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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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Thursday
Nov132014

Coalition presses case against reactors on Great Lakes

Lake Erie's shores are dotted with numerous large-scale atomic reactors and coal burners. These thermal-electric power plants dump 2/3rds of the heat they generate as waste into the environment, contributing to recent toxic algae blooms visible in this satellite photo.An environmental coalition, including Beyond Nuclear, is working at fever pitch against degraded old, and proposed new, reactors on the Great Lakes shoreline in southeast Michigan and northwest Ohio.

Davis-Besse, OH

At U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) headquarters in Rockville, Maryland, the groups Beyond Nuclear, Citizens Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario (CEA), Don't Waste Michigan, and the Green Party of Ohio pressed their case against a 20-year license extension at FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company's problem-plagued Davis-Besse atomic reactor east of Toledo. An oral argument pre-hearing was ordered to take place on Nov. 12th by the NRC Atomic Safety and Licensing Board Panel (ASLBP) overseeing the License Renewal Application (LRA) proceeding. The coalition first intervented against the license extension nearly four years ago.

Attorney Terry Lodge, Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps, and Don't Waste MI's Michael Keegan represented the coalition before NRC ASLBP. The coalition was joined by expert witness Arnie Gundersen, Chief Engineer of Fairewinds Associates, Inc. The focus of the day-long hearing was the severe, and worsening, cracking of Davis-Besse's concrete containment Shield Building. The dangerously deteriorating Shield Building is the last line of defense against a catastrophic release of hazardous radioactivity, as from a reactor core meltdown and Inner Steel Containment Vessel failure due to a reactor disaster, earthquake, tornado missile, etc. The coalition has filed numerous contentions about the cracking since it was first revealed on October 10, 2011.

The coalition issued a press advisory about the Nov. 12th oral hearing. The Toledo Blade has reported on this story.

Fermi 2, MI

Beyond Nuclear, CEA, and Don't Waste MI, again represented by Toledo-attorney Terry Lodge, will appear at oral argument pre-hearings before an NRC ASLB on November 20th in Monroe, Michigan. The coalition is opposing the 20-year license extension proposed at Detroit Edison's Fermi 2 atomic reactor in nearby Frenchtown Township, on the Lake Erie shore. Fermi 2 is the single biggest G.E. Mark I Boiling Water Reactor in the world -- the same design as melted down and exploded, times three, at Fukushima Daiichi, Japan.

Beyond Nuclear's Reactor Oversight Director, Paul Gunter, will argue a contention calling for radiological filters on hardened vents, an obviously needed safety upgrade actively ignored by a majority of the NRC Commissioners, despite the lessons that should have been learned from the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe. Beyond Nuclear's Freeze Our Fukushimas campaign calls for the shutdown of all U.S. Mark I and II reactors. (See Beyond Nuclear's Freeze Our Fukushimas pamphlet.)

Beyond Nuclear's Radioactive Waste Watchdog, Kevin Kamps, will argue a contention regarding serious safety risks associated with the Fermi nuclear power plant's off-site transmission line corridor, as well as radioactive waste contentions.

Another group, Citizens Resistance at Fermi Two (CRAFT), has launched another 15 contentions against the license extension.

Fermi 3, MI

The coalition comprised of Beyond Nuclear, Citizens for Alternatives to Chemical Contamination (CACC), CEA, Don't Waste MI, and the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter -- again represented by attorney Terry Lodge -- continues to press its case against the proposed new Fermi 3 reactor, to be built on the very site that the Fermi 1 "We Almost Lost Detroit"  reactor partially melted down on October 5, 1966.

The coalition intervened against Fermi 3 on March 9, 2009, and has since filed dozens of contentions against the proposal.

Its transmission line corridor NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) contention is still before the NRC Commissioners, thanks to a sua sponte motion by the NRC ASLBP itself. On behalf of the coalition, Lodge just filed a motion with the NRC Commissioners, supporting the ASLBP's request to the Commissioners for permission to carry out its own independent review of what appears to be NRC staff violations of NEPA, for not including the required "hard look" at the environmental impacts of Fermi 3's transmission line corridor in the FEIS (Final Environmental Impact Statement).

In addition, the coalition has appealed the ASLBP's rejection of its quality assurance (QA) contention to the full NRC Commission. Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds serves as the coalition's Fermi 3 QA expert witness. The NRC Commissioners will likely rule on the QA and transmission corridor contentions in the near future.

Thursday
Oct302014

Beyond Nuclear warns NRC against weakening RPV embrittlement/PTS safety regulations at Palisades

Entergy's problem-plagued Palisades atomic reactor, and the Great Lake and region of southwest Michigan it puts at dire, and increasing, risk.

On July 26, 2011, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) held a meeting with the nuclear power industry regarding "technical discussions related to the evaluation of irradiation effects on RPV [Reactor Pressure Vessel] ferritic materials for operating plants, with particular focus on 10 CFR [Title 10, Code of Federal Regulations, Part] 50.61a and the NRC’s Embrittlement Database."

On December 18, 2013, Entergy Nuclear sent its "UPDATED REACTOR VESSEL FLUENCE EVALUATION SUPPORTING A REVISED PRESSURIZED THERMAL SHOCK SCREENING CRITERIA LIMIT (TAC NO. MF2326)" to NRC, asserting its Palisades atomic reactor in Covert, Michigan on the Lake Michigan shoreline (see photo, left) is safe to operate till August 2017, despite having the worst embrittled RPV in the U.S.

On July 29, 2014, Entergy Nuclear sent the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) a document entitled "License Amendment Request to Implement 10 CFR 50.61 a, 'Alternate Fracture Toughness Requirements for Protection Against Pressurized Thermal Shock Events'" regarding its problem-plagued, age-degraded Palisades RPV. This license amendment would effectively enable Palisades to continue operating past August 2017, despite its violation of NRC embrittlement safety standards.

In an email dated August 29, 2014, NRC confirmed that its "Acceptance Review" had determined that Entergy's application was sufficient for NRC to continue with a more in-depth technical review of the matter.

Nuclear watchdog groups have long been concerned about Pressurized Thermal Shock (PTS) risks due to the worst embrittled reactor pressure vessel (RPV) in the U.S., at Palisades, located on the Lake Michigan shoreline.

A sudden decrease in temperature, given the intense pressure (around 2,000 pounds -- or a ton -- per square inch) on the neutron radiation-embrittled metal of the RPV, could fracture it like a hot glass under cold water. A Loss of Coolant Accident (LOCA) would follow, risking containment failure and catastrophic release of hazardous radioactivity downwind, downstream, up the food chain, and down the generations.

Beyond Nuclear submitted comments by NRC's arbitrarily short October 30th deadline regarding yet another request by Palisades for a weakening of RPV embrittlement/PTS safety regulations, in the form of a change of methodology to assess the problem. Such pencil whipping has occurred many times over the decades at Palisades, in order to enable ongoing operations, despite the RPV's seriously degraded condition.

Michael Keegan of Don't Waste Michigan in Monroe, MI also submitted comments on behalf of the statewide nuclear power watchdog coalition, by NRC's October 30th deadline.

The longer Palisades operates, the worse its risk of a breakdown phase accident, as due to PTS. NRC rubberstamped Palisades' 20 year license extension in 2007, despite two years of widespread, determined grassroots resistance by a coalition of environmental groups and concerned local residents.

Following are the documents Beyond Nuclear submitted in support of its comments (in chronological order):

"The Risk of a Meltdown," March 28, 1982 New York Times op-ed by NRC reactor safety engineer Demetrios Basdekas;

"Pressurized Thermal Shock Potential at Palisades: History of Embrittlement of Reactor Pressure Vessels in Pressurized Water Reactors," prepared by Michael J. Keegan (July 8, 1993; rekeyed August 3, 2005);

Generalization of Plant-Specific Pressurized Thermal Shock (PTS) Risk Results to Additional Plants, Table 1. Plants with highest RTNDT, U.S. NRC, Date Submitted: October 26, 2004 Revised: December 14, 2004;

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 (the first contention, on page 4, regards The license renewal application is untimely and incomplete for failure to address the continuing crisis of embrittlement), August 8, 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), September 16, 2005;

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, pages 3 to 9) March 17, 2006;

Environmental coalition letters, to U.S. Senators Carl Levin (D-MI) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), requesting they initiate a Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigation into embrittlement risks at Palisades in particular, but also into NRC weakening of PTS safety standards nationwide, March 20, 2006;

Consumers Energy power point presentation to the Michigan Public Service Commission, highlighting "Reactor vessel embrittlement concerns" at Palisades, spring, 2006;

"Halting 20 Extended Years of Risky Reactor Operations and Radioactive Waste Generation and Storage on Lake Michigan at Palisades Nuclear Power Plant: Comments on NUREG-1437, Supplement 27 to the Generic Environmental Impact Statement for License Renewal of the Palisades Nuclear Power Plant," submitted by an environmental coalition to NRC on May 18, 2006 (see section XI., Plant Aging Increases Accident Risk, pages 26-27);

List of organizations opposing 20-year license extension at Palisades nuclear power plant, May 18, 2006;

March 9, 2012 letter regarding PTS risks at Palisades, sent to U.S. Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow (Democrats from Michigan), signed by numerous Don't Waste MI chapters across the state, as well as their attorney, Terry Lodge of Toledo, OH;

On May 25, 2012, 25 concerned local residents and environmental group representatives met with NRC Chairman Greg Jaczko in South Haven, MI, near Palisades; RPV embrittlement and PTS risk was a top issue discussed;

Nuke Info Tokyo (the newsletter of Citizens' Nuclear Information Center), No. 148, May/June 2012, including the Part I of the article "Aging Nuclear Power Plants focusing in particular on irradiation embrittlement of pressure vessels," by Hiromitsu Ino (pages 10 to 12, and continued in newsletter No. 149, below; the article in No. 148 also includes Figure: Genkai-1 Monitoring Test Sample Data and JEAC and 4201-2004 Prediction Curve);

Nuke Info Tokyo, the newsletter of Citizens' Nuclear Information Center, No. 149, July/August 2012, including Part II of the article "Aging Nuclear Power Plants focusing in particular on irradiation embrittlement of pressure vessels," by Hiromitsu Ino (continued from the article in newsletter No. 148, above; pages 10 to 14, and concluded on page 5);

Additional Tables and Figures included in Hiromitsu Ino's articles;

Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear's questions to NRC re: the agency Webinar on RPV embrittlement/PTS risks at Palisades, March 19, 2013;

On March 23, 2013, around two dozen concerned local residents and environmental group representatives met with NRC Commissioner William Magwood IV in South Haven, MI, near Palisades; RPV embrittlement and PTS risk was a top subject discussed;

Barbara Pellegrini letter to NRC Chairman Allison Macfarlane, presented at June 5, 2014, meeting in Benton Harbor, MI. More than a dozen concerned local residents and environmental group representatives met with Chairman Macfarlane; Palisades RPV embrittlement and PTS risk was a top subject discussed.

Saturday
Oct112014

Coalition presses case against containment cracking at Davis-Besse

An NRC inspector investigates cracking revealed in Davis-Besse's Shield Building wall shortly after it was discovered on 10/10/11.An environmental coalition, challenging the proposed 20-year license extension at FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company's (FENOC) Davis-Besse atomic reactor in Oak Harbor, OH on the Lake Erie shore, has filed a defense of its September 3rd and September 8th, 2014 contentions regarding worsening containment cracking.

This comes in response to October 3rd motions, by both FENOC and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) staff, calling for the NRC's Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) panel overseeing the nearly four-year-old License Renewal Application (LRA) proceeding, to dismiss the contentions.

The coalition consists of Beyond Nuclear, Citizens Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario, Don't Waste Michigan, and the Green Party of Ohio. It is represented by Toledo-based attorney, Terry Lodge.

The coalition's filing on October 10th marks the third anniversary, to the day, of when severe cracking was first discovered and publicly announced at Davis-Besse, on Oct. 10, 2011 (see photo, above). The environmental coalition filed its first cracking contention in the proceeding a few months later, and has filed many more -- throughout 2012, and on Earth Day this year. However, all have been dismissed by the ASLB, despite many of the coalition's assertions later being acknowledged as correct by FENOC.

Davis-Besse's original 40-year license will expire on Earth Day (April 22nd), 2017. FENOC is seeking a 20-year extension, till 2037. NRC has rubber-stamped 73 such extensions such the year 2000.

Wednesday
Aug272014

Will Diablo Canyon survive the next big earthquake?

Karl GrossmanKarl Grossman (photo, left) has published an article at Enformable about a "Differing Professional Opinion" filed by Dr. Michael Peck, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) top on-site inspector at Pacific Gas & Electric's twin reactor Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant in Avila Beach, CA, just 12 miles from San Luis Obispo on the Pacific coast.

Dr. Peck expressed strong concerns that Diablo Canyon's systems, structures, and components, including those significant to safety, are not proven robust enough to survive the magnitude of earthquakes emanating from multiple faultlines in the immediate vicinity, including the Shoreline Fault discovered in 2008, just 650 yards away.

The NRC concealed the report from the public for a year, but the AP broke the story of its existence this week. Friends of the Earth has launched a petition drive addressed to NRC Chairman Allison Macfarlane, herself a PhD geologist, demanding transparent public hearings to examine the earthquake risks at Diablo Canyon.

Karl Grossman is the professor of journalism at the State University of New York/College at Old Westbury. Karl is also the author of Cover Up: What You Are Not Supposed to Know About Nuclear Power and other books on nuclear technology, as well as hosting numerous TV programs on the subject including "Chernobyl: A Million Casualties," "Three Mile Island Revisited" and "The Push to Revive Nuclear Power." Karl serves as a Beyond Nuclear board member.

Tuesday
Aug192014

Environmental groups oppose Fermi 2 license extension

NRC file photo of Fermi 2Multiple environmental groups have met an arbitrarily short, 11:59pm Eastern deadline, and officially intervened against the application by DTE (Detroit Edison) to extend the operating license at its Fermi 2 atomic reactor (photo, left) for an additional 20 years. Fermi 2's operating license is currently set to expire in 2025.

DTE's Fermi nuclear power plant, most infamous for the October 5, 1966 "We Almost Lost Detroit" partial meltdown of its Unit 1 experimental plutonium breeder reactor, is located on the Lake Erie shore of southeast Michigan, in Monroe County.

Beyond Nuclear has entered into coalition with Citizens Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario, as well as Don't Waste Michigan, to file four contentions against Fermi 2's license extension.

Two of the contentions concern radioactive waste. The first is about the risk of catastrophic irradiated nuclear fuel storage pool fires. Fermi 2's storage pool holds around 600 tons of irradiated nuclear fuel, more than all four destroyed units at Fukushima Daiichi put together (419 tons). The second radioactive waste contention is about the lack of safety and environmental assurances, since the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) "Nuclear Waste Confidence" policy was declared null and void two years ago by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, and NRC has not yet replaced it.

Another contention concerns the General Electric Mark I Boiling Water Reactor, and its containment's, long-known, fatal design flaws. Fermi 2 is largest GE Mark I BWR in the world, almost as big as the melted down Fukushima Daiichi Units 1 and 2 reactor cores put together. 

The final contention is about the interconnected risks between the age-degraded Fermi 2, and the untested, proposed new Fermi 3 atomic reactor, including the vulnerability of both sharing a common off-site electricity transmission corridor.

The three groups, joined by Citizens for Alternatives to Chemical Contamination, as well as the Sierra Club, Michigan Chapter, have also been intervening against the Fermi 3 proposed new reactor since March, 2009.

Both coalitions challenging Fermi 2, and Fermi 3, are represented by Toledo-based attorney Terry Lodge.

Citizens Resistance at Fermi Two (CRAFT) separately filed 14 contentions of its own against the Fermi 2 license extension. CRAFT released a press release.