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.



Coalition defends hearing at Palisades, with help from allies

Attorney Terry Lodge, the environmental coalition's legal counselTerry Lodge, Toledo-based legal counsel for the environmental coalition (Beyond Nuclear, Don't Waste MI, MI Safe Energy Future, and Nuclear Energy Information Service) intervening against Entergy Nuclear's Palisades License Amendment Request (LAR), has filed a brief in defense of the coalition's hard-won hearing. The LAR, if approved by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), would allow Palisades to continue operating, despite loss of fracture toughness in its thermally stressed, neutron embrittled, age-degraded reactor pressure vessel (RPV) below safety screening criteria by Dec. 2016.

The coalition intervened on the matter on March 9, 2015. The NRC's Atomic Safety and Licensing Board Panel (ASLBP) ruled in the coalition's favor on June 18, 2015, granting an evidentiary hearing on the contention. Entergy appealed the ASLBP's ruling to the full NRC Commission on July 13, 2015. The coalition's rebuttal was filed on August 7, 2015.

On July 30, 2015, the Mayor Grand Rapids, MI -- George K. Heartwell -- wrote a letter to NRC's Chairman, Stephen Burns, urging that the hearing be allowed to proceed, and that physical safety tests be required to be conducted on the status of dangerous embrittlement of Palisades' age-degraded RPV. The southwestern section of Grand Rapids -- the biggest city in west MI -- is located within the 50-mile Emergency Planning Zone (EPZ) downwind of Palisades.

Entergy's Palisades atomic reactor in Covert, MI on the Lake Michigan shoreline, is immediately adjacent to the Palisades Park Country Club to the south, and Van Buren State Park to the north.On August 4, 2015, Brian Huffine, President of the Board of Directors of the Palisades Park Country Club, wrote to NRC Chairman Burns on behalf of the Board and members of the community. The more than century-old Palisades Park represents Entergy Palisades nuclear power plant's nearest neighbors, with 205 cottages located immediately next door to the south (just to the right of the mechanincal draft cooling towers shown in this photo on the left). He urged that physical tests of RPV capsule samples be conducted, in order to assure the safety integrity of the worst embrittled RPV in the U.S. The June 18 ASLBP ruling held in favor of considering the need for additional capsule tests at Palisades, before the next scheduled one in 2019.

On August 7, 2015, Wallace Taylor, an attorney representing the Sierra Club, filed a friend of the court brief in support of the ASLBP ruling granting the environmental coalition a hearing. The Sierra Club's Nuclear-Free Michigan, founded and chaired by Mark Muhich, has taken a very active interest in safety risks at Palisades.


"Flaw Indications Found In RPV At Switzerland’s Beznau"

The Beznau 1 & 2 atomic reactors in SwitzerlandAs reported by NucNet, flaw indications -- or micro-cracks -- not unlike those found at two Belgian reactors in 2012, have now been discovered at the Beznau-1 reactor in Switzerland, revealed by ultrasonic tests.

The Western European Nuclear Regulators’ Association has communicated the findings throughout the nuclear power industry, given the potential safety implications for reactor pressure vessels.

The Belgian nuclear regulatory chief, as well as materials scientists cited by Greenpeace International, have warned that the Belgian micro-cracking could implicate RPVs worldwide, and have consequently called for global ultrasonic testing as a safety precaution.

Beyond Nuclear et al. have called upon the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to require such ultrasonic testing in the U.S., beginning with the severely age-degraded Palisades atomic reactor in Michigan.

The Swiss nuclear regulator, ENSI, is requiring Beznau-1's owner/operator, Axpo, to do additional tests, to determine the size and location of the flaw indications, and to assess their safety significance. Beznau-1 is 46 years old.

Beznau-2 will be similarly examined, beginning in August.


"Muhich: Testing must be done to ensure safety of nuclear power plant in Covert"

In an op-ed in the Lansing State Journal, the Chairman of the Sierra Club's "Nuclear-Free Michigan," Mark Muhich of Jackson, has urged that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission require Entergy to perform long-delayed physical tests to determine the severity of age-related degradation at its Palisades atomic reactor in southwest MI.


"Downstream," by Arnie Gundersen, Fairewinds Energy Education

The Great Lakes -- around 85% of North America's surface fresh water, and over 20% of the world's -- provide drinking water for 40 million people in 8 U.S. states, 2 Canadian provinces, and a large number of Native American First Nations.Arnie Gundersen, Chief Engineer at Fairewinds Energy Education, has posted a blog entitled "Downstream," about the radioactive risks to the Great Lakes from dozens of atomic reactors located on their shorelines, in both the U.S. and Canada.

Gundersen has served as expert witness for Beyond Nuclear et al. in numerous challenges to continued operations at risky reactors on the Great Lakes, including Palisades and Fermi 3 in Michigan, as well as Davis-Besse in Ohio.

(Beyond Nuclear's pamphlet, "Routine Radioactive Releases from U.S. Nuclear Power Plants," also shows it doesn't take an accident to cause contamination of surface fresh water supplies, nor coastal oceanic fisheries for that matter. A map is included, indicating which watersheds are impacted by each operating reactor in the U.S.)


"Rickety & risky": Applying RPV embrittlement lessons learned at Palisades to Diablo Canyon

Diablo Boys Cartoon by Mark Bryan – ArtOfMarkBryan.comIn a post entitled NRC: ‘Diablo Canyon among ‘most embrittled plants in the U.S.,’ Mary Beth Brangan and James Heddle have posted an article at applying the lessons learned about reactor pressure vessel (RPV) embrittlement at Diablo Canyon.

In a document dated March/April 2013 (see point #4, on p. 5 of 15 of PDF counter), the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission listed Diablo Canyon Unit 1 as having one of the worst neutron radiation embrittled RPVs in the country, surpassing safety screening criteria by 2033. However, given that Palisades' own End-of-Life dates have been predicted as early as the mid-1990s, or even the early 1980s, only to be postponed to 2017, with applications for regulatory relief out to 2031, Diablo Canyon's "good to go" till 2033 NRC seal of approval must be subjected to critical scrutiny.

Pacific Gas & Electric has applied to NRC for 20-year license extensions at Diablo Canyon 1 & 2. Friends of the Earth recently won a hearing from the NRC's Atomic Safety and Licensing Board for a hearing on earthquake risks. A similar legal victory in 2013 led to the permanent closure of San Onofre 2 & 3 in southern CA.