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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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Tuesday
Jul172018

Ohio nuclear plants get stricter scrutiny after safety system problems

As reported by Kathiann M. Kowalski in Midwest Energy News. Beyond Nuclear's radioactive waste specialist, Kevin Kamps, is quoted in the article.

Working with local grassroots allies, such as Toledo attorney Terry Lodge, and Don't Waste Michigan's Michael Keegan -- both several decades long watch-dogs on Davis-Besse -- Beyond Nuclear challenged the 2017-2037 license extension. NRC rubber-stamped it nonetheless.

A major issue cited was Davis-Besse's severe and ever-worsening concrete containment Shield Building cracking.

See Beyond Nuclear's backgrounders, re: Davis-Besse's many close calls with catastrophe, as well as re: its Shield Building cracking.

Monday
Jul022018

Your help needed by July 23rd to stop NRC insanity

Dave Lochbaum, Director, Nuclear Safety Project, UCSAction alert from Dave Lochbaum (photo, left), Director, Nuclear Safety Project, Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS):

 

Good Day:

 

The NRC is proposing to set aside federal regulations and deprive members of the public their legal rights by using a letter to the Nuclear Energy Institute to permit nuclear plant owners to experiment with new fuel pellets and fuel rods in the nuclear power reactors in your backyards without prior NRC review and approval, and without your getting a chance to agree or disagree with the experiment.

 

Suffice it to say that UCS opposes this NRC notion.

 

On June 7, 2018, the NRC opened a 20-day public comment period on their draft letter to NEI giving away the store.

 

On behalf of UCS, I requested an extension of the public comment period. The NRC processed the request to extend it before June 27th, the original deadline.

 

But the NRC reopened the public comment period this morning and it will remain open until July 23, 2018.

 

Please consider letting the NRC know whether you approve of plant owners conducting unreviewed and unapproved fuel experiments in your backyards.

 

It is easy to do and can be done in moments online.

 

First, go to www.regulations.gov

 

You will the following webpage. Enter "NRC-2018-0109" in the Search window and click on the Search button (or hit Enter on your keyboard)

 

 

Click on the COMMENT NOW! icon.

 

 

 

Now, there's a three-step process to provide comments. The first step is to type your comments in the Comment box. Alternatively or additionally, you can upload a file with comments by clicking on the CHOOSE FILES icon. The form (which is longer than shown in this screen snapshot) asks for your name. You have the option of providing your contact information or not doing so. After filling out comments and contact info, click on the CONTINUE icon.

 

Another page will show you the comments you entered, file name of any comment file(s) you uploaded (if applicable), and contact info if you provided it. Click on the EDIT button to back up and revise/supplement info. Once satisfied with the information, click the "I have read and understand the statement above" box and click the SUBMIT COMMENT icon. The next page will tell you that your comment has been submitted and give you a receipt number. You may elect to have the receipt emailed to you.


 

 

WHY THIS ISSUE IS IMPORTANT

The nuclear industry seeks ways to cut its costs. It is hoping that new fuel designs, called Accident Tolerant Fuel, will enable them to significantly reduce costs.

 

Some ATF designs feature fuel pellets made of material other than the traditional uranium dioxide.

 

Some ATF designs feature fuel rods made of material other than the traditional zircaloy.

 

For decades, the industry has developed new fuel designs that the NRC allowed to be implemented via a tried and true process. Owners would submit license amendment requests to the NRC seeking appval to load a small number of Lead Test Assemblies (LTAs) into the reactor cores. If these small, NRC-approved tests proved successful, the tested fuel designs could be used more broadly.

 

Sometimes, the new fuel designs required exemptions from certain federal regulations. In that case, owners would apply to the NRC for the exemptions.

 

Now, the NRC proposes to turn it all over to the industry. No license amendment requests (hence, no opportunity for public intervention) and no exemption requests.

 

If the unapproved experiments in people's backyards work, the industry hopes to realize significant savings. For example, some of the ATF designs seek to lessen the amount of hydrogen gas generated during accidents. Commendable goal. But if achieved, the industry will seek to eliminate hydrogen control measures at their plants (and the costs of maintaining them). Also, some ATF designs take longer to heat up to the melting point. If so, owners will likely seek to relax response times for emergency power systems and emergency makeup cooling systems.

 

NRC staffers have formally opposed this NRC plan, or scheme, or gambit. Harold Chernoff wrote a non-concurrence against the draft letter. He was aided by another NRC staffer who retired this past spring. A third NRC staffer filed a Differing Professional Opinion against the plan, scheme, or gambit. His or her DPO remains open, so it is not public and his or her identify is not known publicly.

 

I submitted a FOIA request in April for AFT/LTA records. The NRC is resisting providing the records that we are legally entitled to under the FOIA law.

 

Please consider formally providing comments about this NRC plan, scheme, or gambit.

 

Linked here is the draft NRC letter to NEI, Harold Chernoff's non-concurrence package, and the comments Ed Lyman and I submitted on behalf of UCS on June 27 in case the public comment period was not extended or re-opened.

 

You are welcome to endorse and upload UCS's comments. You are equally welcome or even more welcome to provide your own comments. It would help if you endorsed or supported Harold Chernoff's views. He is way out on a limb speaking up for safety within the NRC and could use as many people covering his flank as possible. I've know Harold since 1989, seven years before I joined UCS. He's a really good guy who is taking a really big career gamble speaking up for public safety.

 

It is imperative that NRC hear as many voices as possible opposing unreviewed and unapproved fuel tests in the nuclear power plants in their communities.

 

Thanks,

Dave Lochbaum

UCS

Thursday
Jun212018

NY State cautionary tale: risks to public pocketbooks & safety from bailouts to prop up failing old reactors

The radioactive ruins of Fukushima Daiichi, JapanOn June 14, Long Island-based investigative journalist (honored in early 2018 as "Environmentalist of the Year" by the Long Island Sierra Club), and Beyond Nuclear board member, Karl Grossman, published "$7.6 Billion Subsidy (Tax Increase) Buried in Electric Bill." Karl has also hosted Enviro Close-Up videos for decades, and his latest episode features an interview with New York attorney Susan Shapiro, who is leading the grassroots environmental coalition and ratepayer legal challenge against NY Governor Andrew Cuomo's 12-year bailout, at exorbitant NY ratepayer expense, to keep four dangerously old upstate atomic reactors, on the Lake Ontario shore, operating, despite their worsening safety risks and economic uncompetitiveness. The Ginna atomic reactor is nearly a half-century old; the 44-year old Fitzpatrick and Nine Mile Point Unit 1 are Fukushima Daiichi twin designs (General Electric Mark I Boiling Water Reactors; see photos from the aftermath of the three atomic reactor meltdowns in Japan, above left); the 31-year old Nine Mile Point Unit 2 is a closely related GE BWR Mark II design, which also has a containment that is very likely too small and weak to prevent catastrophic releases of hazardous radioactivity, in the event of a reactor core meltdown, as have occurred in Japan since March 11, 2011. Arnie Gundersen, chief engineer at Fairewinds Energy Education, has warned in his essay "Downstream" just how irreparable such radioactivity releases would be to the Great Lakes. Lake Ontario is the drinking water supply for many millions downstream, including in Toronto, Ontario, Montreal, Quebec, and numerous Native American First Nations, as along the St. Lawrence River. As nuclear power industry lobbyists have won similar bailouts for old reactors in Illinois, seek them in multiple other states, and have President Trump and Energy Secretary Perry's ear regarding a proposed $34 billion per year, "renewables-destroying," old reactor and coal burner bailout, for 80 power plants across 13 states, NY State's already unfolding cautionary tale should serve as a dire warning. (Speaking of "cautionary tales of the Nuclear Age," check out veteran journalist and author Stephanie Cooke's powerful book, In Mortal Hands.)

Monday
May212018

Davis-Besse's severely cracked concrete containment Shield Building a high-risk experiment!

Don't believe us? Just check out the NRC document, “Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station, Unit 1 - Report of Facility Changes, Tests, and Experiments,” in an “Annual Operating Report Letter” dated May 21, 2018, with the NRC ML # ML18141A502. (emphasis added)

From 2010 to 2015, Toledo attorney Terry Lodge served as legal counsel for an environmental coalition, including Beyond Nuclear, Citizens Environment Coalition of Southwestern Ontario, Don’t Waste Michigan, and the Ohio Green Party, which challenged the Davis-Besse atomic reactor’s 2017-2037 license extension.

A major contention in opposition to the license extension was the severe cracking of Davis-Besse's concrete containment Shield Building, first revealed to the public in October 2011.

In July 2014, it was further revealed to the public that the cracks were actually growing, due to a process of Ice-Wedging Crack Propagation. That is, water locked in the walls of the Shield Building causes the cracks to grow by a half-inch, or more, in circumferential orientation, every time a freeze-thaw cycle occurs at Davis-Besse. A large number of freeze-thaw cycles occur at Davis-Besse, year after year.

Despite Davis-Besse’s industry record of most close calls with meltdown catastrophes, as well as its severely cracked containment structure (which is currently operating as an experiment, as shown above), NRC has approved 60 years of operations at the deeply troubled reactor (1977 to 2037).

Sunday
Feb042018

Beyond Nuclear op-ed in Toledo Blade: Davis-Besse is a curse on future generations

As posted online at the Toledo Blade.

The headline refers to the forever deadly, highly radioactive, irradiated nuclear fuel.

However, the gist of the op-ed was about the safety risks of continuing to operate the 41-year old lemon.