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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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Wednesday
Aug282013

With VY shutdown announcement, will Entergy "circle the wagons" at Indian Point?

NRC file photo of Indian Point nuclear power plant on the Hudson RiverAs reported by Reuters, now that Entergy has announced it will permanently shutdown its Vermont Yankee atomic reactor by the end of next year, the focus is shifting to the struggle between the nuclear utility and the State of New York, and a broad coalition of environmental groups and area residents concerned about the safety, health, and security risks for 21 million people within 50 miles of the twin Indian Point Unit 2 and 3 reactors in Westchester County near New York City (photo, left).

Monday
Aug192013

Joseph Mangano/RPHP report on radioactivity releases from Palisades and increased death rates in the surrounding area

Entergy's problem-plagued Palisades atomic reactor in Covert, MI, on the Lake Michigan shorelineJoseph Mangano, Executive Director of Radiation and Public Health Project, has published a report, commissioned and endorsed by Beyond Nuclear, Don't Waste Michigan, Michigan Safe Energy Future, and Nuclear Energy Information Service. Based on government data and documentation on radioactivity releases from Palisades, as well as area health statistics, the report's major findings raise serious questions about the connections between radioactivity releases and increased overall death and cancer mortality rates.

Palisades received a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) rubber-stamp for 20 extended years of operations -- out to 2031 -- back in 2007, despite hard-fought resistance that sought to block it.

Press release

Full report: NUCLEAR CONTAMINATION AND HEALTH RISKS FROM THE ENTERGY PALISADES NUCLEAR REACTOR.

Beyond Nuclear pamphlet "Routine Radiation Releases from U.S. Atomic Reators: What Are The Dangers?" Note that the water discharge pathway photo was taken (by Gabriela Bulisova) at the Palisades atomic reactor, discharging into Lake Michigan. Although the atmospheric discharge pathway was photographed at the Callaway atomic reactor in Missouri, Palisades has a very similar vent attached to its containment building for aerial discharges of radioactive gases and vapors).

Beyond Nuclear report (published April 2010) by Reactor Oversight Project Director Paul Gunter, "Leak First, Fix Later," with a chapter on Palisades' tritium leaks into groundwater, first reported by Entergy Nuclear in 2007.

Saturday
Aug032013

"Attorney Generals Fight for Public Access in Nuclear Issues"

Environmental coalition attorney Terry Lodge of Toledo speaks out against Davis-Besse's 20-year license extension at a press conference in Oak Harbor, OH in August 2012An article written by Roger Witherspoon, "Attorney Generals Fight for Public Access in Nuclear Issues," begins:

"The Attorney Generals of New York and Vermont have joined the fight against California’s San Onofre Nuclear power plant in an effort to stop federal regulators from erasing all record of a judicial ruling that the public has a right to intervene before major amendments are granted to an operating license.

If the five-member Nuclear Regulatory Commission grants the request of their staff to vacate the ruling of the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board and expunge the record, it will eliminate a precedent that affects power plant operations and regulatory practices around the country. In particular, it will affect the six-year fight in New York to shut the Indian Point power plants 25 miles north of New York City; and Vermont’s ongoing effort to shut the Vermont Yankee power plant.

The cross country battle now being waged by NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell is an uphill fight against one of the most powerful professional staffs in the US government and an agency that has a unique view of its own independence.

“The Commission has stated that it is not bound by judicial practice, including that of the United States Supreme Court,” stated Schneiderman and Sorrell in a brief filed June 24 with the NRC challenging the staff request...". Continue reading Roger Witherspoon's article here.

The next proceeding most likely to be immediately and directly impacted by the survival or demise of Friends of the Earths' (FOE) San Onofre precedent involves the replacement of steam generators at FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company's (FENOC) problem-plagued Davis-Besse atomic reactor, located on the Lake Erie shoreline in Oak Harbor, Ohio just east of Toledo. A coalition of environmental groups -- Beyond Nuclear, Citizen Environment Coalition of Southwestern Ontario (CEA), Don't Waste Michigan (DWM), and the Sierra Club -- have challenged FENOC's attempt to avoid transparent, open, and publicly accessible license amendment proceedings, by arguing the new steam generators are "like-for-like" replacements of the old ones.

But the coalition's expert witness, Arnie Gundersen, Chief Engineer at Fairewinds Associates, Inc., has documented numerous major changes from the degraded old to the new replacement steam generators. Gundersen also serves as FOE's expert witness at San Onofre. Toledo-based attorney Terry Lodge (photo, above left) serves as the coalition's legal counsel.

An Atomic Safety (sic) and Licensing Board (ASLB) panel heard pre-hearing oral arguments regarding the environmental interveners' standing, as well as the merits of its arguments, on July 24th. The ASLB indicated it would rule on the admissibility of the coalition's intervention petition this month.

Lodge also represents the environmental coalition (Beyond Nuclear, CEA, DWM, and the Green Party of Ohio) intervening against FENOC's proposed 20-year license extension at Davis-Besse. The ASLB (and/or NRC Commission) overseeing that proceeding has rejected all of the interveners' contentions but one: a successful lawsuit brought against NRC's Nuclear Waste Confidence policy has resulted in a court-ordered requirement for an environmental impact statement by NRC regarding the risks of long-term, on-site storage of high-level radioactive wastes. The EIS will take two years to complete (NRC had previously admitted it would take seven years to complete, but is racing through the process), during which time the Davis-Besse license extension cannot be finalized. Davis-Besse's original 40-year license expires on Earth Day (April 22), 2017.

Wednesday
Jul312013

State of Vermont objects to NRC over faulty radiation monitoring equipment at Entergy's Vermont Yankee atomic reactor

VY's infamous 2007 cooling tower collapse. The photo was distributed by a whistleblower.As reported by the Vermont Digger, State of Vermont Department of Public Service officials have written the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), objecting to and demanding answers about the repeated malfunction of vital radiation monitors at the age-degraded, problem-plagued Entergy Vermont Yankee (VY) atomic reactor. VY is identical in design to Fukushima Daiichi Units 1 to 4, a General Electric Mark I boiling water reactor.

Despite this, NRC rubberstamped a 20-year license extension at VY, the same month Fukushima's reactors melted down and exploded. It is unclear to the State of Vermont whether or not NRC even inspected the defective radiation monitoring equipment before rubberstamping the license extension. Entergy has announced it will replace the faulty equipment.

The article also mentioned previous age-related degradation accidents at VY, such as the infamous 2007 cooling tower collapse (photo above left); it also reported that VY's fair market value has declined 69% in the past year alone, calling into question its viability.

Tuesday
Jul302013

Entergy Nuclear announces 800 job cuts nationwide

Map showing location of Entergy's "dirty dozen" atomic reactors across the U.S.In an article entitled "Vermont Yankee to cut about 30 jobs: Critics argue loss of work force could pose operation hazards," the Burlington Free Press reports that nationwide, Entergy will slash 800 jobs across its fleet of a "dirty dozen" atomic reactors (see map, left).

Of those 12 reactors in Entergy's fleet, 7 already have received U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) rubberstamps for risky 20-year license extensions: Arkansas Nuclear One, Units 1 & 2; Palisades, MI; FitzPatrick, NY; Cooper, NE; Vermont Yankee; and Pilgrim, MA.

The rest of Entergy's fleet either has applied for license extensions, or plans to do so. Indian Point Units 2 & 3 in NY, as well as its Grand Gulf reactor in MS, have already applied for 20-year license extensions. Waterford and River Bend, in Entergy's home state of Louisiana, plan to apply for 20-year license extensions in 2015 and 2016, respectively.

In addition, NRC has also rubberstamped risky power uprates at the following Entergy reactors: FitzPatrick; River Bend (twice, for a total 6.7% uprate); Waterford (twice, for a total 9.5% uprate); Arkansas Nuclear One, Unit 2 (7.5% uprate); Grand Gulf (twice, for a total 14.8% uprate); Indian Point 3; Pilgrim; Indian Point 2 (twice, for a total uprate of 4.66%); Palisades; Vermont Yankee (a whopping 20% uprate, all in one fell swoop); and Cooper.

The article quotes Arnie Gundersen, Chief Engineer at Fairewinds Associates, as to the safety risks associated with such workforce reductions:

' “Thirty is a big deal,” said Vermont Yankee critic Arnie Gundersen, a former nuclear engineer who lives in Burlington. “It’s like a car. As a car gets older it needs more repair, not less and here they are cutting mechanics.”

Gundersen, who served on a 2008 state oversight panel that looked at Vermont Yankee’s operations, said he thought that cutting 30 jobs would have to affect the safe operation of the plant. He noted that the panel concluded that Vermont Yankee was understaffed at that time after increasing output by 20 percent without adding staff.'

FoxBusiness has reported that Entergy Nuclear CEO, Leo Denault, has admitted to investors that "all options are on the table" regarding its non-utility, "merchant" reactors, such as Palisades in MI and its fleet in the Northeast, in deregulated, competitive electricity marketplaces. Last February, Denault admitted in a Reuters interview that needed safety repairs were a major financial challenge for Entergy's age-degraded reactor fleet.