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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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Wednesday
Apr152015

Public confronts NRC and Entergy over Palisades' safety and security risks

Entergy Nuclear's Palisades atomic reactor, located in Covert, MI on th Lake Michigan shore of s.w. MI.As reported by NBC 5 Chicago investigative reporter Chris Coffey, concerned residents of the region and environmental group representatives aren't buying the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's and Entergy's claims that the Palisades atomic reactor is safe and secure. Coffey interviewed Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps, who stated that the problem-plagued Palisades should have been permanently shutdown a very long time ago.

And yet, the NRC is complicit in allowing Entergy to run it into the ground, with vitally needed safety repairs apparently permanently postponed.

Rebecca Thiele at WMUK (NPR radio) also quoted Kevin.

Alex Mitchell at the Kalamazoo Gazette/MLive, and WWMT (TV 3 Kalamazoo), also reported on this story.

Tuesday
Apr142015

Risks of age-degraded steam generator tubes at Palisades

The innards of a steam generator revealed: thousands of very thin-walled tubesBy a letter dated April 14, 2015 the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) gave a passing grade to Entergy Nuclear Palisades' age-degraded steam generator tubes.

This, despite the fact that on March 19, 2015, 100 gallons of radioactive tritium had "migrated" (a.k.a. leaked) from Palisades' steam generator tubes, through various other systems, structures and components at the plant, and out into the environment.

This, after Entergy Nuclear's top official at Palisades, Site Vice President Anthony Vitale, in summer 2014 had assured concerned local residents and environmental group representatives, including from Beyond Nuclear, that the persistent problem of tritium leaks at Palisades had been solved.

A cascading failure of age-degraded steam generator tubes could cause a Loss-of-Coolant-Accident (LOCA), core meltdown, and catastrophic radioactivity release.

NRC missed dangrous steam generator tube degradation at San Onofre Units 2 & 3 in CA, until a tube burst, resulting in a radioactivity release to the environment. Fortunately, the single tube failure didn't spread to other tubes, and risk a LOCA. However, when inspections were finally conducted, the extent of tube degradation (in replacement steam generators that were only a year or two old) was so severe, Southern California Edison -- under public pressure, as by Friends of the Earth and the grassroots anti-nuclear movement there -- simply decided to permanently shut both reactors.

But Palisades' steam generators are not brand new. They are replacement steam generators, installed in 1991. But they need to be replaced again, as documented in a spring 2006 presentation by Palisades' previous owner, Consumers Energy, to the Michigan Public Service Commission.

(In Feb. 2000, one of the reactors at Indian Point, NY had an age-degraded steam generator tube failure. David Lochbaum, the Director of the Nuclear Safety Project at Union of Concerned Scientists, has cited it as a prime example of "break-down phase" risks.)

Beyond Nuclear's expert witness in Palisades proceedings, Arnie Gundersen (Chief Engineer, Fairewinds Associates, Inc.) has confirmed that he knows of no other atomic reactor that has had to replace its steam generators twice.

But Entergy has backed away from the promise to replace Palisades' degraded steam generators. At an Entergy open house in South Haven in summer 2013, Entergy's two top officials at Palisades -- Site Vice President Anthony Vitale, and Plant Manager Tony Williams -- together told Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps that there was no plan to replace the degraded steam generators.

And now, NRC itself has blessed Palisades' degraded steam generators as "good to go," yet again.

Monday
Apr132015

Entergy's slide show regarding long deferred primary coolant system weld inspections

On April 14, 2015, Entergy will meet with NRC at the agency's HQ to discuss long deferred primary coolant system weld inspections.

Here is a link to NRC's meeting announcement.

Here is a link to Entergy's slide show.

Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear, and Michael Keegan as well as Alice Hirt of Don't Waste Michigan, attended this meeting by phone, and provided verbal testimony during the public comment period.

Friday
Apr102015

Environmental coalition rebuts NRC staff and Entergy attacks re: "ductile tearing" RPV risks at Palisades

The environmental coalition filed its Reply in support of its March 9 intervention petition, rebuttng NRC staff and Entergy attacks filed on April 3rd. The March 9 intervention regards Entergy's application for regulatory relief, in the form of an EMA (equivalent margins analysis) in lieu of standard 10CFR50 Appendix G requirements, which it can no longer meet.

This second battlefront in the war over Palisades' age-degraded reactor pressure vessel (RPV) overlaps with, and is parallel to, the intervention initiated by the same coalition on Dec. 1, 2014, re: Palisades' application for regulatory relief against neutron irradiation embrittlement of its RPV, and consequent pressurized thermal shock (PTS) risks of a meltdown.

Thursday
Apr092015

Safety-significant reactor vessel flaws reported worldwide 

NRC flle photo of the problem-plagued Palisades atomic reactor, in Covert, MI on the Lake Michgan shoreline. Van Buren County to the east in the background is one of Michigan's most vital agricultural areas. Lake Michigan is a part of the drinking water supply for 40 million people downstream in 8 U.S. states, 2 Canadian provinces, and a large number of Native American First Nations.A rash of potentially risk-significant flaws have been reported around the world recently, in reactor vessels old and new. The listing below is far from exhaustive, but merely shows news from recent days.

Age-degradation in old reactors

Beyond Nuclear is challenging reactor pressure vessel (RPV) degradation at Entergy Nuclear's Palisades atomic reactor in Michigan (see photo, left). On Thursday, April 9th Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps will testify at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) annual performance review at Palisades. The formal meeting begins at 6pm Eastern time, with public comments at the end. A call-in number has been provided for those who would like to listen-in, or even speak out during the public comment session: Teleconference Bridge Number: 888-989-4611; Pass code: 9165034.

The over-exposure of 192 Palisades workers to, on average, 2.8 Rem radiation doses during the short, month-long Control Rod Drive Mechanism (CRDM) replacement project at Palisades will be a hot topic for discussion, as that "White Finding" (of supposedly "low to moderate" safety significance, according to NRC) has resulted in increased NRC regulatory oversight for the foreseeable future.

On Friday, April 10th, Beyond Nuclear's attorney at Palisades, Terry Lodge of Toledo, will also be filing yet another major legal brief in the ongoing environmental coalition legal intervention against any further weakening of safety standards regarding Palisades' RPV embrittlement. Palisades has the worst neutron-embrittled RPV in the U.S., at risk of meltdown and catastrophic radioactivity release due to pressurized thermal shock (PTS).

Beyond Nuclear's expert witness at Palisades, Arnie Gundersen, the Chief Engineer at Fairewinds Associates, Inc. in Burlington, Vermont, has prepared a short, humorous educational video about the most serious subject of RPV embrittlement and PTS risks, "Nuclear Crack Down?".

On April 19th, a fundraiser will be held in Kalamazoo, Michigan to support the intervention.

See Beyond Nuclear's media release for more details on activities around Palisades. (For an email version of this press release with functioning hot links, email kevin@beyondnuclear.org and he'll send you a copy.)

In its RPV embrittlement legal filings, Beyond Nuclear and Lodge have raised warnings emanating from Greenpeace Belgium, and the Belgian nuclear regulatory agency, about extensive micro-cracking discovered in two Belgian atomic reactors. Greenpeace Belgium issued a press release in mid-February about these dire warnings. Belgium's nuclear regulatory chief, and Greenpeace's expert witness, have called for worldwide testing of all atomic RPVs. Beyond Nuclear has joined their call for this in the U.S., beginning at Palisades.

But Palisades isn't the only reactor with CRDM or RPV penetration problems...

As reported in an NRC "Event Notification" on April 6th, the Braidwood Unit 1 atomic reactor in IL has an "indication" of degradation at a control rod drive mechanism on the reactor vessel closure lid.

On April 8th, another NRC Event Notification reported reactor pressure vessel closure lid degradation at the Shearon Harris atomic reactor in North Carolina.

Problems in proposed new reactors

Weak spots in the steel of the reactor vessel, and its closure lid, at the proposed new EPR ("European Pressurized Reactor") at Flamanville, France, have been found, the French nuclear regulatory agency ASN has reported.  The weak spots are due to a high concentration of carbon in the steel, which makes the vessels vulnerable to cracking.

Other EPR construction projects worldwide have been warned, such as the highly contentious one at Olkiluoto, Finland.

Both the Flamanville and Olkiluoto construction project were already in serious trouble due to major cost overruns and long schedule delays before this latest news. Areva, the EPR vessel manufacturer, was already in financial "meltdown" mode before this news, losing billions per year.

At one point, seven EPRs (the same design, but instead dubbed "Evolutionary Power Reactors" here, for some strange reason) were proposed to be built in the U.S. (and yet more in Canada, such as four at Darlington, Ontario), with the flagship at Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plant on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. But that proposal was stopped when the American partner, Constellation Nuclear of Baltimore, balked at the $880 million credit subsidy fee the Obama administration Office of Management and Budget, and Department of Energy, were requiring for a $7.5 billion federal loan guarantee. With the termination of Calvert Cliffs 3, the other EPRs proposed in North America were either outright canceled, or indefinitely postponed.

The Wall Street Journal has also reported on this EPR story.