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.



Chris Williams to speak against Davis-Besse & Fermi

Chris Williams speaking at Nuclear-Free, Carbon-Free Contingent of the People's Climate March in New York City on Sept. 21stChris Williams (photo, left), the chairman of the board of directors of Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS), and a lead organizer with Vermont Citizen Action Network (VCAN) and Vermont Yankee Decommissioning Alliance (VYDA), will speak out against the Davis-Besse, Ohio and Fermi, Michigan nuclear power plants during a Great Lakes tour in mid-October.

Chris will speak in Port Clinton, Ohio on Monday, October 13th (7 to 8:30pm at Ida Rupp Public Library, 310 Madison Street; see flier here), and in Bowling Green, Ohio on Tuesday, October 14th (7:30 to 8:30pm at BGSU Business Administration Building, Room 103; see flier here). Please see the linked fliers, print them up, post them, hand them out, and otherwise spread the word!

Chris will also speak in downtown Monroe, Michigan on Thursday, October 16th (Hospitality at 4pm; Teach In at 6pm; Slide Show at 7pm; at Loranger Square Pavilion, E. 1st St. & Washington St., 48161; see flier here).

During a quarter-century of service at Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana, including 18 years as executive director, Chris helped lead the effort that successfully blocked the proposed new nuclear power plant at Bailly in the Gary, IN/Indiana Dunes area on the Lake Michigan shore, as well as the proposed new nuclear plant at Marble Hill, on the banks of the Ohio River in Madison, IN. To this day, there are no atomic reactors located within the Hoosier State.

And since "retiring" to Vermont over a decade ago, Chris has helped achieve the tremendous grassroots victory of forcing Entergy Nuclear to permanently shut its Vermont Yankee reactor by the end of this year.

Chris's Lake Erie shoreline speaking tour is sponsored by Beyond Nuclear, Don't Waste Michigan, the Green Party of Ohio, and the Toledo Safe Energy Coalition, united in coalition to block old reactor license extensions at Fermi 2, MI and Davis-Besse, OH, and the proposed new reactor at Fermi 3, MI. The Fermi and Davis-Besse nuclear power plants are visible with the naked eye, one from the other, 30 miles apart as the crow flies, across Lake Erie.


17 groups urge NRC to halt licensing, relicensing of 23 reactors due to failure to address 2012 court ruling

Diane CurranAs reported by a coalition press release, 17 groups engaged in interventions against 23 old and new reactors have filed new contentions with U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) panels.

The contentions cite NRC's own lack of safety assurances regarding ultimate disposal of irradiated nuclear fuel, a recent reversal of NRC's previous so-called "Nuclear Waste Confidence." In addition to the contentions seeking to block new reactor licenses and old reactor license extensions, the coalition has requested stays on all proceedings until the matter is resolved.

Diane Curran (photo, above) of Harmon, Curran, Spielberg + Eisenberg, LLP in Washington, D.C., is a lead attorney representing the environmental coalition. Mindy Goldstein of Turner Environmental Law Clinic at Emory University in Atlanta also serves as a lead attorney on behalf of the coalition.

Dr. Mark Cooper of Vermont Law School, and Dr. Arjun Makhijani of Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, have each filed expert testimony on behalf of the coalition.

Beyond Nuclear's role in this coalition effort includes its intervention against old reactor license extensions at Davis-Besse, Ohio and Fermi 2, Michigan, as well as its intervention against the proposed new reactor at Fermi 3, Michigan. Toledo-based attorney Terry Lodge serves as legal counsel for the environmental coalitions intervening in these particular ASLB proceedings.


Coalition defends its intervention against Fermi 2 license extension

NRC file photo of Fermi 2Beyond Nuclear, Citizens Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario, and Don't Waste Michigan, in coalition opposing Detroit Edison's application for a 20-year license extension at Fermi 2 on the Lake Erie shore in southeast MI (photo, left), have defended their intervention. Their Toledo-based attorney, Terry Lodge, filed the coalition's reply to objections filed a week earlier by DTE and NRC staff. The coalition's petition for leave to intervene and request for a hearing was filed by the Aug. 18th deadline.

Detroit Edison hopes to extend Fermi 2's operating license from 2025 till 2045.

Fermi 2 is the largest General Electric Mark I Boiling Water Reactor in the world. At 1,122 Megawatts-electric, it is nearly as big in size as Fukushima Daiichi Unit 1 and 2's Mark I reactors put together.

The coalition's contentions concern the Mark I's fatally flawed containment, and no plans to upgrade it by adding radioactivity filters to hardened vents; the risk of a high-level radioactive waste storage pool fire releasing a catastrophic amount of hazardous radioactivity; and the risk of common mode failures of safety and cooling systems, stemming from the age-degraded Fermi 2, and the proposed new, untested Fermi 3 GE-Hitachi so-called "Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor" (ESBWR), both sharing the same transmission line corridor for importing off-site electricity.


Coalition reveals that FirstEnergy concealed damaging water saturation of cracked Shield Building walls for two years

The Davis-Besse Shield Building exterior whitewashing of August to October, 2012, applied 40 years too lateOn September 8, 2014, environmental coalition attorney Terry Lodge filed a supplement/amendment to a contention regarding FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company's (FENOC) severely cracked Shield Building at its problem-plagued Davis-Besse atomic reactor.

To the ice-wedging crack propagation contention filed a week earlier (see entry immediately below), the coalition has added evidence that FENOC knew about damaging water saturation of the Shield Building walls in 2012, but did not divulge the information until July 8, 2014.

Remarkably, the whitewash applied (40 years too late) to the Shield Building's exterior face has blocked the water in the walls from exiting. Damaging water has built up behind it, as if behind a dam. FENOC has admitted that the exterior wall, to a depth of 10 inches, is saturated at 90 to 100% relative humidity.

FENOC has now acknowledged that this water causes ice-wedging crack propagation. Every time it freezes (some tens of times per year at Davis-Besse's Lake Erie shoreline location, in northern Ohio), the sub-surface, laminar cracking at the outer rebar mat grows by 0.4 to 0.7 inches! FENOC admits that in just a two year period, one crack grew by more than 10 inches altogether!

The contention supplement focuses on an 80 page document prepared by contractor Performance Improvement International (PII), entitled Enclosure 2: Full Apparent Cause Evaluation (FACE, see page 18 to 98).

Ironically enough, PII also figured prominently in the "Snow Job of 2012" -- the root cause theory that the Blizzard of 1978 caused the Shield Building wall cracking discovered in October, 2011. At that time, both PII and FENOC claimed that the cracking had occurred over a few days period of time, some 34 years earlier, but hadn't gotten worse since. Both NRC and its licensing board bought the "Snow Job," thereby blocking environmental intervenors' multiple cracking-related contentions as out of scope in the License Renewal Application (LRA) proceeding, as not aging-related.

PII's and FENOC's "Snow Job" also blinded them to the risks of the August-October 2012 "whitewash" of the Shield Building exterior -- the application of a weather sealant, 40 years too late. Ironically enough, as intervenors warned in 2012, the whitewash has locked the water in the walls, where it has caused ice-wedging crack propagation ever since.

In August-September, 2013, FENOC discovered previously undetected cracks, as well as unexpected crack propagation. This led to PII's September 11, 2013 FACE -- a document FENOC, inexplicably, did not release until a full ten months later, on July 8, 2014.

Thus, the Shield Building cracking propagation is clearly aging-related. The environmental coalition's contention deserves a hearing on the merits.

The coalition includes Beyond Nuclear, Citizens Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario, Don't Waste Michigan, and the Green Party of Ohio. The coalition launched an intervention against FENOC's LRA on Dec. 27, 2010.


Coalition challenges Davis-Besse AMPs re: propagating cracks in severely degraded Shield Building

An NRC inspector examines severe cracking in the Davis-Besse Shield Building shortly after they were first revealed on Oct. 11, 2011. NRC file photo.Terry Lodge, Toledo-based attorney for an environmental coalition resisting FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company's (FENOC) proposed 20-year license extension at its problem-plagued Davis-Besse atomic reactor, has filed the 7th contention in the coalition's nearly 4-year long intervention. The coalition has issued a press release.

In addition to Beyond Nuclear, the coalition includes Citizens Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario, Don't Waste Michigan, and the Ohio Green Party.

The contention focuses on FENOC's admission that the cracking propagation, or worsening, is in fact aging-related, making it within the scope of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) proceeding, and worthy of a hearing on the merits.

FENOC's admissions are to be found in a July 3rd document, containing modifications to its Shield Building Management Program Aging Management Plans (AMPs). The modifications represent amendments to its Davis-Besse License Renewal Application (LRA).

FENOC blames the new cracking, and worsening cracking, on "ice-wedging" ("freezing water at a pre-existing crack leading edge"), driven by regular freeze/thaw cycles that penetrate deeply into the Shield Building walls at the Lake Erie shoreline location. (See, for example, the second paragraph on page 13 of 14 on the PDF counter of the July 3rd document). The environmental coalition has previously documented the substandard concrete that allows such deeply penetrating freezing within the Shield Building walls.

The coalition warned that the summer 2012 "whitewash" (or weather sealant of the exterior, 40 years late) of the Shield Building would lock damaging water within the walls. FENOC has now admitted this is indeed the case. At page 13 of 14 on the PDF counter in the July 3rd FENOC document, FENOC admits that the cracking growth could be a startlingly high 0.4 to 0.7 inches per freezing cycle, due to the ice-wedging on the leading edge of the cracking.

The Lake Erie shoreline location is subjected to multiple freeze/thaw cycles per year, a number of which likely penetrate deeply into the Shield Building side walls, thus significantly worsening cracking each and every time. Although massive, the Shield Building is only so big: only 30 inches thick, 279 feet 6 inches tall, and with only a 436.5 foot inner circumference/452 foot outer circumference.

How long has such "ice-wedging" been worsening cracking? How much more cracking growth can the Shield Building withstand, before it ceases to fulfill its vital safety and environmental protection roles?!

FENOC's admission also proves that the coalition's objections to the "Snow Job of '78" were on target. FENOC concluded the Blizzard of 1978 was the root cause of the Shield Building's severe sub-laminar cracking, a theory NRC later endorsed, despite strongly questioning it at first. Intervenors have long maintained the Blizzard of 1978 is likely but one of numerous root causes of Shield Building cracking, which likely persist, and worsen, over time.

The contention challenges the inadequacy of FENOC's Shield Building Monitoring Program's Aging Management Plans (AMPs). Specifically, the intervenors have called for significantly more tests, utilizing a diversity of methods to avoid blind spots, carried out at a much greater frequency than FENOC plans during the 2017 to 2037 license extension period. If FENOC cannot reasonably assure adequate protection of public health, safety, and the environment, then Davis-Besse must be permanently closed, not granted a license extension, intervenors have long asserted.

The contention was prompted by a window of opportunity pointed out by the ASLB panel overseeing the Davis-Besse License Renewal Application (LRA) proceeding. In a July 25th ruling, rejecting a previous coalition cracking contention filed on Earth Day, the ASLB pointed out that FENOC's latest modifications to its Shield Building AMPs provide intervenors another contention opportunity, provided they file it within the arbitrarily short 60-day deadline allotted by the ASLB. The coalition has met that challenge.

Given the NRC Commissioners' unanimous vote on August 26th to approve the agency staff's "Continued Storage of Spent Nuclear Fuel" Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) and Rule, as well as its 4 to 0 vote to end the associated holds on final granting of license extensions, the Davis-Besse ASLB panel could be poised to approve FENOC's LRA. (In summer 2012, the NRC Commissioners placed final license extension decisions on hold, till resolution of the court-ordered "Nuclear Waste Confidence" policy re-write.) Once the "Continued Storage" (formerly called "Nuclear Waste Confidence") decision is published in the Federal Register later this month, then 30 days later, the Davis-Besse proceeding stay will end. The coalition's contention thus seeks to keep the intervention proceeding alive, and block the license extension. Davis-Besse's original 40-year license will expire on Earth Day (April 22), 2017.