Take action against Palisades atomic reactor: 9/12 NRC mtg. in South Haven; 9/13 Beyond Nuclear/Peace House talk in Kalamazoo!
Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps sent the following call to action to allies in southwest Michigan. He hails from Kalamazoo, and has been watchdogging the Palisades atomic reactor for 20 years.
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
It is critical that we do all we can to shut down the dangerously degraded Palisades atomic reactor, before it melts down. Owned by Entergy Nuclear of New Orleans, one of this country's biggest and most infamous nuclear power utilities, Palisades is located in Covert, Michigan on the Lake Michigan shoreline less than 5 miles south of South Haven, and less than 40 miles west/upwind of Kalamazoo. Please attend one or both events coming up in just a couple weeks. See below for more information on the two events, as well as extensive additional background on Palisades itself. Please spread the word to friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, etc. We need to show how concerned we remain, by achieving another big turnout in South Haven on 9/12 (as we've done several times already this year!), and we need to take steps in Kalamazoo on 9/13 to launch an Entergy Palisades shutdown campaign. Hope to see you at one or both events! Thanks!
---Kevin Kamps, Radioactive Waste Watchdog at Beyond Nuclear in Takoma Park, Maryland; Board member, Don't Waste Michigan, representing the Kalamazoo chapter; Member, Great Lakes United's Nuclear-Free/Green Energy Task Force
Wed., Sept. 12, 6-8:30 PM Eastern
A U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) public meeting to discuss the 2012 safety culture assessment results for Palisades Nuclear Plant and subsequent actions taken by the licensee, Entergy Nuclear of New Orleans.
Beach Haven Event Center
South Haven, MI
If you are unable to attend in person, you can also phone into the meeting at the following call-in numbers: Phone 1-800-621-9524; Pass code - 5591733.
Thurs., Sept. 13, 7:30-9 PM
Kalamazoo Peace House, "Clarification of Thought" speakers series: Kevin Kamps, Beyond Nuclear, on the "catastrophe waiting to happen" at Entergy Nuclear's Palisades atomic reactor, and what you can do to prevent it!
313 and 321 Phelps Ave.
Kalamazoo MI 49048
Weather permitting, the event will be held outdoors. If not, it will be held in one of the houses.
Additional background information on Entergy Nuclear's Palisades atomic reactor
The Latest Leaks and Lies
The NRC meeting on 9/12 is about Entergy Palisades' so-called "safety culture" (or, more to the point, lack thereof). Palisades' utter lack of safety culture came to light thanks to courageous Palisades whistleblowers, who confided in their attorney Billie Pirner Garde in Washington, D.C. She turned to U.S. Congressman Ed Markey (D-MA), ranking member of the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee, who in mid-June demanded answers from NRC about the complete collapse of safety culture at Palisades -- about which the supposed safety regulator already knew, but had not informed the public. Markey's letter also discussed a remarkable leak into Palisades' safety-critical control room, of radioactive and acidic water from the Safety Injection Refueling Water (SIRW) storage tank, being caught in buckets, which kept Palisades closed down for a month beginning on June 12th. Michigan Public Radio reported on the "lack of accountability at all levels" at Palisades, once NRC finally released the information a month after Congressman Markey's demand.
Incredibly, not only Entergy, but even NRC's own agency staff kept NRC's chairman, Greg Jaczko, in the dark about the control room leak, even as he toured Palisades on May 25th. Two dozen concerned local residents and representatives of environmental groups, who met with NRC Chairman Jackzo after his tour, were likewise kept in the dark. Before resigning his position a short time later, Jaczko demanded an investigation by NRC's Office of Inspector General (OIG, in charge of looking into NRC wrongdoing) to determine why he had been kept in the dark. The Huffington Post broke the story that another NRC Commissioner, William Ostendorff, is now under investigation by OIG for allegedly interfering with the investigation demanded by Chairman Jackzo.
Palisades resumed operations for a month, but shut down again on August 12th due to a different leak -- this time of radioactive and acidic primary reactor core coolant water, through the wall of a control rod drive mechanism (CRDM). Beyond Nuclear immediately posted information, compliments of Union of Concerned Scientists, about how Palisades has suffered CRDM seal leaks for 40 years, experiencing its first one in 1972, just one year into operations. Kevin Kamps also published a Viewpoint in the Kalamazoo Gazette on this latest leak's safety significance, including the revelation, also provided by UCS, that Entergy has taken the amazing step of installing flood control berms around its control room, apparently in case the SIRW storage tank's 300,000 gallons of water "lets loose" all at once! Palisades has remained shut down since the August 12th CRDM through-wall leak.
Chronic safety problems risk radiological catastrophe as Palisades ventures ever deeper into its "break down phase"
Outlandishly, the leaks and lies described above represent but the most recent "mishaps" at Palisades, but the tip of the iceberg dating back over four decades now.
An excellent four-part series, "Aging Nukes," by the Associated Press's Jeff Donn, published in June, 2011, sheds light on long-standing, vital issues very relevant at Palisades.
Part I, "US nuke regulators weaken safety rules," cites embrittlement of reactor pressure vessels (RPV)/pressurized thermal shock (PTS) risks as a top example of regulatory rollbacks to keep old, degraded reactors operating. Palisades has the single worst embrittled reactor pressure vessel in the U.S., NRC was forced to admit on 2/29/2012.
RPV embrittlement/PTS was the focus of a state-wide environmental coalition's safety contention and intervention against Palisades' 20 year license extension. The environmental coalition's two year resistance was steamrolled by NRC, which rubber-stamped permission for Palisades to operate from 2011 to 2031.
The environmental coalition, representing dozens of groups and hundreds of thousands of Michigan residents, submitted a 45 page report to NRC on its safety and environmental concerns about extending Palisades' operating license, which NRC completely ignored. The coalition summarized its concerns in an executive summary.
Palisades experienced an astounding five "un-planned shutdowns" in 2011, but the worst was on Sept. 25. This near electrocution of an electrician cut off 50% of the power to the control room. It not only pushed Palisades' degraded steam generators to the brink, but also risked testing the RPV to the breaking point. When the power was cut to the control room, 22 plant systems instantly went haywire, a number of them of high safety significance. One was the Emergency Core Cooling System (ECCS). Fortunately, although ordered inadvertently to activate by the chaos in the electrical systems, it did not (which is its frightening in its own right -- when ordered to, even inadvertently, the ECCS didn't activate?!). That ECCS cooling water could have been the "cold water" fracturing the "hot glass," the embrittled RPV, via PTS, Pressurized Thermal Shock. Beyond Nuclear posted its findings on the significance of the 9/25/11 near-disaster.
In spring 2006, Palisades' previous owner, Consumers Energy, admitted to the Michigan Public Service Commission that numerous major safety repairs and replacements were needed at Palisades. Although these "promised organ transplants" were implied as part of the sale agreement with Entergy and as part and parcel of NRC's rubber-stamp of the license extension, as the environmental coalition feared and warned, the repairs and replacements have not been carried out. After all, Entergy's business model is to buy reactors dirt cheap, then run them into the ground. Entergy's postponement or outright cancellation of needed maintenance, repairs, and replacements for major systems, structures and components does maximize its profits, but it also dramatically increases safety risks. Entergy Nuclear's CEO, J. Wayne Leonard, reportedly amasses $20 million per year, or more, in personal fortune.
Palisades' reactor lid has not been replaced, despite Consumers Energy's due date of July 2007 for that most critical job. This, even in the aftermath of the Davis-Besse, Ohio near-disaster "Hole in the Head Fiasco" of 2002. And even despite all the CRDM leaks at Palisades, which are not unrelated. The reason Palisades still operates with its old, degraded lid on is because the new replacement lid, stored on-site, is defective. But Entergy has done nothing in five years to repair or replace the defective replacement lid.
In addition, Palisades' worst embrittled RPV in the U.S. has never been "annealed" (super-heated to restore the metal's ductility, although this itself is an experimental procedure of dubious safety merit), despite decades of "trial balloon promises" that it "could be done." Palisades' steam generators also need replacement, for the second time in the dangerously degraded reactor's history. RPV fracture due to PTS, or cascading steam generator tube failure, can each lead to a loss of coolant accident in the reactor core, a meltdown, and a catastrophic radioactivity release.
The AP series' Part II, "Tritium leaks found at many nuke sites," is also unfortunately applicable at Palisades. Beyond Nuclear's Reactor Oversight Project Director, Paul Gunter, gave Palisades its own chapter in his report on this epidemic of radioactive leaks at U.S. nukes. Frighteningly, the Palisades Park resort community, over 100 years old, with 200 cottages, draws drinking water from wells. So does the ranger station and campground at Van Buren State Park. Palisades Park is immediately south of the reactor, and Van Buren State Park immediately north. "Are people drinking radioactive well water?", is a key health and safety question that largely goes un-asked by state and federal regulators. This drinking water supply, so precariously close to Palisades' radioactive leaks into groundwater, has been inadequately tested, if it's been tested at all.
Thus, it doesn't take an accident for nearby neighbors to be harmed by the Palisades atomic reactor. "Routine radiation releases" are "permitted" or "allowed" to be discharged into the air and water, although very few, if any, quality health studies are later done to determine what harm is being caused to human health downwind, downstream, up the food chain, and down the generations. Beyond Nuclear's pamphlet about "routine radiation releases" actually features a photo, taken by Gabriela Bulisova, showing the liquid discharge pathway at Palisades where thermal heat, radioactivity, and toxic chemicals are released into Lake Michigan on a "routine" basis. State and federal regulatory agencies, after undertaking a "cost/benefit analysis," (cost to human health, benefit to Entergy's bottom line) have decided these radioactive releases are "allowably" or "permissibly" risky.
Very disturbingly, NRC's Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) on the Palisades license extension, prepared in 2006, documents that "batch releases" of radioactive (and toxic) liquid wastes are discharged from Palisades once or twice per season into Lake Michigan. The DEIS did not speak about limitations as to WHEN such batch releases are "allowed" to take place. For example, if done on a summer weekend in the daytime, when Lake Michigan is typically full of hundreds of boaters, fishermen, and swimmers at both Palisades Park resort community, as well as Van Buren State Park, immediately to either side of the Palisades atomic reactor, those un-suspecting families and individuals could be exposed to a concentrated radiation dose. "Permissible" radiation doses should not be misunderstood as being "safe." Again, regulators have merely decided doses are "acceptably risky," in the grand "cost/benefit analysis" scheme of things (skewed as it is to the nuclear power industry's profit motive). The National Academy of Science has affirmed for decades that any radiation exposure carries a health risk for cancer, and that these risks accumulate over a lifetime. And leaders in the field like the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research have long warned that certain demographics -- women, especially pregnant women; children; the elderly; those with compromised immune systems; etc. -- are particularly vulnerable to radioactivity's harmfulness.
AP's Part III, "Populations around U.S. nuke plants soar," explores the issue of casualties and property damage that would be caused by a catastrophic radioactivity release at atomic reactors like Palisades. Ironically, it was U.S. Congressman Ed Markey (D-MA), mentioned above for recently revealing Palisades' control room leak, into buckets, of radioactive and acidic water, who forced NRC at a hearing in 1982 to divulge its"Calculation of Reactor Accident Consequences" (CRAC-2) study results, which the agency was trying to conceal, for fear of alarming the public. Palisades' results, for what could happen downwind and downstream of a catastrophic radioactivity release due to a reactor disaster, are: 1,000 Peak Early Fatalities; 7,000 Peak Early Injuries; 10,000 Peak Cancer Deaths; $52.6 Billion in Property Damage. But CRAC-2 was based on 1970 U.S. Census data. As indicated by Donn's article, populations in southwest MI have grown in the past 40 years, so casualties would be far worse now. And that $52.6 Billion in 1982 dollar figures would be $117.25 Billion in Year 2010 dollar figures, when adjusted for inflation (using http://www.westegg.com/inflation/).
If Fukushima's arbitrarily small, 12.4 mile radius "Dead Zone" were superimposed on Palisades, it would easily overtake South Haven, and extend about a third of the way to Kalamazoo. The warning issued by NRC, the U.S. State Department, and President Obama in mid-March 2011, for Americans in Japan to get at least 50 miles away from the melting down Fukushima Daiichi reactors, would not only overtake Kalamazoo to the east, but even parts of Grand Rapids to the northeast.
Donn's Part IV, "NRC and industry rewrite nuke history," also very much applies at Palisades. In fact, the environmental intervenors against the license extension at Palisades lived through what Donn wrote about, being steamrolled by the rogue "safety regulator," NRC, an agency completely captured by the industry it is supposed to regulate. The Palisades environmental intervenors later learned from NRC Office of Inspector General investigations of NRC wrongdoing that NRC Staff routinely "cut and paste" whole sections of nuclear utility analysis and call it their own, in license extension reviews, including at Palisades. To add insult to injury, NRC then destroys the working documents that led up to its license extension approval decision. NRC's 2007 rubber-stamp of Palisades' 20 year extension was its 48th such rubber-stamp since 2000.
NRC is now up to 73 such rubber-stamps, including the infamous one at Entergy Vermont Yankee (VY). VY's license extension was finalized in late March 2011, just weeks after the triple meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi. Vermont Yankee, and Fukushima Daiichi's Units 1 to 4, are General Electric Mark I Boiling Water Reactors of identical design and vintage. Fermi 2 in Monroe, Michigan is the world's single largest such reactor, at 1,122 Megawatts-electric, as big as Fukushima Daiichi Units 1 and 2 put together. Fukushima Daiichi Unit 1 had just gotten a license extension months earlier, or else wouldn't even have been operating on 3/11/11. In addition, both Vermont Yankee and Fermi 2's high-level radioactive waste storage pools contain far more waste than Fukushima Daiichi Unit 4's, now the subject of growing international concern, due to the potential catastrophe that would unfold if the pool loses its cooling water supply and the high-level radioactive waste catches fire. Although Palisades is of a different design (a pressurized water reactor), its pool, for that matter, is also full to the brim with waste, and has had any number of problems, including a 2005 cask dangle that threatened a pool drain down and radioactive waste fire. That particular Consumers Energy cover up, aided and abetted by NRC, was exposed by the environmental intervenors through their watchdogging, as well as a Freedom of Information Act investigation they undertook. It led to front page coverage in the Detroit Free Press.
In addition to the AP series above, there was a good (pre-Fukushima) series by ProPublica on fire hazards at U.S. reactors. The investigation's editor felt compelled to write an Editor's Note, calling NRC out on its interference with the investigation! As shown above in Consumers Energy's spring 2006 presentation to the Michigan Public Service Commission, fire protection upgrades is yet another major safety improvement needed at Palisades! Despite a nearly catastrophic fire at a GE BWR Mark I in Alabama in 1975 (at Browns Ferry), NRC fire protection regulations have gone largely un-enforced across the U.S. for nearly 40 years.
In addition to Entergy and even NRC "spinning the splitting of the atom," downplaying the risks of nuclear power, there is the likes of U.S. Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), as well, misleadingly putting the public to sleep when it should instead be woken up to the reality of the risks. We have long depended on Congressman Markey (D-MA) to safeguard us against safety and security risks at Palisades, because for Upton, Entergy can do no wrong. Might that be because Entergy is one of his top campaign contributors? Upton is at the height of his power as U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman, with direct oversight on nuclear power and NRC matters. Palisades is in his district, as are the two long-troubled reactors at Cook in Bridgman. Beyond Nuclear has published a number of exposés on Rep. Upton's pro-nuclear cheerleading, and the campaign contributions from PACs (Political Action Committees) and individuals associated with the nuclear industry that Upton has gotten in return for his "service": a two-page summary; a 22-page full report; a listing of nuclear industry PACs making campaign contributions to Upton; and a listing of individuals associated with the nuclear industry making campaign contributions to Upton.
For the nuclear power industry, Rep. Upton is the best Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee money can buy. Hence Upton's unflagging support for Entergy Nuclear, despite Palisades' potentially catastrophic risks.
But both of Michigan's U.S. Senators, Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Carl Levin (D-MI), have also been alerted to Palisades' risks for a very long time. Despite assuring concerned citizens that they are monitoring the situation, very little to no visible action has been taken.