 20-year license extension. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Atomic Safety and Licensing Board in that proceeding has rejected all of the coalition's contentions, except for its Nuclear Waste Confidence Decision contention. That one has led to an inevitable two-year delay in NRC's finalization of the license extension, until the agency completes its court-ordered Environmental Impact Statement on the risks of long-term storage of high-level radioactive waste at on-site pools and dry casks.

Thursday
Jun062013

Palisades springs yet another leak into the control room: Failure of moisture barrier violates agreement with NRC 

MI Radio image showing location of chronically leaking SIRWT above Palisades' control roomBeyond Nuclear and Michigan Safe Energy Future--Shoreline Chapter issued a media release on June 6thupon learning of yet another leak into Entergy Nuclear's Palisades atomic reactor control room (see image, left). The leakage has been a recurring problem for over two years now.

Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps stated: “When I raised the SIRWT [Safety Injection Refueling Water Tank] leak into the control room at Entergy’s public open house in South Haven on May 14th, and on an NRC [U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission] Webinar May 23rd, I was told by company and agency spokespeople that that issue was a thing of the past, that an installed moisture barrier had taken care of the problem. But as William Faulkner famously said, ‘The past is never dead. It's not even past.’ If Palisades can’t even prevent basic leakage through the ceiling of the control room, which has now been going on for over two years, what does that say about its reactor and radioactive waste safeguards? Entergy’s use of buckets, tarps, and ineffective sealant against this leak into the safety-critical control room begs the question, is it prepared to prevent large-scale radioactivity releases into the environment from a long list of severely age-degraded, critical safety systems, structures, and components?”

The leak, which was detected on June 3rd, was made known to the public in an NRC document released on June 6th.

Palisades received the 48th of NRC's 73 20-year license extension rubberstamps thus far. This despite broad- based resistance and official intervention. Palisades is now clearly deeply into its breakdown phase, with frequent shutdowns due to leaks and age-degraded equipment failures.