Beyond Nuclear’s Radioactive Waste Watchdog, Kevin Kamps, has issued the following statement in response to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) years-late and meaningless Confirmatory Order, dated May 16, 2016, regarding Entergy employees’ “willful violation” of safety regulations at the Palisades atomic reactor in Covert, Michigan on the Lake Michigan shore (see photo, left):
“NRC’s Office of Investigations’ (OI) conclusion – although it took three and a half years too long to arrive at – that Entergy employees’ violations of safety regulations at Palisades, vis-à-vis the Safety Injection Refueling Water Tank, were willful, is most significant. The cover-up of the crisis in the control room – the leakage of radioactive and acidic water from the ceiling – took place at the very same time as a very serious close call with catastrophe at Palisades.
NRC has, however, yet again betrayed its mission, to protect public health, safety, and the environment, by disregarding its own OI’s conclusions. Having ‘agreed to disagree on the issue of willfulness,’ NRC has let Entergy off the hook. These willful violations were only brought to light in the first place thanks to courageous Palisades whistleblowers, who turned to U.S. Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) for help. U.S. Representative Fred Upton (R-MI), whose job as U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman is to oversee NRC, is entirely derelict in his duty at Palisades, putting his own constituents at increasing risk of a radioactive catastrophe. Not only Entergy, but the rest of the nuclear power industry, can thus learn the dangerous lesson that even willful violations of safety regulations, as at Palisades, will be tolerated by NRC, with no meaningful enforcement actions taken.
Despite gouging ratepayers via an exorbitantly expensive Power Purchase Agreement, with the blessing of the Michigan Public Service Commission; and despite cancelling long overdue, astronomically expensive, major safety repairs, with the complicity of NRC; Entergy is nonetheless losing money at Palisades.
As investment advisors at UBS pointed out a month ago, Entergy would do its own shareholders, Consumers Energy’s shareholders, and especially ratepayers, a huge favor, by closing Palisades.
Three years ago, Dr. Mark Cooper, an energy economist at Vermont Law School, predicted that Palisades was at high, near-term risk of permanent closure, due to: economic costs; age-degradation; its “merchant” status, that is, having to compete in a deregulated market; less than 25 years left on its operating license, even with an NRC-approved extension; numerous long-term outages (as due to unplanned shutdowns and breakdowns); and ‘multiple safety issues.’ Dr. Cooper’s similar shutdown predictions have proven correct, as at Entergy’s Vermont Yankee, FitzPatrick New York, and Pilgrim Massachusetts atomic reactors, as well as at a number of others owned by other nuclear utilities across the country.
Let’s hope Entergy does shut down Palisades, before it melts down. For NRC’s Confirmatory Order has shown, worse than ever, that ‘Nobody Really Cares’ about public health, safety, and the environment at the agency. In its collusion with Entergy to avoid any added costs, no matter how serious the resulting risks, the agency is now ‘Notoriously Rotten to the Core,’ with 'No Remaining Credibility.'
George Orwell and Adam Smith are spinning so fast in their graves, they should be connected to turbo-generators and hooked up to the electric grid. The residents of west Michigan, downwind and downstream from the dangerously age-degraded and non-competitive Palisades atomic reactor, are being gouged in order to perpetuate this worsening ‘game’ of radioactive Russian roulette on the Lake Michigan shore.”
Kamps has prepared a backgrounder, responding to the NRC Confirmatory Order, in the context of Palisades’ problem-plagued history, which has worsened significantly in recent years, as the 45-year-old atomic reactor descends ever more deeply into its “breakdown phase.”
Beyond Nuclear, a national watchdog group on the nuclear power industry, is based in Takoma Park, Maryland, just outside Washington, D.C. NRC's Region 3 headquarters, which issued the Confirmatory Order, is located in Lisle, Illinois, near Chicago. NRC's national headquaters, in Rockville, Maryland, is also just outside Washington, D.C.