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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 attorney Terry Lodge did do so, to the full NRC Commission, in early June.