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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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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.

Wednesday
Oct242012

"Aging and Expensive, Reactors Face Mothballs"

The Kewaunee atomic reactor on Wisconsin's Lake Michigan shoreThe New York Times has reported on the economics that have not only led to the Kewaunee atomic reactor's (photo, left) announced closure in Wisconsin, but also other pressures and forces on reactors, from Entergy's Indian Point near New York City to Vermont Yankee, Duke's Crystal River in Florida, Exelon's Oyster Creek in New Jersey, and Southern California Edison's San Onofre. The article states "the nuclear industry may be nearing its first round of retirements since the mid-1990s."  Kewaunee's closure will be the first at an American atomic reactor since several (Yankee Rowe, Massachusetts; Zion 1 & 2, Illinois; Big Rock Point, Michigan; Millstone Unit 1, Connecticut) in the mid to late 1990s. 

The article reports:

"The stress comes after a decade of remarkable stability for the nuclear fleet, which, contrary to the expectations of some of its opponents, has shown some signs of prosperous maturity. According to industry statistics, 71 [actually, the number is 73] reactors have received permission to operate up to 20 years beyond their initial 40-year operating licenses and the applications of 15 more are under review. Another 17 have announced their intention to seek renewal, leaving only one with unannounced intentions...

The industry’s renewed glimpse of its mortality comes as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is working on the question of whether the existing plants can get a second 20-year extension, to age 80. But license extension may not be the problem. Wider economic circumstances may be instead."

In fact, Dominion Nuclear has announced Kewaunee's closure, after no interested buyer was found, despite the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) rubberstamping a 20 year license extension there last year.

Tuesday
Oct232012

Nearly half of the atomic reactors on Lake Michigan's shores have closed over the past 15 years

NRC file photo of KewauneeFrom The Washington Post: "Dominion Resources Inc. said Monday that it plans to close and decommission its Kewaunee Power Station in Wisconsin after it was unable to find a buyer for the nuclear power plant".

A buyer could not be found, even though Kewaunee had received a 20 year license extension rubberstamp from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

As nuclear power continues to crumble under the weight of its own disastrous economics, Dominion CEO, Thomas F. Farrell II,  becomes the latest industry CEO to lose confidence in the nuclear business. "This decision was based purely on economics," Farrell said. Dominion also operates the two North Anna, VA reactors, where a proposed third reactor plan looks fragile at best. It also operates Millstone, CT and Surry, VA.

Reuters also reported on this story, stating that more atomic reactors could follow suit, their bad economics forcing their closure:

"Especially vulnerable under this scenario would be small, old single reactor sites.

Other units that could be on the hit list because they fit the profile include Exelon Corp's Oyster Creek in New Jersey, Xcel Energy Inc's Monticello in Minnesota, and Entergy Corp's Palisades in Michigan, Vermont Yankee in Vermont and Pilgrim in Massachusetts."

In 1997, Big Rock Point in Michigan was permanently closed, as were Zion 1 & 2 in Illinois in 1998. Kewaunee's closure in 2013 will be the fifth reactor shut down on Lake Michigan's shores in 15 years. This will leave Point Beach 1 & 2 in WI, Palisades in MI, and Cook 1 & 2 in MI still operating on Lake Michigan's shores. Lake Michigan is a headwaters for the Great Lakes, 20% of the world's surface fresh water, providing drinking water for 40 million people in 8 U.S. states, 2 Canadian provinces, and a large number of Native American First Americans.

Several years ago, Kewaunee had more NRC "yellow findings" (the second highest category of safety violation) than the other (at the time) 102 operating reactors in the entire country. The very same year, Point Beach had more "red findings" (NRC's worst category of safety violation) than the rest of the industry combined. Kewaunee and Point Beach are a mere seven miles apart, the same distance as between Fukushima Daiichi and Daini in Japan. Daiichi and Daini's proximity, as well as their proximity to Tokai nearer Tokyo, led the Japanese federal government to prepare worst case scenario plans to evacuate 30 million people from Tokyo in the event of a "demonic chain reaction" of reactor melt downs and radioactive waste storage pool fires.

An NRC daily event report revealed that Dominion's announcement to decommission Kewaunee caused a security incident, as reporters descended on the reactor to cover the story.

The New York Times and Greenwire have also reported on this story, as has World Nuclear News.