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.



Beyond Nuclear challenges safety & security risks at Point Beach atomic reactors on Lake Michigan shore in WI

The Point Beach atomic reactors, north of Two Rivers, WI on the Lake Michigan shore.As reported by Chuck Quirmbach at Wisconsin Public Radio, regarding the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) annual performance review of the two-reactor Point Beach nuclear power plant, owned by NextEra/Florida Power & Light, on the Lake Michigan shore:

In Wisconsin, critics and proponents of nuclear power disagree on whether the state’s sole operating nuclear plant, Point Beach, located north of Two Rivers, meets safety standards to prevent the release of potentially harmful radiation in an emergency.

The precautions that have been put in place at Point Beach may still not ward off threats like bad weather, said Kevin Kamps from the non-profit group Beyond Nuclear.

"It doesn't necessarily take an earthquake and a tsunami to catastrophically wreck a nuclear power plant. In the Great Lakes region, you have ice storms and tornados," Kamps said. "All that you need to have is loss of the electric grid – the primary source of electricity for safety systems at a nuclear power plant – and simultaneous loss of the emergency diesel generators."

If a terrorist got into a nuclear power plant, Kamps said, there's not enough protection of the radioactive waste stored in in-plant pools,

"(In-plant pools) have no robust radiological containment around them. They are simply industrial warehouse-type buildings and are mega-catastrophes waiting to happen," he said.

Kamps advocates taking more spent fuel out of the pools and placing it into concrete and steel casks in fenced-off areas outside the plant.

Beyond Nuclear, along with hundreds of environmental groups across the U.S., representing all 50 states, actually calls for Hardened On-Site Storage of existing irradiated nuclear fuel, and reactor permanent shutdown of atomic reactors ASAP, to stop the generation of any more high-level radioactive waste.

Point Beach Unit 2, and Palisades in Michigan (owned by Entergy) -- on opposite sides of Lake Michigan -- are the two worst embrittled reactor pressure vessels (RPVs) in the U.S. The Great Lakes are the drinking water supply for 40 million people in the U.S. and Canada, as well as a large number of Native American First Nations. RPV embrittlement increases pressurized thermal shock risks, a pathway to core meltdown.

WI NPR's on air report also mentioned that Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps will attend the annual Midwest Renewable Energy Association festival, info. tabling and presenting "Nuclear Power Is Not the Answer" workshops alongside John LaForge of Nukewatch Wisconsin.


Our Lives are on the Line: Protestors Blockade Planned Pipeline Site Near Nuclear Plant Outside NYC

As reported by Democracy Now!:

In Peekskill, New York, just about an hour north of New York City, residents have launched a blockade in efforts to stop the construction of a gas pipeline slated to run only hundreds of feet from the aging Indian Point nuclear power plant. The proposed project has sparked concerns from residents and nuclear experts that a pipeline break could cause a catastrophic nuclear disaster that would threaten the entirety of New York City. The pipeline is being built by Spectra Energy and is officially known as the Algonquin Incremental Market Project, or AIM pipeline. Well, only hours ago, Peekskill residents and activists escalated the campaign to stop this pipeline’s construction by installing a fully sustainable shipping container at the entrance of Spectra’s work yard—complete with two activists living inside [see photo, above]. Democracy Now! was there as the blockade was launched. (Emphasis added)

The video of the news broadcast, as well as the transcript, are posted on Democracy Now!'s website.

Democracy Now! interviews Paul Blanch, an expert on nuclear power safety with decades of experience. Blanch and other interviewees discuss the risks to 20 million people within a 50-mile radius of Indian Point, should the pipeline release high-pressure fracked natural gas, and/or explode.

The interview also mentions the emergency petition just filed by Friends of the Earth (FOE) at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), seeking to block Indian Point Unit 2's restart next month, as well as to force the shutdown of Unit 3 for an emergency inspection. FOE demands assurance that the root cause of unprecedented levels of safety-significant bolt degradation in Unit 2's reactor core be understood and addressed, before reactor restart. FOE also demands that Indian Point's owner, Entergy Nuclear, be required by NRC to inspect the currently operating Unit 3 reactor for similar, or perhaps worse, bolt degradation.


Indian Point and the Mystery of the Missing Bolts

Arnie Gundersen serves as Chief Engineer at Fairewinds Associates, Inc.As reported by Fairewinds Energy Education:

Missing bolts and “nuclear reactor” are words one generally does not want in the same sentence. However, when more than one quarter of the bolts inside an atomic reactor core go missing, the risk and concern multiply.  Listen to this breaking news Fairewinds Energy Education podcast of a formal press conference hosted by Friends of the Earth regarding its Emergency Petition to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to Prohibit Restart of Indian Point Unit 2 and Inspect Indian Point Unit 3.

In this press conference you’ll hear Damon Moglen, Sr. Strategic Advisor with Friends of the Earth, Attorney Richard Ayers, Founder of the the Ayers Law Group, Arnie Gundersen, Chief Engineer with Fairewinds Associates [see photo, above left], and David Freeman, former chair of the NY Power Authority, the prior owner of Indian Point Unit 3, and an advisor to Friends of the Earth.

In addition to the audio recording of the press conference, Fairewinds Energy Education has also posted two reports:

Filed with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission: Friends of the Earth's Emergency Petition to Prohibit Restart of Indian Point Unit 2 and Inspect Indian Point Unit 3, May 24, 2016, Friends of the Earth

The Mystery of the Missing Bolts: New York City's Stricken Indian Point Nuclear Plant, May 24, 2016, Friends of the Earth and Fairewinds Associates.

(Gundersen has served as Beyond Nuclear's expert witness in NRC proceedings at the proposed new Fermi 3 reactor in MI, as well as the age-degraded reactors at Palisades, MI and Davis-Besse, OH.)


NRC lets Entergy get away with murder at Palisades atomic reactor

NRC file photo, showing Entergy Nuclear's Palisades atomic reactor, located on the Lake Michigan shore in Covert, MichiganBeyond 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.


Concerns spread over "Baffling Reactor Vessel Bolts" in aging U.S. PWRs

This image, used by Lochbaum at UCS in his "All Things Nuclear" blog post, as well as his NIRS-hosted Webinar, shows the location of former plates and baffle plates at the heart of PWR reactor pressure vessels. The baffle-former bolts play a critical safety role in directly cooling water flow through the reactor core.As reported by Aaron Larson at POWER, degraded baffle-former bolts at the core of U.S. pressurized water reactors (PWRs) has raised the specter of an industry-wide safety problem. As the article reports, Salem Unit 1 in NJ has at least 18 bolts exhibiting degradation, upon visual inspection. Indian Point Unit 2 in NY, however, exhibited 227 degraded bolts, upon more rigorous Ultrasonic inspection -- a whopping 27% of the bolts there.

Such problems with bolts, the article reports, date back to the 1980s in France. However, it stands to reason that age-related degradation -- specifically, irradiation-assisted stress corrosion cracking -- contributes significantly to the bolt problems.

Both inspections -- at Salem 1 and Indian Point 2 -- resulted from 20-year license extension aging management plans. In the case of Indian Point, this was forced by the State of New York Attorney General's office, leading the state's intervention against Indian Point's license extension.

Despite the problems found at Indian Point 2, Entergy Nuclear has refused to inspect Indian Point Unit 3 to determine how bad the degradation is there. Nor does it plan to until 2019.

As reported by POWER above, PSEG has moved up its Ultrasonic inspections from 2019 to now, given the disconcerting bolt degradation revealed upon visual inspection.

As explained on April 28th by Dave Lochbaum at Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), on a Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) sponsored Webinar (entitled "Indian Point's Baffling Reactor Vessel Bolts"), baffles and formers play a critical safety role, in directing coolant flow through PWR reactor cores:

April 28, 2016. NIRS webinar on investigation of reactor pressure vessel bolts at New York's Indian Point reactors, which revealed numerous deficiencies and failures. The webinar examines those failures and explores the implications for reactors across the U.S. and world. Full video/audio of webinar. Slides only from presentation by David Lochbaum of Union of Concerned Scientists.

In an April 7 blog post at All Things Nuclear, Lochbaum praised NY Governor Cuomo and NY Attorney General Schneiderman for thier leadership in the Indian Point license extension interventions, that forced the baffle-former bolt inspections, that revealed the widespread degradation.