Coalition to press its case against Palisades' RPV safety rollbacks at March 25th NRC licensing board hearing
A U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) will hold an oral argument pre-hearing on Wednesday, March 25th beginning at 10am Eastern, regarding an environmental coalition's intervention against further regulatory rollbacks regarding Entergy Palisades' reactor pressure vessel (RPV), the worst embrittled in the U.S. The hearing will be held at ASLB chambers at NRC's HQ in Rockville, Maryland, but a listen-in phone line is being provided. The hearing is scheduled to last two hours, till noon Eastern, but there is some chance it will run longer than that.
Palisades is located in southwest Michigan, on the shoreline of the Great Lakes, drinking water supply for 40 million people in 8 U.S. states, 2 Canadian provinces, and a large number of Native American First Nations (see photo, left).
We encourage environmental allies and the media to listen-in to the ASLB hearing, in order to watchdog this vital safety issue. RPV neutron radiation embrittlement, and consequent pressurized thermal shock (PTS) risks, are serious at many pressurized water reactors (PWRs) across the U.S. Any regulatory rollbacks rubber-stamped by NRC at Palisades would set bad precedents that could then be applied at other embrittled PWRs in the future.
According to Mr. Sachin Desai, ASLB law clerk: "The phone number for the oral argument is 800-857-9645. The passcode is 9568305. This will be a listen-only line."
Mr. Desai has also communicated that "Members of the public interested in attending or listening to the March 25, 2015 oral argument must reach out to me, the Board’s law clerk, beforehand either by phone or e-mail. My phone number is 301-415-6523...[and] e-mail (Sachin.Desai@nrc.gov)." Mr. Desai asks that you RSVP with him by Monday, March 23rd, two days ahead of the hearing.
The hearing will allow the ASLB's three administrative law judges (a.k.a. hearing examiners) to question the contending parties, in order to determine if the coalition's intervention is worthy of an actual hearing on the merits. Both Entergy Nuclear and the NRC staff oppose the coalition's intervention.
The coalition's legal counsel, Terry Lodge of Toledo, filed the intervention petition on December 1, 2014, by NRC's deadline. The filing included an extensive technical declaration by the coalition's expert witness, Arnie Gundersen, who serves as Chief Engineer of Fairewinds Associates, Inc. in Burlington, Vermont.
Fairewinds Energy Education has published a humorous 6.5 minute video, "Nuclear Crack Down?", shedding light on this serious subject matter.
On March 9, the coalition opened a second front in the safety regulation battle, filing an intervention petition and hearing request regarding the parallel issues of Entergy Palisades' "Equivalent Margins Analysis." This attempt by Entergy at yet another weakening of regulations is due to the "Charpy V-Notch Upper-Shelf Energy" of RPV plates and welds at Palisades falling below NRC's 50 ft.-lb. safety screening criteria. In addition to refiling Gundersen's December 1, 2014 expert witness declaration, Lodge also cited a recent Greenpeace International report, warning that extensive cracking of RPVs in Belgium raises a red flag for similar cracking occurring worldwide. Greenpeace Belgium also issued a press release.
This revelation from Belgium is a particular concern at such an already badly embrittled and degraded RPV as Palisades. Beyond Nuclear joins Greenpeace Belgium's call for global testing for RPV cracks, starting with Palisades!
Entergy and NRC staff will almost certainly oppose this most recent intervention filing as well. It is not clear whether the ASLB panel will address this second intervention during the March 25th hearing.
The environmental coalition includes Beyond Nuclear, Don't Waste Michigan, Michigan Safe Energy Future--Shoreline Chapter, and Nuclear Energy Information Service of Chicago.
Note that, in light of the ongoing Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe, the worst embrittled reactor in Japan -- Genkai Unit 1 -- is to be permanently shutdown. Writing in Citizens' Nuclear Information Center-Tokyo's newsletters No. 148 and No. 149 in 2012, Hiromitsu Ino identified Genkai Unit 1 as Japan's atomic reactor most at risk of PTS.
NRC annual performance review, Thursday, April 9, Beach Haven Event Center, South Haven Twp., MI
In related Palisades news, NRC has announced it will hold its annual performance review on Thursday, April 9, beginning at 6pm Eastern, at the Beach Haven Event Center, 10420 M-140, South Haven Township, Michigan 49090. (Note that in a meeting announcement released on March 18, NRC announced that an open house, beginning at 5pm Eastern, will take place before the formal meeting begins at 6pm). Local concerned citizens and environmental watchdogs are urged to attend. A bone of contention will be the over-exposure of 192 workers to an average radiation dose of 2.8 Rem during a short, month-long project a year ago -- the replacement of Control Rod Drive Mechanisms. Gundersen of Fairewinds charged Entergy with rushing the job, and thus knowingly exposing workers to such high doses, in order to return the reactor to operations, and profit-making, ASAP, despite the long-term risk to workers' health. NRC has recently downgraded Palisades' performance status because of the incident, and will increase its oversight of the problem-plagued reactor for the second time in the past few years.
"Pull the Plug on Palisades for Earth Day!", Sunday, April 19, 2:30 to 5pm Eastern, Old Dog Tavern, downtown Kalamazoo, MI
On Sunday, April 19, a "Pull the Plug on Palisades for Earth Day!" fund-raiser will be held at the Old Dog Tavern in downtown Kalamazoo (402 E. Kalamazoo Ave.), Michigan, to support the interventions against Palisades. The free-will donation event will go from 2:30 to 5pm Eastern. Musical entertainment will be provided by The Duffield Caron Project with Friends. There will be a Silent Auction, and a Seed Exchange Table (so bring any seeds!). A panel of speakers from the local, state and national coalition behind the interventions will provide updates, and will available for Q&A and discussion at the info. tables afterwards. Speakers will include Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear; attorney Terry Lodge; embrittlement researcher Michael Keegan of Coalition for a Nuclear-Free Great Lakes; Don't Waste Michigan board member Alice Hirt; Michigan Safe Energy Future--Shoreline Chapter chairman Bette Pierman; and Nuclear Energy Information Service board chairman Gail Snyder. Michigan Safe Energy Future--Kalamazoo Chapter Team Coordinator Iris Potter is co-hosting the event. See the event announcement on MSEF--Kalamazoo Chapter's "Palisades Shutdown Campaign" Facebook page.
Jim Hayden of the Holland Sentinel has reported on the March 25 ASLB hearing, the April 9 NRC performance review public meeting, as well as an ongoing lawsuit launched by a large number of Palisades security guards, seeking a significant amount of back overtime pay long owed to them by Entergy. The article quotes Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps: "It all boils down to the safety of the reactor vessel."
In addition to that issue, a number of security guards that have been harassed and even fired at Palisades for simply doing their jobs (calling attention to problems) continue to press their wrongful termination lawsuit against Entergy, despite the company's and NRC's claims that the "safety culture" in the security department at Palisades has been restored to health. As documented by Beyond Nuclear and other groups, Entergy Nuclear is infamous for security breaches and harassment of security guard whistleblowers, not only at Palisades, but at other reactors in its fleet as well.