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.



"Major offshore wind initiatives" viable alternative to 20 year license extensions at dangerously degraded old atomic reactors

Today, Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar unveiled large-scale plans for the rapid development of off-shore wind in the U.S. As stated in their media release: 

"Under the National Offshore Wind Strategy, the Department of Energy is pursuing a scenario that includes deployment of 10 gigawatts of offshore wind generating capacity by 2020 and 54 gigawatts by 2030. Those scenarios include development in both federal and state offshore areas, including along Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf coasts as well as in Great Lakes and Hawaiian waters. Those levels of development would produce enough energy to power 2.8 million and 15.2 million average American homes, respectively."

10,000 megawatts of offshore wind by 2020, and 54,000 megawatts by 2030, shows that wind power is a viable alternative to 20 year license extensions at dangerously deteriorated old reactors. Beyond Nuclear has made that exact argument in proceedings before Nuclear Regulatory Commission Atomic Safety (sic) and Licensing Boards at Seabrook, NH and Davis-Besse, OH.


Support for and opposition against wind power a key issue in fight over 20 year license extension at Davis-Besse

Van Gogh's "Windmill on Montmartre," painted autumn 1886.In its intervention against a 20 year license extension at the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant in northwest Ohio, Beyond Nuclear contended that on- and off-shore wind power could readily replace the problem-plagued reactor's 908 MWe of power. But some are pushing back against wind power in that area. So the fight is on. Will America's energy future be renewables and efficiency, or more of the same from the past -- nuclear and fossil fuels? As Dr. Arjun Makhijani of Institute for Energy and Environmental Research put it on a Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free: A Roadmap for U.S. Energy Policy book tour in southern Michigan in October 2008, we have few choices: we can either (1) do without electricity, and freeze in the dark while starving without a job; (2) bake the planet by continuing to combust fossil fuels and thereby unleash catastrophic climate chaos; (3) kick plutonium -- and thus nuclear weapons proliferation risks -- down the road to our descendents by expanding nuclear power; or (4) "deal with the view" of wind turbines. Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps wrote an op-ed to that effect, published by the Muskegon Chronicle, when the controversy of wind turbines' aesthetic impact raised its ugly head on the Lake Michigan shore. And in the Davis-Besse proceeding, Beyond Nuclear mentioned that artists, from Vincent Van Gogh (at left) to Dutch fine china craftspeople, have found wind turbines beautiful enough to depict for centuries. Currently, photographers are waxing eloquent about the beauty of wind farms, and Ohio municipalities are regarding them as tourist attractions, even in urban settings. 


"Questions arise over FirstEnergy's solar commitment"

Al Compaan with a solar PV panel he helped create.Tom Henry of the Toledo Blade's "Questions arise over FirstEnergy's solar commitment" documents the nuclear utility's ongoing reluctance to meet its commitments under Ohio law to install solar power in the Buckeye State. Al Compaan (pictured at left), retired chair of the University of Toledo (UT) physics department, is working with Beyond Nuclear as an expert witness on solar photovoltaic (PV) power as a renewable energy alternative to FirstEnergy's proposed 20 year license extension at its problem-plagued Davis-Besse atomic reactor. Not only did Al have a hand in passage of Ohio's renewable energy mandate law, but his solar PV installations on his own home and the church he attends represent about 25% of the solar PV development in Ohio in the recent past! Al's presentation at the Davis-Besse People's Hearing in Toledo on December 18th, asserting that solar PV can indeed replace Davis-Besse's 908 Megawatts-electric, formed the basis for one of our contentions against the license extension. His CV shows his deep expertise in solar PV. Al's involvement has provided a huge boost to our environmental coalition's chances going into an NRC Atomic Safety (sic) and Licensing Board oral argument hearing on March 1st in Port Clinton, Ohio. The Toledo area, dubbed "Glass City" in a bygone era, is now a hotbed for solar PV research and manufacturing, including: UT's vibrant solar PV research institute that Al helped establish; Perrysburg-based First Solar, the world's single largest solar PV panel manufacturing plant; and Xunlight, with which Al works.


Environmental coalition defends its intervention against "20 MORE years of radioactive Russian roulette?!" at Davis-Besse

"Lava" of rust and boric acid crystals flowing from Davis-Besse's reator lid about a decade ago.In August, First Energy Nuclear Operating Company (FENOC) applied to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for a 20 year license extension at its trouble-plagued Davis-Besse atomic reactor on the Lake Erie shore east of Toledo. In October, NRC "docketed" the application as complete enough to proceed with its consideration for approval. Beyond Nuclear, Citizens Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario (CEA), Don't Waste Michigan, and the Green Party of Ohio submitted their Petition to Intervene and Request for a Hearing on December 27, 2010 -- raising four contentions against the 20 year license extension: (1) wind power is a viable altenative, as is (2) solar photovoltaic power, and (3) certainly a combination of solar PV and wind; and (4), FENOC has significantly underestimated the consequences of a catastrophic radioactivity release from Davis-Besse in its "Severe Accident Mitigation Alternatives" (SAMA) analysis. On January 21, 2011, both the NRC staff and FENOC objected to all four of the environmental coalition's contentions; both also challenged the standing of CEA to take part in the proceeding, absurdly asserting that CEA's members seeking standing live a mere 300 feet beyond the 50 mile radius from Davis-Besse! (Intervenors "about" 50 miles from a nuclear plant, or less,  have almost automatically been conferred standing in the past.) In a "Combined Reply," the environmental coalition defended its standing and contentions on January 28, 2011. An NRC Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) has been empanelled. The ASLB has announced a March 1, 2011 "oral pre-hearing" in Port Clinton, Ohio to consider whether or not to admit the contentions for a full hearing on the merits; the appendix to its order spells out in some detail the key questions the ASLB has on its mind. The NRC ASLB has requested a security detail from the Ottawa County Sheriff's Department, although the coalition is comprised entirely of non-violent environmental groups. Beyond Nuclear has prepared a backgrounder on the many close calls to major disasters this reactor has already experienced in its first 33 years of operations: "Davis-Besse: 20 MORE Years of Radioactive Russian Roulette on the Great Lakes Shore?!" On February 1st, the coalition issued a media release announcing its defense of the intervention. On Feb. 10th, the Joint Petitioners filed an Errata for their Combined Reply.


Coalition files challenge to Davis-Besse license extension

An environmental coalition including Beyond Nuclear, Citizens Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario, Don't Waste Michigan, and the Green Party of Ohio has filed a petition to intervene and a request for hearings on First Energy Nuclear Operating Company's application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a 20 year license extension (any of the 75 exhibits listed are available in PDF format from Kevin Kamps at Beyond Nuclear upon request -- The four contentions filed allege that Davis-Besse's nuclear electricity could readily be replaced by wind power, by solar photovoltaics (PV), and by a combination of wind and solar PV. Alvin Compaan, Distinguished University Professor of Physics, Emeritus, at the University of Toledo, and former Chair of UT’s Physics and Astronomy Department, is serving as the environmental coalition's expert witness on renewables' potential to replace the dangerously deteriorated atomic reactor. The coalition issued a media release about its official intervention. Beyond Nuclear recently prepared a comprehensive summary of near-disasters which have occurred at Davis-Besse since 1977, entitled "Radioactive Russian Roulette on the Great Lakes Shore: 20 MORE Years at Davis-Besse?!"

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