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.