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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
Jun222015

Nuclear Licensing Board Grants Evidentiary Hearing on Risk of Brittle Vessel Fracture at Entergy Nuclear’s Palisades Atomic Reactor

NRC file photo of Entergy Nuclear's Palisades atomic reactor, located on the Lake Michigan shoreline in Covert, MIThe U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Atomic Safety and Licensing Board Panel (ASLBP) overseeing an intervention petiton filed by Toledo attorney Terry Lodge on behalf of an environmental coalition (Beyond Nuclear, Don't Waste MI, Michigan Safe Energy Future, and Nuclear Energy Information Service) has granted an evidentiary hearing on the merits of concerns regarding the risks of a ductile tear, or fracture, of Entergy Nuclear's severely embrittled Palisades atomic reactor pressure vessel (RPV), located in Covert, MI on the Lake Michigan shore.

Although Entergy's Palisades has the worst embrittled RPV in the U.S., it is but the canary in the coal mine. As revealed in an April 2013 NRC document (see point #4, on page 5 of 15 on PDF counter), Next Era's (Florida Power & Light's) Point Beach Unit 2, also located on the Lake Michigan shore in Wisconsin, is nearly as bad. Following not very far behind in terms of RPV fracture risk are Entergy's Indian Point Unit 3 near New York City, Pacific Gas & Electric's Diablo Canyon on the California coast, and FirstEnergy's Beaver Valley Unit 1 in Shippingport, Pennsylvania. FirstEnergy has also been required to have an Aging Management Plan for RPV embrittlement at its Davis-Besse atomic reactor on the Lake Erie shore near Toledo, an indication that this is a serious concern there as well.

As a safety precaution in the aftermath of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe, Japan's nuclear power plant with the worst embrittled RPV -- at Genkai 1 -- was permanently shut down.

See the NRC ASLBP's "MEMORANDUM AND ORDER" on the Palisades RPV hearing, here. The coalition has issued a press release on their legal victory.

See the coalition's March 9, 2015 intervention petition here. Also see Entergy Nuclear's and NRC staff's opposition to the intervention petition here, and the coalition's defense of its filing here.

The coalition's expert witness declaration (prepared by Arnie Gundersen, Chief Engineer at Fairewinds Associates, Inc. in Burlington, VT), as well as an expert Greenpeace Belgium report on micro-cracking risks in Belgian RPVs that should be tested for at Palisades, were cited by the ASLBP as grounds for granting the hearing.

Fairewinds Energy Education has also produced a short, humorous educational video about RPV risks at Palisades.

The same ASLBP had previously ruled against a related but distinct intervention petition concerning brittle fracture pressurized thermal shock risks at Palisades (see the ruling here). The coalition immediately vowed to appeal the adverse ruling, and its attorey Terry Lodge did do so, to the full NRC Commission, in early June.

Thursday
Jun042015

Coalition cites catastrophic risk of Palisades RPV fracture, appeals ASLB ruling to full NRC Commission

A diagram describing pressurized thermal shock in a nuclear reactor. Credit: Japan Atomic Energy Agency. Japan's worst embrittled RPV, at Genkai 1, has been permanently closed in the aftermath of Fukushima.Citing the risks of reactor pressure vessel (RPV) fracture, core meltdown, and catastrophic release of hazardous radioactivity at Entergy's Palisades atomic reactor in southwest Michigan, an environmental coalition (Beyond Nuclear, Don't Waste MI, MI Safe Energy Future, and Nuclear Energy Info. Service of IL) has appealed an Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) panel's adverse ruling to the full U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

The coalition's legal counsel, Toledo-based attorney Terry Lodge, filed the appeal on June 2nd.

Arnie Gundersen, Chief Engineer at Fairewinds Associates, Inc. in Burlington, VT, serves as the coalition's expert witness on the risks of pressurized thermal shock (PTS) causing "brittle fracture" in the Palisades RPV. Gundersen and Fairewinds Energy Education have produced a short, humorous, educational video about PTS risks entitled "Nuclear Crack Down?"

NRC has admitted on numerous occassions that Palisades has the worst neutron radiation embrittled RPV in the country. Palisades first surpassed embrittlement safety standards in 1981, just ten short years into its operations. NRC, and/or the nuclear utilities owning and operating Palisades, have previously predicted various "End of Life" dates for the problem-plagued atomic reactor, the earliest being 1995. However, as reported by Jeff Donn of AP in 2011, NRC has weakened safety regulations time after time, to accommodate the age-degraded nuclear power plant, one of the oldest still operating in the U.S.

See updates on Beyond Nuclear et al.'s intervention against Entergy Palisades' License Amendment Request for regulatory relief dating back to Dec. 1, 2014 at the Reactor Safety website section.

Wednesday
May132015

Amidst worldwide warnings, Beyond Nuclear challenges regulatory rollbacks on reactor vessel risks

A diagram describing pressurized thermal shock in a nuclear reactor. Credit: Japan Atomic Energy Agency. Japan's worst embrittled RPV, at Genkai 1, has been permanently closed in the aftermath of Fukushima.Worldwide warnings about atomic reactor pressure vessel (RPV) risks have elicited little more than a yawn from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). While the French nuclear establishment admits very serious fabrication flaws in brand new RPV components in France (with potential implications for new reactors under construction in China and Finland as well), and the Belgian nuclear regulatory chief warns about apparent age-related RPV degradation that should be guarded against globally, NRC is moving to further weaken already severely weakened RPV safety standards in the U.S.

In a major June 2011 exposé by investigative reporter Jeff Donn, the Associated Press cited RPV safety standard rollbacks as a top example of NRC complicity with the nuclear power industry to keep aging nukes operating, despite the increasing risks. In fact, Donn interviewed the NRC whistleblower who first brought RPV embrittlement/pressurized thermal shock meltdown risks to light more than 30 years ago. And Donn also identified NRC's pat excuse for such regulatory rollbacks: supposedly unnecessarily- or over-conservative safety margins, that NRC chips away at, while continuing to express confidence that "reasonable assurance of adequate protection" of the public health, safety, and environment is being maintained.

A year later, the Japanese Parliament, in the first independent investigation in its history, concluded that the root cause of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe -- the reason the atomic reactors were so very vulnerable to the natural disasters that destroyed them -- was collusion between supposed safety regulator, nuclear power industry, and government/elected officials.

Beyond Nuclear, along with environmental allies, has challenged such attempted regulatory rollbacks at the worst embrittled RPV in the U.S., Entergy Nuclear's Palisades atomic reactor, on the Lake Michigan shore in s.w. MI. Although an NRC licensing board rejected the groups' intervention last week, the coalition has vowed to fight on. Its legal counsel, Toledo-based attorney Terry Lodge, has indicated an appeal will be forthcoming by the 25 day deadline.

Beyond Nuclear also just submitted extensive comments, based on years -- and even decades -- of past watch-dogging work, regarding brittle RPV fracture risks, in opposition to NRC's latest moves to weaken standards yet further.

Beyond Nuclear's expert witness in the Palisades proceeding, Arnie Gundersen, has prepared a short, humorous educational video about pressurized themal shock risks entitled "Nuclear Crack Down?" Gundersen serves as Chief Engineer at Fairewinds Energy Education.

The coalition also has a second RPV-related contention against Palisades still in process. On March 9th, Beyond Nuclear et al. intervened against Entergy and NRC's collusion to also weaken RPV ductile tearing failure risks at the problem-plagued Palisades, as well.

Wednesday
May132015

Beyond Nuclear comments on NRC move to weaken RPV fracture safety regulations

A diagram describing pressurized thermal shock in a nuclear reactor. Credit: Japan Atomic Energy Agency. Japan's worst embrittled RPV, at Genkai 1, has been permanently closed in the aftermath of Fukushima.Beyond Nuclear has submitted a dozen official public comments into the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) proceeding regarding the development of Draft Regulatory Guide 1299 (DG-1299), and its technical background document, NUREG-2163. Both DG-1299 and NUREG-2163 are part of NRC's regulatory rollback, known as 10CFR50.61a, a weakening of (already weakened) safety standards contained in 10CFR50.61 (Title 10, Code of Federal Regulations, Parts 50.61 and 50.61a).

10CFR50.61a, or alternate fracture toughness rules for neutron radiation embrittled reactor pressure vessels (RPVs), would increase the risks of a pressurized thermal shock (PTS) through-wall breach, Loss-of-Coolant-Accident, core meltdown, containment failure, and catastrophic radioactivity release to the environment.

On Dec. 1, 2014, Beyond Nuclear and coalition partners Don't Waste MI, MI Safe Energy Future--Shoreline Chapter, and Nuclear Energy Information Service of Chicago, intervened against Entergy Nuclear's License Amendment Request for 10CFR50.61a regulatory relief at its Palisades atomic reactor in southwest MI. Terry Lodge serves as the coalition's legal counsel.

Following are links to Beyond Nuclear's dozen comments re: DG-1299 and NUREG-2163, as well as links to the documents on which they are based.

Comment 1: regarding NRC's over-reliance on PRA (probabilistic risk assessement), or risk-informed regulation, in 10CFR50.61a, and its related DG-1299 and NUREG-2163.

Comment 2: regarding the coalition's Dec. 1, 2014 intervention petition against 50.61a regulatory relief at Palisades.

Comment 3: DECLARATION OF ARNOLD GUNDERSEN, dated Dec. 1, 2014, part of the intervention petition mentioned immediately above. Gundersen serves as the expert witness for the coalition.

Comment 4: regarding DECLARATION OF PIERMAN, KAMPS AND KEEGAN CONCERNING COUPON AVAILABILITY FOR PTS TESTING, dated December 1, 2014.

Comment 5: regarding "PETITIONERS’ COMBINED REPLY IN SUPPORT OF AMENDED PETITION TO INTERVENE AND FOR A PUBLIC ADJUDICATION HEARING OF ENTERGY LICENSE AMENDMENT REQUEST FOR AUTHORIZATION TO IMPLEMENT 10 CFR§50.61a, ‘ALTERNATE FRACTURE TOUGHNESS REQUIREMENTS FOR PROTECTION AGAINST PRESSURIZED THERMAL SHOCK EVENTS’," dated Jan. 20, 2015.

Comment 6: regarding NUCLEAR REACTOR PRESSURE VESSEL CRISIS: GREENPEACE BRIEFING (dated Feb. 15, 2015; 10 pages), and Greenpeace press release, "Thousands more cracks found in Belgian nuclear reactors, Belgian regulatory head warns of global implications," dateline Brussels, Feb. 17, 2015 (2 pages).

Comment 7: regarding Official Transcript of Proceedings, NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION, Title: Entergy Nuclear Operations, Inc., Palisades Nuclear Plant, Docket Number: 50-255-LA, ASLBP Number: 15-936-03-LA-BD01, Location: Rockville, Maryland, Date: Wednesday, March 25, 2015 (135 pages).

Comment 8: regarding the June 1983 Popular Science article, "Thermal shock--new nuclear-reactor safety hazard?", by Edward Edelson; the January 27, 1970, Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards (ACRS), chaired by Joseph M. Hendrie, "REPORT ON PALISADES PLANT," sent to AEC Chairman Glenn T. Seaborg; and the MEMORANDUM and ORDER (Ruling on Petition to Intervene and Request for a Hearing), NRC Atomic Safety and Licensing Board Panel, In the Matter of: ENTERGY NUCLEAR OPERATIONS, INC. (Palisades Nuclear Plant), LBP-15-17, Docket No. 50-255-LA, ASLBP No. 15-936-03-LA-BD01, May 8, 2015.

Comment 9: regarding the August 8, 2005: REQUEST FOR HEARING AND PETITION TO INTERVENE, submitted to the U.S. NRC ASLB, by attorney Terry Lodge, on behalf of Don't Waste Michigan and NIRS, in opposition to Palisades' 20-year license extension (specifically, the first contention, beginning on page 4, regarding "The license renewal application is untimely and incomplete for failure to address the continuing crisis of embrittlement"); the September 16, 2005: PETITIONERS’ COMBINED REPLY TO NRC STAFF AND NUCLEAR MANAGEMENT COMPANY ANSWERS, submitted to the U.S. NRC ASLB, by attorney Terry Lodge, on behalf of Don't Waste Michigan and NIRS, in opposition to Palisades' 20-year license extension (pages 2 to 23 are regarding Contention 1, The license renewal application is untimely and incomplete for failure to address the continuing crisis of embrittlement); the Petitioners' Appendix of Evidence (129 pages), which accompanied its September 16, 2005 Reply; and the November 3, 2005: Transcript of oral argument pre-hearing before the NRC ASLBP, re: 20-year license extension for Palisades. The hearing was held in South Haven, Michigan. (See, specifically, the portions pertaining to PTS risks, including pages 34-80 (pages 17-63 of 206 on PDF counter), and following, as articulated by attorney Terry Lodge on behalf of intervening groups NIRS and Don't Waste MI.)

Comment 10: regarding the March 17, 2006: PETITIONERS’ NOTICE OF APPEAL FROM ASLB DENIAL OF HEARING, AND SUPPORTING BRIEF, submitted to the U.S. NRC ASLB, by attorney Terry Lodge, on behalf of Don't Waste Michigan and NIRS, in opposition to Palisades' 20-year license extension (Appeal of dismissal of Contention No. 1, The license renewal application is untimely and incomplete for failure to address the continuing crisis of embrittlement, specifically pages 3 to 9, as well as portions of the conclusion relevant to PTS risks/RPV embrittlement).

Comment 11: regarding Spring 2006: Consumers Energy power point presentation to the Michigan Public Service Commission, highlighting "Reactor vessel embrittlement concerns" at Palisades.

Comment 12: Beyond Nuclear submitted for the record a June 2011 AP article, by investigative reporter Jeff Donn, entitled "US nuke regulators weaken safety rules." It was the first installment in a four-part series entitled "Aging Nukes." Beyond Nuclear pointed out that the weakening of RPV embrittlement/PTS safety standards was cited by Donn as a top national example of NRC's collusion with industry to keep age-degraded reactors operating, despite the risks.

Tuesday
May122015

Beyond Nuclear on Thom Hartman's "The Big Picture" re: Indian Pt. fire/oil spill & Chinese proliferation concerns

Thom Hartmann, host of "The Big Picture"Thom Hartmann, host of "The Big Picture," had Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps on to discuss the transformer fires at Entergy Nuclear's Indian Point nuclear power plant, and consequent oil spill into the Hudson River upstream from New York City. Thom and Kevin also discussed the Obama administration's attempt to extend approval nuclear power commerce with China, despite congressional concerns about dual-use technology that could be transferred to China's nuclear submarines, as well as "vertical" and "horizontal" proliferation concerns from reprocessing plutonium (adding to China's own nuclear arsenal, or the spread of nuclear weaponry to other countries or terrorist groups, respectively). (See the segment from the 46:00 minute mark to the 52:15 minute mark.)