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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
Dec082016

Beyond Nuclear statement on Entergy's announcement Palisades atomic reactor will close in 2018

News from Beyond Nuclear, For Immediate Release, Dec. 8, 2016
Contact: Kevin Kamps, Radioactive Waste Watchdog, Beyond Nuclear, and board member, Don't Waste Michigan, Kalamazoo chapter, cell 240-462-3216kevin@beyondnuclear.org; available for FaceTime interviews.
Kevin Kamps' statement:
"Entergy's announcement today that it will permanently shut down the Palisades atomic reactor by October 1, 2018 is most welcome to the large number of Michiganders, and beyond, who have fought so hard, for so long, to get it shut down. 
Palisades has the worst embrittled reactor pressure vessel of any atomic reactor in the U.S., so nearly two more years of operation is a frightening prospect for a catastrophic release of hazardous radioactivity due to pressurized thermal shock fracture of the vessel.
Also, two more years worth of high-level radioactive waste will be generated, for which we have no good solution. 
Palisades has also had countless security breaches, even since the 9/11 attacks, so the vulnerability to terrorism for two more years is also concerning.
We also have to remain vigilant that this good news isn't twisted into a nuclear hostage taking in Michigan. Just last week, Exelon Nuclear's lobbyists succeeded in their multi-year campaign to extort $2.35 billion from Illinois ratepayers, in order to keep open three atomic reactors that otherwise would have been closed. Also, in New York State, Governor Andrew Cuomo has in recent months inexplicably showered Exelon with $7.6 billion of ratepayer money, in order to keep four old, failing reactors operating for another 12 years. In both cases, jobs were cited as the reason why. We have to guard against such modern day nuclear robber barony at Palisades.
The good news is that, after permanent shutdown and removal of irradiated nuclear fuel from the reactor core, no more meltdown can happen, and no more high-level radioactive waste will be made.
Even after permanent shutdown, area residents and environmental watchdogs will have to remain vigilant, to make sure the dismantlement of the facilities, the clean up of the contaminated site and Lake Michigan sediments, and the management of the high-level radioactive waste on-site, are done safely and in the best possible way, both in regards to Palisades' workforce, and to area residents downwind and downstream.

 

In addition, a just transition must be put in place for both the Palisades workforce, as well as for the host community. Beyond Nuclear, Don't Waste Michigan, and others, so deeply concerned about Palisades for so long, have long pointed to renewable energy technologies such as wind, solar, and efficiency, as very promising alternatives to nuclear power, both for energy, and economic development, as well as for jobs. Of course, southwest Michigan's tourism and recreation economies, real estate and property values, and agricultural sector can now thrive and prosper, free from the radioactive stigma of an age-degraded, dirty and dangerous atomic reactor in their midst. The region can now better live up to its "Pure Michigan" advertisements.
But truth be told, there is a tremendous radioactive mess at Palisades that needs to be cleaned up, and high-level radioactive waste that must be safeguarded and isolated from the environment. This will provide a large number of jobs, for a long time to come. Who better to do this work than Palisades' current workforce, who know the site so well?
Regarding Entergy's offer of $10 million to southwest Michigan as economic development seed money, that is only two to three weeks' worth of net profits at Palisades, which has now operated for nearly a half-century, a decade of that under Entergy's ownership. Can't the multi-billion dollar corporation do better than that? After all, Entergy's CEO, Leo Denault, has made more than twice that himself in annual remuneration, as did his predecessor, J. Wayne Leonard.
Also, area ratepayers will see this as a welcome relief on their electric bills. As Tim Judson of Nuclear Information and Resource Service stated earlier this year, the Entergy Palisades-Consumers Energy Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) is the highest he has ever seen.
This has represented a gouging of ratepayers, and should never have been approved by the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) in the first place.
 
Another thing MPSC should never have approved was the raid on the Palisades decommissioning fund, to the tune of $300+ million. Now there is talk of returning some of that money to the decommissioning fund. We will have to watchdog Entergy at every turn during decommissioning, to make sure that workers and the public are protected, and that the badly contaminated site is completely cleaned up, including radioactively contaminated groundwater, soil, and Lake Michigan sediments.
And of course, we'll have to watchdog the high-level radioactive waste for the next million years. We have long called for Palisades' catastrophically vulnerable storage pool to be emptied, and the irradiated nuclear fuel transferred to Hardened On-Site Storage. But the dry casks used at Palisades since 1993 are of poor quality design and manufacture themselves. Some are even defective. And both dry cask storage pads at Palisades are in violation of Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) earthquake safety regulations, putting Lake Michigan at dire risk. But these poor quality casks are vulnerable to leakage over time, as well, simply due to corrosion and erosion. We will have to stay vigilant, and continue to call for HOSS, as close to the point of generation as possible, as safely as possible. Over 200 environmental groups from all 50 states, including numerous groups in Michigan, have called for this for the past 15 years now.
Importantly, the storage pool at Palisades must be maintained, albeit emptied of waste, even after decommissioning. This is so that in an emergency, if a dry cask has to be emptied, and its highly radioactive irradiated nuclear fuel transferred to a new dry cask, there is a place and way to do this. Once the pool is dismantled, we would be painted into a corner in this regard.
Last but not least, Palisades' closure, and the current dangers associated with its high-level radioactive waste storage pool and dry casks, should not be twisted into a call for export of the irradiated fuel in a rushed, unwise manner. We join with groups nationwide in continuing to oppose the proposed dump-site at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, on Western Shoshone Indian land, a scheme U.S. Rep. Fred Upton (R-St. Joe) has long championed in Congress. We also continue to oppose centralized interim storage, more accurately described as de facto permanent parking lot dumps. These too are most often targeted at low income, people of color communities, an environmental injustice, radioactive racism. Whether so-called interim storage, permanent disposal, and the risky shipments that would be required to move the wastes, decisions must be based on top notch scientific suitability, environmental justice, and free, fully informed consent-based principles. No current proposals meet such tests."

 

Monday
Nov212016

4 Arrested Protesting AIM Pipeline in New York State

As reported by Democracy Now!:

In New York state, four people were arrested Saturday protesting the construction of Spectra Energy’s AIM pipeline. The pipeline is slated to carry fracked gas only hundreds of feet from the aging Indian Point nuclear power plant and then under the Hudson River. The arrests came as more than 100 activists rallied at a construction site in Verplanck, New York. The pipeline has faced years of resistance from residents in New York state and Rhode Island. [Also see updates and alerts re: the resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline, at Beyond Nuclear's Human Rights website section.]

Tuesday
Oct112016

Resist Spectra solidarity action with Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, at AIM fracked gas pipeline near Indian Point

As reported by the Journal News, four Resist Spectra protectors occupied an AIM fracked gas pipeline for 16 hours, blocking construction just hundreds of feet from the Indian Point nuclear power plant, on the bank of the Hudson River near New York City.

The non-violent civil disobedience action, which ended with arrests and trespassing charges against the four, as well as their support team, was held on Indigenous Peoples Day, as a solidarity action in support of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's resistance to the Dakota Access crude oil pipeline in North Dakota.

Spectra's AIM fracked natural gas pipeline is located immediately adjacent to the two Indian Point reactors, near New York City. This raises the specter of a large-scale natural gas explosion and/or fire, plunging the Indian Point reactors and their high-level radioactive waste storage pools, into meltdown mode.

More than 20 million people live or work within a 50-mile radius of Indian Point, with little to no prospect of being able to evacuate in an emergency.

As documented by Dr. Ed Lyman of Union of Concerned Scientists in a 2004 report entitled "Chernobyl on the Hudson?", a catastrophic release of hazardous radioactivity would result -- depending on weather conditions -- is more than 40,000 acute radiation poisoning deaths; more than 500,000 latent cancer fatalities; and property damage measure in the trillions (yes, with a T!) of dollars.

Monday
Sep192016

Risk of another Chernobyl or Fukushima type accident plausible, experts say

Biggest-ever statistical analysis of historical accidents suggests that nuclear power is an underappreciated extreme risk and that major changes will be needed to prevent future disasters

A team of risk experts who have carried out the biggest-ever analysis of nuclear accidents warn that the next disaster on the scale of Chernobyl or Fukushima may happen much sooner than the public realizes.

Researchers at the University of Sussex, in England, and ETH Zurich, in Switzerland, have analysed more than 200 nuclear accidents, and – estimating and controlling for effects of industry responses to previous disasters – provide a grim assessment of the risk of nuclear power.

Their worrying conclusion is that, while nuclear accidents have substantially decreased in frequency, this has been accomplished by the suppression of moderate-to-large events.  They estimate that Fukushima- and Chernobyl-scale disasters are still more likely than not once or twice per century, and that accidents on the scale of the 1979 meltdown at Three Mile Island in the USA (a damage cost of about 10 Billion USD) are more likely than not to occur every 10-20 years.

As Dr Spencer Wheatley, the lead author, explains: “We have found that the risk level for nuclear power is extremely high.

“Although we were able to detect the positive impact of the industry responses to accidents such as Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, these did not sufficiently remove the possibility of extreme disasters such as Fukushima. To remove such a possibility would likely require enormous changes to the current fleet of reactors, which is predominantly second-generation technology.”

The studies, published in two papers in the journals Energy Research & Social Science and Risk Analysis, put fresh pressure on the nuclear industry to be more transparent with data on incidents.

“Flawed and woefully incomplete” public data from the nuclear industry is leading to an over-confident attitude to risk, the study warns.  The research team points to the fact that their own independent analysis contains three times as much data as that provided publicly by the industry itself. This is probably because the International Atomic Energy Agency, which compiles the reports, has a dual role of regulating the sector and promoting it.

The research team for this new study gathered their data from reports, academic papers, press releases, public documents and newspaper articles. The result is a dataset that is unprecedented – being twice the size of the next largest independent analysis. Further, the authors emphasize that the dataset is an important resource that needs to be continually developed and shared with the public.

Professor Benjamin Sovacool of the Sussex Energy Group at the University of Sussex, who co-authored the studies, says: “Our results are sobering. They suggest that the standard methodology used by the International Atomic Energy Agency to predict accidents and incidents – particularly when focusing on consequences of extreme events – is problematic. 

“The next nuclear accident may be much sooner or more severe than the public realizes.”

The team also call for a fundamental rethink of how accidents are rated, arguing that the current method (the discrete seven-point INES scale) is highly imprecise, poorly defined, and often inconsistent.

In their new analysis, the research team provides a cost in US dollars for each incident, taking into account factors such as destruction of property, the cost of emergency response, environmental remediation, evacuation, fines, and insurance claims. And for each death, they added a cost of $6 million, which is the figure used by the US government to calculate the value of a human life.

That new analysis showed that the Fukushima accident in 2011 and the Chernobyl accident in 1986 cost a combined $425 billion - five times the sum of all the other events put together.

However, these two extremes are rated 7 - the maximum severity level - on the INES scale. Fukushima alone would need a score of between 10 and 11 to represent the true magnitude of consequences.

Further, the authors emphasize that such frequency-severity statistical analysis of holistic consequences should be used as a complementary tool to the industry standard Probabilistic Safety Assessment, especially when aggregate consequences are of interest.

Professor Sovacool adds: “The results suggest that catastrophic accidents such as Chernobyl and Fukushima are not relics of the past. 

“Even if we introduce new nuclear technology, as long as older facilities remain operational—likely, given recent trends to extend permits and relicense existing reactors—their risks, and the aggregate risk of operating the global nuclear fleet, remain.” 

Finally, the authors emphasize that this work is not comparative in nature, i.e. it does not quantify the risks of other energy sources. It provides a risk assessment for nuclear power alone, thus informing a single criterion, for a single power source, in the selection of a portfolio of multiple power sources, where many criteria must be considered.

Fellow co-author Professor Didier Sornette stresses: “While our studies seem damning of the nuclear industry, other considerations and potential for improvement may actually make nuclear energy attractive in the future.”

The 15 most costly nuclear events analysed by the team are:

  1. Chernobyl, Ukraine (1986) - $259 billion
  2. Fukushima, Japan (2011) - $166 billion
  3. Tsuruga, Japan (1995) - $15.5 billion
  4. TMI, Pennsylvania, USA (1979) - $11 billion
  5. Beloyarsk, USSR (1977) - $3.5 billion
  6. Sellafield, UK (1969) - $2.5 billion
  7. Athens, Alabama, USA (1985) - $2.1 billion
  8. Jaslovske Bohunice, Czechoslovakia (1977) - $2 billion
  9. Sellafield, UK (1968) - $1.9 billion
  10. Sellafield, UK (1971) – $1.3 billion
  11. Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA (1986) - $1.2 billion
  12. Chapelcross, UK (1967) - $1.1 billion
  13. Chernobyl, Ukraine (1982) - $1.1 billion
  14. Pickering, Canada (1983) - $1 billion
  15. Sellafield, UK (1973) - $1 billion

An open-source database of all 216 analysed nuclear events is available online, containing dates, locations, cost in US dollars, and official magnitude ratings. This is the largest public database of nuclear accidents ever compiled.

Tuesday
Aug162016

AGREE & NIRS on FitzPatrick revelations: "Four+ year leak of highly radioactive waste – Worker radiation exposures -- Failure to shut down after safety system failure"

NRC file photo of FitzPatrick, a GE BWR Mark I located on the Lake Ontario shore in upstate NY.In a press release, Nuclear Information and Resource Serive (NIRS) and Alliance for a Green Economy (AGREE) have responded to revelations in the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) most recent Integrated Inspection Report at Entergy's (soon to be Exelon's) age-degraded, Fukushima twin design (General Electric Mark I boiling water reactor), the FitzPatrick atomic reactor on the shore of Lake Ontario in upstate New York.