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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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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.

Sunday
Jul142013

Coalition rebuts motions to strike at Davis-Besse, while FOE defends legal victory at San Onofre

Terry Lodge speaks out against Davis-Besse's 20-year license extension at a press conference in Oak Harbor, OH, in August 2012. The main bone of contention at that time was the recently revealed severe cracking of Davis-Besse's concrete containment structure.The environmental coalition challenging safety shortcuts by FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company (FENOC), on its proposed 2014 steam generator replacements at the Davis-Besse atomic reactor along the Lake Erie shore east of Toledo, has responded this week to motions to strike filed by FENOC and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) staff. The coalition's Reply to FENOC's motion to strike was filed on July 8th; its Reply to NRC staff's motion to strike was filed on July 11th.

If the NRC's Atomic Safety (sic) and Licensing Board (ASLB) rules in favor of the motions to strike, whole sections of the coalition's intervention petition arguments could be erased from the record, and would no longer allowed to be raised.

The coalition challenging the risky steam generator replacements at Davis-Besse consists of Beyond Nuclear, Citizen Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario (CEA), Don't Waste Michigan, and the Sierra Club.

An overlapping coalition comprised of Beyond Nuclear, CEA, Don't Waste MI, and the Green Party of Ohio has also challenged FENOC's application to NRC for a 20-year license extension at Davis-Besse. The problem-plagued reactor's original 40-year license expires on Earth Day (April 22), 2017. If granted, the license extension would allow Davis-Besse to operate until 2037. This coalition's contention against NRC's bogus Nuclear Waste Confidence Decision, regarding the on-site storage risks of irradiated nuclear fuel, is still live. For example, little known is the fact that Davis-Besse's high-level radioactive waste storage pool has leaked radioactivity into the ground, precariously close to the Great Lakes shoreline. The Great Lakes represent 20% of the planet's surface fresh water, and supply 40 million people in 8 U.S. states, 2 Canadian provinces, and a large number of Native American First Nations with drinking water. NRC has announced that a public comment meeting regarding its court-ordered Nuclear Waste Confidence Decision environmental impact statement will be held in the Toledo area sometime this autumn. More.

Friday
Jul122013

Help hold NRC's feet to the fire -- please attend Palisades Webinar, Tues., July 16, 5:30 PM Eastern

MI Radio photo showing the location of the SIRWT, located on the roof directly above the control room; the reactor containment building towers to the leftAs announced by a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) meeting notice, the agency will hold yet another Webinar about Entergy's problem-plagued Palisades atomic reactor on the Lake Michigan shore in Covert, Michigan. This one will focus on the May 5th spill of 82.1 gallons of radioactive water from the leaking Safety Injection Refueling Water Tank (SIRWT) into Lake Michigan. The Great Lakes represent 20% of the surface fresh water on the entire planet, and serve as the drinking water supply for 40 million people in 8 U.S. states, 2 Canadian provinces, and a large number of Native American First Nations.

The Webinar will be held on Tuesday, July 16th (the 68th annual commemoration of the world's first atomic weapon blast, "Trinity," at Alamagordo, NM on July 16, 1945).

To register to attend the Webinar, do so by filling out the required information (your name and email address) by July 15th at the following websitehttps://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/431957345

A broad coalition opposed Palisades' 20-year license extension from 2005-2007, but NRC rubber-stamped it anyways. Palisades now has NRC's permission to operate till 2031, despite its worsening breakdown phase risks.

More.

Tuesday
Jul092013

Coalition defends intervention against risky steam generator replacements at Davis-Besse

Terry Lodge, Toledo-based attorney, speaking out against Davis-Besse's 20-year license extension in August 2012 at Oak Harbor High School, OHTerry Lodge (pictured left), Toledo-based attorney representing an environmental coalition intervening against FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company's (FENOC) risky steam generator replacements at its Davis-Besse atomic reactor, has filed PETITIONERS’ REPLY IN OPPOSITION TO FENOC ‘MOTION TO STRIKE.’

The coalition includes Beyond Nuclear, Citizen Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario (CEA), Don't Waste Michigan, and the Sierra Club. Its expert witness, Arnie Gundersen, Chief Engineer at Fairewinds Associates, Inc, has warned that FENOC has taken similar shortcuts on safety as did Edison International with its dangerously flawed steam generator replacements at San Onofre, CA. Edison was forced to permanently shut San Onofre 2 & 3, after Friends of the Earth (FOE) successfully intervened for license amendment hearings after the replacement steam generators suffered extensive, premature degradation, putting 8 million residents and workers within 50 miles at risk. Arnie serves as FOE's expert at San Onofre, as well.

In a separate but related proceeding, Beyond Nuclear, CEA, Don't Waste MI, and the Green Party of Ohio have also challenged the 20-year license extension at Davis-Besse which FENOC has applied for. Davis-Besse's current 40-year operating license expires on Earth Day (April 22), 2017.

The coalition plans to reply in opposition to similar U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) staff motions to strike in coming days. More.

Wednesday
Jul032013

Davis-Besse has emergency shutdown, pressure boundary leakage; coalition presses case against risky steam generator replacements

Toledo attorney Terry Lodge speaks out against Davis-Besse's 20-year license extension at an August 2012 press conference in Oak Harbor, OhioOn June 29th, FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company's (FENOC) Davis-Besse atomic reactor on the Lake Erie shore near Toledo experienced an emergency shutdown.

The event notification report posted on the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) website states:

'AUTOMATIC REACTOR TRIP DUE TO REACTOR COOLANT PUMP TRIP 

"Automatic trip of Reactor Coolant Pump 1-2 due to an electrical differential current fault resulted in an RPS actuation on Flux/Delta Flux/Flow. Startup Feedwater Valve 1 did not respond as expected post-trip and has been placed in manual control. All secondary side steam reliefs initially re-seated following reactor trip. Subsequent Main Steam Line #1 Safety Valve leakage mitigated during post-trip recovery actions. All other systems have functioned as expected. The plant is stable in Mode 3 - Hot Standby."

All rods inserted into the core during the trip. Decay heat is being removed via turbine bypass valves to the main condenser with normal feedwater to the steam generators. The plant is in its normal shutdown electrical lineup. The licensee characterized the trip as uncomplicated. 

The licensee will be notifying Lucas and Ottawa counties, the State of Ohio and will be issuing a press release. They have notified the NRC Resident Inspector.'

Helpfully translating that Nukespeak into plain English, David Lochbaum, Union of Concerned Scientists' Director of Nuclear Safety, has prepared a powerpoint presentation to explain what happened at Davis-Besse.

Vanessa McCray at the Toledo Blade has reported on this story. She quotes Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps:

'...Kevin Kamps, a radioactive-waste specialist for Beyond Nuclear, said the most recent incident is another worry.

“A lot of plants have problems, but often times it’s a single problem a plant will have ...,” he said. “But for Davis-Besse, they have just a whole long list of problems, and that’s what concerns us too —that those might line up one day in a very bad way.”...' 

A coalition including Beyond Nuclear, Citizen Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario, Don't Waste Michigan, and the Green Party of Ohio have challenged Davis-Besse's proposed 20-year license extension since 2010. If NRC rubber-stamps it, Davis-Besse could then operate past the expiration of its 40-year license on Earth Day (April 22), 2017, and would then have permission to operate till 2037, despite its worsening breakdown phase risks.

More.