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.



Coalition of local residents and environmental groups confronts Congress, NRC, and Entergy at Palisades' front entrance

When Rep. Upton and NRC Commissioner Svinicki refused to meet with the coalition, Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps helped organize a vigil at Palisades' front entrance. He dressed as the Little Dutch Boy. His sign reads "Have Finger--Will Plug Radioactive Leak," and "Wooden Shoe Rather Use Wind Power?!" Palisades' latest leak happened amidst west Michigan's Dutch American annual tulip time festivals. Photo credit Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio.While U.S. Congressman Fred Upton (R-MI), Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Commissioner Kristine Svinicki, toured Entergy's problem-plagued Palisades atomic reactor, a coalition of concerned local residents and environmental groups, including Beyond Nuclear, vigiled and protested at the front entrance.

Upton and Svinicki were visiting the atomic reactor in the aftermath of a 82.1-gallon spill of radioactive water into Lake Michigan. The leak came from the Safety Injection Refueling Water (SIRW) storage tank, which has been leaking for over two years. Although the investigation continues, it appears that a crack in a weld on a tank floor nozzle is at least partly to blame this time around. For the first year, the leak had been kept quiet by Entergy and NRC staff. Even the Chairman of NRC, Greg Jaczko, was not told about it, even during his tour of the troubled plant on May 25, 2012. A few weeks later, based on whistleblower revelations, U.S. Congressman Ed Markey (D-MA) made public that the leakage was into the control room, and that safety culture among the workforce had collapsed at Palisades: 74% of the workforce,including management, felt that reporting safety problems would solve nothing, while inviting intimidation and harassment -- and so do not report safety problems! 

Beyond Nuclear has posted extensive media coverage from the vigil at its Nuclear Reactor Safety website page.

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.


"Worst Week Since Fukushima: 4 Major Setbacks in 3 Days Are Latest Stumbles for U.S. Nuclear Power Industry"

Former NRC Commissioner Peter Bradford, and energy economist Mark Cooper, both of the Vermont Law School, as well as Dan Hirsch of the Committee to Bridge the Gap, held a telephone press conference yesterday on the subject of "WORST WEEK SINCE FUKUSHIMA: 4 MAJOR SETBACKS IN 3 DAYS ARE LATEST STUMBLES FOR U.S. NUCLEAR POWER INDUSTRY." An audio recording of the news conference has been posted online.

The four setbacks in three days include: 1) the cancellation of two proposed new reactors at South Texas Project, because they violate U.S. law against foreign ownership of nuclear power plants; 2) Southern California Edison's threat that if NRC does not allow it to restart operations at its crippled San Onofre nuclear power plant, it will permanently shutdown both reactors there; 3) Duke Energy's cancellation of two proposed new atomic reactors at its Shearon Harris nuclear power plant in North Carolina; and 4) Florida's amendment to its previously highly permissive "advance cost recovery" or "Construction Work in Progress" law, via which ratepayers have been gouged to pay for proposed new reactors, when there is no guarantee the proposed new reactors will ever actually get built or generate electricity.

Peter Bradford also added the May 7th shutdown of Dominion's Kewaunee atomic reactor in WI -- despite the 20 years of operating license still left to it, compliments of an NRC license extension rubberstamp -- as another example of the "worst week since Fukushima" for the U.S. nuclear power industry.


High noon for nuclear power: Dominion's Kewaunee atomic reactor permanently shutdown!

Dominion's Kewaunee atomic reactor on the Lake Michigan shore in northern WI near Green BayAs reported by Platt's, at 12 PM Noon Central time today, Dominion's Kewaunee atomic reactor was permanently shutdown. Last October, Dominion announced its intention to permanently close Kewaunee by mid-2013. Dominion had attempted to sell Kewaunee, but found no buyers. Platt's reports "CMS Energy -- which sold Palisades, its only nuclear station, to Entergy in 2007 -- had considered buying the plant, but decided against it because of low gas prices and investor pushback."

Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds Associates, Inc points out that Kewaunee still had an operating license for another 20 years (thanks to a license extension rubberstamped by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission), but Dominion is unable to operate the reactor economically. Gundersen also points out that the 60-year SAFESTOR plan prior to decommissioning means Kewaunee will not be dismantled and cleaned up until about a century after it commenced operations, in 1973.

Duke Energy's announcement in recent weeks regarding the fatally cracked containment at its Crystal River, FL reactor, and today's final SCRAM at Kewaunee, are the first permanent shutdowns of commercial atomic reactors in the U.S. in about 15 years. Kewaunee joins Zion 1 & 2 in IL, and Big Rock Point in MI, on the list of reactors on the Lake Michigan shore permanently shutdown. Point Beach 1 & 2 in WI, as well as Cook 1 & 2 and Palisades in MI, are reactors still operating on the Lake Michigan shoreline. Lake Michigan is a headwaters of the Great Lakes, 20% of the world's surface fresh water, and drinking water supply for 8 U.S. states, 2 Canadian provinces, and a large number of Native American First Nations.


Entergy's Palisades leaks 79 gallons of radioactive water into Lake Michigan, forced to shut down

Entergy's Palisades atomic reactor on the Lake Michigan shoreline in southwest Michigan.As reported by the Holland Sentinel, Entergy's Palisades atomic reactor has yet again sprung a leak, this time spilling 79 gallons of supposedly "very slightly radioactive water" into Lake Michigan, the headwaters of 20% of the world's surface fresh water, and drinking water for 40 million people downstream. 

Palisades 20-year license extension was rubberstamped by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in 2007.

Entergy and NRC spokespersons' repeated claims of no safety significance to the public flies in the face of decades of findings, as by the National Academy of Science (most recently in 2005), that any exposure to radioactivity, no matter how small, carries a health risk of cancer, and that these health risks accumulate over a lifetime.

U.S. Representative Ed Markey (D-MA) made public the serious nature of this particular leaking tank in June 2012. His information came from very courageous Palisades whistleblowers, and their attorney, Billie Pirner Garde. The leak, from the 300,000 gallon Safety Injection Refueling Water (SIRW) storage tank located directly above the control, began in mid-2011, and was flowing through the ceiling, and being captured in buckets in the safety critical control room, full of electrical circuitry and equipment that cannot get wet. The leak was concealed not only from the public and media, but even from the NRC's own Chairman, Greg Jaczko, as he toured Palisades on May 25, 2012. NRC later granted Entergy an exemption in 2012 to allow continued operations despite the degraded condition of the SIRW storage tank. 

In recent weeks, Beyond Nuclear learned from NRC officials that the now two-year-old leak has continued at a 0.5 to 1 gallon per day rate. But Saturday's leakage rate, which forced the reactor to shut down, was at 90 gallons per day, as documented in NRC's event notification report. Palisades' SIRW storage tank, just like the rest of the plant, is 46 years old, and obviously showing severe signs of "breakdown phase" age-degration, of increasing risk. 

The Detroit Free PressEnformable Nuclear NewsKalamazoo GazetteMichigan RadioWSJM RadioWKZO Radio,WWMT TV-3 KalamazooDetroit News,  and WOOD TV-8 Grand Rapids have reported on this story.

Beyond Nuclear issued a media statement, challenging flippant Entergy and NRC claims that this leak carries "absolutely" no risk to human health and safety. NRC's Region 3 spokeswoman has been exposed making false claims regarding radioactivity leaks more than once at Midwestern reactors in just the past year, prompting the demand for an investigation by a member of Congress. Last year, U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) demanded an NRC investigation into Mytling's downplaying of a reactor leak at the troubled Davis-Besse atomic reactor near Toledo. In addition, Chicago watchdog group Nuclear Energy Information Service, via a Freedom of Information Act Request to the State of Illinois Dept. of Nuclear Safety, documented that Mytling's flip assurance -- that a radioactive steam leak at the Byron atomic reactor, in Jan. 2012, must have contained exceedingly low levels of hazardous radioactive tritium, as radiation monitors had not detected any -- was baseless and misleading, as no real-time tritium monitoring capability existed at the plant. Similar questions must now be asked of Mytling's questionable assurances that radioactivity levels in the water leaked into Lake Michigan were below detectable levels. Are there radiation monitors in place to verify such flip assurances?


Entergy Wach: Environmental coalition challenges Entergy's financial qualifications to continue operating FitzPatrick, Pilgrim, and Vermont Yankee

"Burning money" graphic by Gene Case, Avenging AngelsAs reported by E&E's Hannah Northey at Greenwire, an environmental coalition including such groups as Alliance for a Green Economy (AGREE), Beyond Nuclear, Citizens Awareness Network (CAN), and Pilgrim Watch, has launched an emergency enforcement petition at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, challenging the financial qualifications of Entergy Nuclear to safely operate and decommission such reactors at FitzPatrick in New York, Pilgrim in Massachusetts, and Vermont Yankee. All three reactors happen to be twin designs to Fukushima Daiichi Units 1 to 4, that is, General Electric Mark I boiling water reactors. The coalition's petition cited financial analyses by UBS on Entergy's dire economic straits. Representatives from coalition groups, including Beyond Nuclear's Paul Gunter, testified today before an NRC Petition Review Board at the agency's headquarters in Rockville, MD. 

FitzPatrick, Pilgrim, and Vermont Yankee have each already recieved 20-year license extension rubber-stamps from NRC. FitzPatrick, even though it never installed a hardened vent in the early 1990s, to deal with its too small, too weak containment -- the only one, of 23 Mark I in the U.S., to not do so. Pilgrim became the longest contested license extension -- a proceeding lasting over 6 years -- thanks to the efforts of Mary Lampert at Pilgrim Watch. And the Vermont Yankee license extension was actually blocked by the State of Vermont -- this court battle between and involving the state, Entergy, and NRC rages on in multiple federal and state venues.