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Safety

Nuclear safety is, of course, an oxymoron. Nuclear reactors are inherently dangerous, vulnerable to accident with the potential for catastrophic consequences to health and the environment if enough radioactivity escapes. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Congressionally-mandated to protect public safety, is a blatant lapdog bowing to the financial priorities of the nuclear industry.

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Wednesday
Jan042017

Massachusetts Elected Officials Call for Public Meeting on Safety at Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant

As posted at the website of U.S. Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA):

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Congressman William Keating (MA-09), Governor Charlie Baker, the entire Massachusetts Congressional delegation, and numerous Massachusetts state legislators are calling on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to immediately hold a public meeting to address concerns about the safety of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant. In a letter sent today to the NRC, the Massachusetts elected officials call attention to a leaked December 6, 2016 e-mail from the leader of the NRC special inspection team that has raised serious questions about Entergy’s ability to operate the plant safely [see the Boston Globe's Dec. 7 article, "Pilgrim nuclear plant staff said to be 'overwhelmed'"]. The NRC is currently conducting a three-phased supplemental inspection process at Pilgrim as a result of the NRC determination that recurring safety issues at the aging nuclear power plant required the Commission to list the plant in “Column 4” of its reactor safety ratings, its least safe rating for an operating reactor. Most recently Entergy was forced to shut down Pilgrim on December 15 when it reportedly discovered leaks in three of the eight main steam isolation valves, which are used to prevent radioactivity from leaking into the environment during a nuclear accident.

Signing the letter are Attorney General Healey, Senator Markey, Governor Baker, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, and U.S. Reps. Keating, Michael E. Capuano, Katherine Clark, Joseph P. Kennedy, III, Stephen F. Lynch, James P. McGovern, Seth Moulton, Richard Neal, and Niki Tsongas.

Also signing are Massachusetts State Senate President Stanley Rosenberg; Massachusetts State Senators Vinny deMacedo, Patrick O’Connor, and Julian Cyr; and Massachusetts State Representatives Sarah Peake, James M. Cantwell, Randy Hunt, Mathew Muratore, Thomas J. Calter, Davis T. Vieira, Josh S. Cutler, Timothy R. Whelan, and Dylan Fernandes. 

“While the NRC undoubtedly regrets the inadvertent disclosure of the preliminary thoughts expressed in the December 6 e-mail, the disclosure happened, and the NRC now has the obligation to address questions raised by that e-mail to help assuage growing public safety concerns,” write the lawmakers in the letter to NRC Chairman Stephen Burns. “A public meeting also will allow the NRC to outline for the public the steps it may take in light of the special inspection team’s findings to date, the steps that remain in the NRC’s inspection process, and when the official results of the inspection will be released to the public.”

A copy of the letter to the NRC can be found HERE.

Saturday
Dec242016

Environmental coalition defends its legal appeal, seeks to block Fermi 3 proposed new reactor in Michigan

Terry Lodge, legal counsel for the environmental coalition resisting Fermi 3

An environmental coalition, including Beyond Nuclear, is entering its 10th year of resistance (2008-2017) against Detroit Edison's proposed new Fermi Unit 3 reactor in southeast Michigan on the Great Lakes shoreline.

On Dec. 23rd, Toledo-based attorney Terry Lodge filed a Reply Brief, in defense of a legal appeal originally filed in October, at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the second highest court in the land, just below the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Reply rebuts challenges to the appeal brought by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and Detroit Edison (DTE).

The appeal challenges NRC's exclusion of the transmission line corridor from the Environmental Impact Statement, a violation of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The appeal also challenges DTE's violations of NRC's quality assurance (QA) regulations (Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds Associates, Inc. serves as the coalition's QA expert).

More.

Wednesday
Dec142016

U.S. looks for potential issues linked to falsified French nuclear documents

As reported by Reuters, and Tweeted by Scott Stapf of the Hastings Group: Nine U.S. reactors linked to French scandal over falsified documents over nuclear parts.

The Reuters article mentions one U.S. nuclear power plant by name:

One U.S. plant with parts from Le Creusot is Dominion Resource Inc's Millstone station in Connecticut, which has had a pressurizer from the French forge in service in Unit 2 since 2006.

Dominion spokesman Ken Holt said that when Areva manufactured the pressurizer for Millstone they performed some additional heat treatment, but did not tell Dominion.

Another U.S. nuclear power plant that may be implicated, according to the article, is FirstEnergy's Beaver Valley in Pennsylvania:

Another plant that may be affected is FirstEnergy Corp's Beaver Valley station in Pennsylvania. Beaver Valley has steam generators and reactor vessel heads manufactured by Spain's Equipos Nucleares SA, or ENSA, which FirstEnergy said may contain some subcomponents from Le Creusot.

The article also reports:

There are nine U.S. plants with parts from Le Creusot, but the NRC did not immediately name them.

No explanation is given for why NRC will not name th implicated nuclear power plants, other than the obvious -- to save the plants bad publicity, and increased public and media scrutiny. 

Such a lack of transparency and accountability by the NRC -- an agency largely to entirely captured by the industry it is supposed to regulate -- is a key part of the collusion that the Japanese Parliament concluded in 2012 was the root cause of the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe in that country. But such collusion exists in spades in the United States, as well. 

The Wall Street Journal has also reported on this story, in an article entitled "Coverup at French Nuclear Supplier Sparks Global Review."

Mycle Schneider, lead author of the annual World Nuclear Industry Status Report, was quoted by the Wall Street Journal, warning “Likely we have seen only the tip of the iceberg.”

Friday
Dec092016

Media coverage re: Entergy Nuclear's Palisades closure announcement

See Beyond Nuclear's press statement here. See Entergy's press release here. See Consumers Energy's press release here. See media coverage here below:

Media coverage quoting Beyond Nuclear: WSJM; WWMT; NBC-5 Chicago; Kalamazoo Gazette/MLive; Benton Harbor-St. Joe Herald Palladium;

Additional media coverage:

MLive/Kalamazoo Gazette (numerous articles):
Detroit Free Press:
Crain’s Detroit:
St. Joseph-Benton Harbor Herald Palladium:
WOOD TV-8:
WWMT TV-3:
E&E News:
PowerMag:
World Nuclear News:
South Bend Tribune:
WZZM TV-13:
Midwest Energy News:
Detroit News:
Michigan Radio:
Bloomberg:
Utility Dive:
Thursday
Dec082016

Beyond Nuclear statement on Entergy's announcement Palisades atomic reactor will close in 2018

News from Beyond Nuclear, For Immediate Release, Dec. 8, 2016
Contact: Kevin Kamps, Radioactive Waste Watchdog, Beyond Nuclear, and board member, Don't Waste Michigan, Kalamazoo chapter, cell 240-462-3216kevin@beyondnuclear.org; available for FaceTime interviews.
Kevin Kamps' statement:
"Entergy's announcement today that it will permanently shut down the Palisades atomic reactor by October 1, 2018 is most welcome to the large number of Michiganders, and beyond, who have fought so hard, for so long, to get it shut down. 
Palisades has the worst embrittled reactor pressure vessel of any atomic reactor in the U.S., so nearly two more years of operation is a frightening prospect for a catastrophic release of hazardous radioactivity due to pressurized thermal shock fracture of the vessel.
Also, two more years worth of high-level radioactive waste will be generated, for which we have no good solution. 
Palisades has also had countless security breaches, even since the 9/11 attacks, so the vulnerability to terrorism for two more years is also concerning.
We also have to remain vigilant that this good news isn't twisted into a nuclear hostage taking in Michigan. Just last week, Exelon Nuclear's lobbyists succeeded in their multi-year campaign to extort $2.35 billion from Illinois ratepayers, in order to keep open three atomic reactors that otherwise would have been closed. Also, in New York State, Governor Andrew Cuomo has in recent months inexplicably showered Exelon with $7.6 billion of ratepayer money, in order to keep four old, failing reactors operating for another 12 years. In both cases, jobs were cited as the reason why. We have to guard against such modern day nuclear robber barony at Palisades.
The good news is that, after permanent shutdown and removal of irradiated nuclear fuel from the reactor core, no more meltdown can happen, and no more high-level radioactive waste will be made.
Even after permanent shutdown, area residents and environmental watchdogs will have to remain vigilant, to make sure the dismantlement of the facilities, the clean up of the contaminated site and Lake Michigan sediments, and the management of the high-level radioactive waste on-site, are done safely and in the best possible way, both in regards to Palisades' workforce, and to area residents downwind and downstream.

 

In addition, a just transition must be put in place for both the Palisades workforce, as well as for the host community. Beyond Nuclear, Don't Waste Michigan, and others, so deeply concerned about Palisades for so long, have long pointed to renewable energy technologies such as wind, solar, and efficiency, as very promising alternatives to nuclear power, both for energy, and economic development, as well as for jobs. Of course, southwest Michigan's tourism and recreation economies, real estate and property values, and agricultural sector can now thrive and prosper, free from the radioactive stigma of an age-degraded, dirty and dangerous atomic reactor in their midst. The region can now better live up to its "Pure Michigan" advertisements.
But truth be told, there is a tremendous radioactive mess at Palisades that needs to be cleaned up, and high-level radioactive waste that must be safeguarded and isolated from the environment. This will provide a large number of jobs, for a long time to come. Who better to do this work than Palisades' current workforce, who know the site so well?
Regarding Entergy's offer of $10 million to southwest Michigan as economic development seed money, that is only two to three weeks' worth of net profits at Palisades, which has now operated for nearly a half-century, a decade of that under Entergy's ownership. Can't the multi-billion dollar corporation do better than that? After all, Entergy's CEO, Leo Denault, has made more than twice that himself in annual remuneration, as did his predecessor, J. Wayne Leonard.
Also, area ratepayers will see this as a welcome relief on their electric bills. As Tim Judson of Nuclear Information and Resource Service stated earlier this year, the Entergy Palisades-Consumers Energy Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) is the highest he has ever seen.
This has represented a gouging of ratepayers, and should never have been approved by the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) in the first place.
 
Another thing MPSC should never have approved was the raid on the Palisades decommissioning fund, to the tune of $300+ million. Now there is talk of returning some of that money to the decommissioning fund. We will have to watchdog Entergy at every turn during decommissioning, to make sure that workers and the public are protected, and that the badly contaminated site is completely cleaned up, including radioactively contaminated groundwater, soil, and Lake Michigan sediments.
And of course, we'll have to watchdog the high-level radioactive waste for the next million years. We have long called for Palisades' catastrophically vulnerable storage pool to be emptied, and the irradiated nuclear fuel transferred to Hardened On-Site Storage. But the dry casks used at Palisades since 1993 are of poor quality design and manufacture themselves. Some are even defective. And both dry cask storage pads at Palisades are in violation of Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) earthquake safety regulations, putting Lake Michigan at dire risk. But these poor quality casks are vulnerable to leakage over time, as well, simply due to corrosion and erosion. We will have to stay vigilant, and continue to call for HOSS, as close to the point of generation as possible, as safely as possible. Over 200 environmental groups from all 50 states, including numerous groups in Michigan, have called for this for the past 15 years now.
Importantly, the storage pool at Palisades must be maintained, albeit emptied of waste, even after decommissioning. This is so that in an emergency, if a dry cask has to be emptied, and its highly radioactive irradiated nuclear fuel transferred to a new dry cask, there is a place and way to do this. Once the pool is dismantled, we would be painted into a corner in this regard.
Last but not least, Palisades' closure, and the current dangers associated with its high-level radioactive waste storage pool and dry casks, should not be twisted into a call for export of the irradiated fuel in a rushed, unwise manner. We join with groups nationwide in continuing to oppose the proposed dump-site at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, on Western Shoshone Indian land, a scheme U.S. Rep. Fred Upton (R-St. Joe) has long championed in Congress. We also continue to oppose centralized interim storage, more accurately described as de facto permanent parking lot dumps. These too are most often targeted at low income, people of color communities, an environmental injustice, radioactive racism. Whether so-called interim storage, permanent disposal, and the risky shipments that would be required to move the wastes, decisions must be based on top notch scientific suitability, environmental justice, and free, fully informed consent-based principles. No current proposals meet such tests."