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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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Monday
Feb232015

"Appeals Court will hear case on cover-up of Diablo Canyon quake risks"

PG&E's Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, near San Luis Obispo, CAAs reported by a Friends of the Earth news release, subtitled "Friends of the Earth [FOE] petition says NRC illegally let PG&E alter nuclear plant's license," a 9th Circuit federal appeals court panel has rejected motions by Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, allowing FOE's lawsuit to proceed to a hearing on the merits.

FOE alleges that NRC and PG&E colluded to secretly alter the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant (photo, left) operating license regarding the capability of the twin reactors to survive earthquake magnitudes greater than the facility was ever designed to withstand. In recent years, the lengths and interconnections of earthquake fault lines, and their proximity to Diablo Canyon, were revealed to be significantly greater than previously understood.

FOE is demanding a public adjudicatory hearing on the increased seismic risks, something that should have happened in the first place. In the meantime, FOE is calling for both units to be shutdown, until its concerns are fully addressed.

Harvey Wasserman has blogged about FOE's preliminary legal victory at EcoWatch.

Wednesday
Feb182015

"Thousands more cracks found in Belgian nuclear reactors: Belgian regulatory head warns of global implications"

Entergy's Palisades atomic reactor, on the Lake Michigan shore in Covert, MI, has the worst embrittled RPV in the U.S., vulnerable to catastrophic failure due to PTS.As revealed in a new report from Greenpeace Belgium, micro-cracking in Belgian atomic reactor pressure vessels (RPV) due to hydrogen flaking could be a global problem going undiagnosed, simply because nuclear utilities and government regulators haven't done the needed testing. Belgium's nuclear regulatory agency has issued "a statement confirming that the additional tests conducted in 2014 revealed 13,047 cracks in Doel 3 and 3,149 in Tihange 2," as reported in Greenpeace Belgium's press release.

Embrittlement can lead to RPV failure due to pressurized thermal shock (PTS) in pressurized water reactors (PWRs). Beyond Nuclear, in coalition with Don't Waste MI, MI Safe Energy Future, and Nuclear Energy Information Service, has challenged the continued operation of Entergy Nuclear's Palisades atomic reactor in s.w. MI on the Lake Michigan shore (photo, above left), due to its worst embrittled RPV in the U.S. As reported by Greenpeace Belgium, a RPV breach due to PTS could cause a Loss-of-Coolant-Accident (LOCA), core meltdown, containment failure, and catastrophic radioactivity release.

However, Greenpeace Belgium's report warns that hydrogen flaking micro-cracking also impacts boiling water reactors (BWRs). Greenpeace Belgium's experts call for comprehensive testing of all atomic reactors worldwide, a position echoed by Belgium's top nuclear regulator. Belgium's two suspect reactors are shut; Greenpeace demands they remain so till the concern is addressed. Meanwhile, Palisades operates at full power.

Tuesday
Feb032015

Photos released from 2013 Entergy ANO fatal drop of a very heavy load

The 500+ ton stator crashed through the floor, on top of its heavy haul vehicle, causing extensive damage, killing one worker, and injuring several others.David Lochbaum, director, Nuclear Safety Project at the Union of Concerned Scientists, writes:

"On March 31, 2013, workers were removing a large, heavy part of the main generator at Arkansas Nuclear One when this load dropped. It killed one worker and injured others.

Pictures of the dropped part being removed from the plant and of the damage it did to the floor and walls of the turbine building were released via the Freedom of Information Act. Some of those pictures along with captions explaining what the images are showing are in a file posted to the UCS blog this morning at: http://allthingsnuclear.org/arkansas-nuclear-one-pictures-of-an-accident/"

Lochbaum stands by his takeaway, published not long after the fatal accident in 2013:

"Our Takeaway

The NRC reviewed U.S. nuclear plant experience with lifting loads with cranes between 1968 and 2002. The NRC reported that about two load drops per year happened during this period with ten incidents causing deaths. The NRC’s review concluded that there had been only three very heavy load drops (defined as a load weighing more than 30 tons). ANO-1 makes four.

Gravity never takes a minute off. Neither can vigilance to safety or tragedy can occur." (emphasis added)

When, during an NRC public meeting in Michigan, Entergy Palisades' site vice president, Anthony Vitale, bragged about his atomic reactor's spotless industrial safety record, just a few days after this Easter Sunday, 2013, fatal accident at Palisades' sister plant in Arkansas, Beyond Nuclear corrected the record, by sharing the tragic news from Arkansas. As Beyond Nuclear reported at the time, the worker killed at ANO was named Wade Walters of Russellville, AR. He was 24 years old.

Monday
Feb022015

Entergy's Pilgrim atomic reactor has had a bad week

NRC file photo of Entergy's Pilgrim atomic reactor, a Fukushima twin-designOn Jan. 26th, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) slapped Entergy Pilgrim (photo, left) with two "White Findings" in the aftermath of four unplanned shutdowns in 2013, and Entergy's failure to properly carry out ordered follow up corrective actions. This means Pilgrim will remain on NRC's "degraded" performance short list of the worst (a.k.a. most risky) reactors in the country.

Pilgrim is identical in design and vintage to Fukushima Daiichi Units 1 to 4 -- a General Electric Mark I Boiling Water Reactor.

On Jan. 27th, Pilgrim bore the brunt of the "Juno" blizzard, and was forced to shut down shortly into the storm. As reported at NRC's website, a full week later, it remains shut down. NRC issued its PNOs (Preliminary Notifications of Occurrence) regarding this most recent unplanned shutdown on Jan. 28th (see the bottom two entries). Another, related, NRC PNO is dated Jan. 29th.

On Jan. 30th, Entergy Pilgrim got slammed again -- this time, by a letter from Pilgrim Watch's Mary Lampert, "PILGRIM WATCH COMMENT/QUESTIONS [re:] FLEX MOORING PLAN-LESSONS LEARNED FROM JUNO BLIZZARD." (See Attachment A.)

And on Feb. 2nd, the same day that NRC initiated its Special Inspection Team re: this most recent unplanned shutdown, Pilgrim Watch, joined by the Town of Duxbury Nuclear Advisory Committee, slammed Entergy Nuclear, as well as NRC, with a series of hard-hitting questions. They demand Pilgrim remain shut down until their questions are answered.

Saturday
Jan312015

"PILGRIM STATION: Power stays on in most of Plymouth, but not at nuclear plant"

NRC file photo of Entergy's Pilgrim atomic reactor, located south of Boston on Cape Cod Bay. Plymouth, MA bore the brunt of winter storm "Juno," but Pilgrim was one of the only electric grid casualites.As reported by Wicked Local Plymouth, despite bearing the brunt of severe winter storm "Juno," about the only part of the electric grid that did not handle it well was Entergy Nuclear's Plymouth atomic reactor. Despite nuclear power industry claims of being reliable during the Polar Vortex of 2014, Pilgrim has been at 0% power now for several days, after its ties to the electric grid became dysfunctional due to ice and high winds. Tellingly, despite Pilgrim's disconnection from the electric grid, the lights remain almost entirely on in the greater Boston area.

Thus, Pilgrim's safety and cooling systems, circulating water through the hot core, are currently being run by emergency diesel generators currently, until connections to the primary, offsite electric grid can be restored. If this continues for many more days, a resupply of diesel fuel will be required, to keep the emergency generators operational.

Pilgrim's severe winter weather shut down comes immediately on top of a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) decision to increase inspections and oversight at the Fukushima Daiichi twin design and vintage atomic reactor (a General Electric Mark I Boiling Water Reactor, that fired up in 1972), due to numerous unexpected shutdowns in the past many months and years.