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.



When "FirstEnergy says PUC vote assures Davis-Besse operation for several years," Beyond Nuclear begs to differ

This still images comes from a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission video. The yellow arrow shows a sub-surface crack in Davis-Besse's concrete containment Shield Building wall. The cracking was revealed during an October 2011 reactor lid replacement. The cracking grows by a half-inch, or more, in length, every time it freezes out, due to Ice-Wedging Crack Propagation, due to water locked in the walls by FENOC's 2012 "White Wash" weather sealant of the Shield Building exterior, 40 years too late.In an article entitled "FirstEnergy says PUC vote assures Davis-Besse operation for several years," Nucleonics Week reporter Michael McAuliffe quoted Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps:

A coalition of anti-nuclear and environmental groups including Beyond Nuclear was also critical of the PUC decision.

“PUCO’s $4 billion bailout to FirstEnergy will mostly go towards padding the pockets of company executives and shareholders, not to critically needed repairs of safety systems, structures, and components,” Beyond Nuclear spokesman Kevin Kamps said in a March 31 statement.

[FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company, FENOC, spokesman] Colafella said “there are currently no major capital improvements needed at Davis-Besse.” But the coalition said that among needed plant maintenance is repairing a shield building which has a multitude of cracks. The shield building protects the reactor from impact by external objects.

Kamps questioned whether Davis-Besse will be able to remain in operation for the eight years covered by the plan and said in an April 4 interview that FirstEnergy does not “plan on plowing much of their bailout back into maintenance, and the NRC didn’t require it.” More.


Piling on yet more catastrophic risks at Indian Point

Pipe being laid near by energy company Spectra near the Indian Point nuclear plant in Westchester County, New York Photograph: Sam Thielman As reported by the Guardian, a 42-inch diameter natural gas pipeline under construction within 105 feet of the emergency diesel generator fuel storage depot, and within 400 feet of the electrical switchyard, is but the latest potentially catastrophic risk at Entergy Nuclear's Indian Point twin reactors. 

20 million people live or work within a 50-mile radius.

As quoted in the article, nuclear engineer Paul Blanch said:

“I’m not anti-nuke or anything like that. I’ve been in the business for 50 years and I’ve never seen anything as egregious as this.”

Oil industry veteran Richard Kuprewicz, who conducts risk analyses through his company Accufacts, and sits on PHMSA’s [the U.S. Department of Transportation's Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration] own hazardous liquid pipeline safety standards committee, had this to say:

Kuprewicz performs assessments of that kind regularly and his own assessment of a rupture next to the switchyard where the pipeline will run is blunt. Were a pipeline to rupture, “the heat radiation and the impact zones are so great that with high heat flux they would actually melt the power lines”, he said.

If both the power lines bringing primary grid electricity into Indian Point to run safety and cooling systems were to be disabled, in an explosion or fire, and the backup emergency diesel generators too, the reactors would be plunged into station blackout. In such a Fukushima-like scenario, the reactor cores could melt down with hours.

As New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has asked, what would New York City residents do then, swim to Jersey? The impossibility of quickly evacuating 20 million people from the metro New York City region is a primary reason why Cuomo has long advocated for Indian Point's permanent shutdown. Both reactors are currently operating on expired licenses.


Belgium 'beefs up security' at nuclear plants

As reported by Agence France-Presse:

Brussels (AFP) - Belgium security forces tightened security at nuclear plants across the country after deadly attacks in the capital city of Brussels, the Belga news agency said.

"Surveillance is stepped up with added security measures at nuclear plants," the agency reported.

"Vehicles are being checked with police and army on site," the agency added.

In February, investigators probing the Paris attacks found video footage of a senior Belgian nuclear official at the property of a key suspect. (emphasis added)


UCS's Lochbaum: "2,000+ words on open phase condition at Oconee"

If a picture is worth a thousand words...

The Union of Concerned Scientists' Nuclear Safety Project Director, David Lochbaum, writes:

Last December, a worker discovered an open phase condition on a backup power source for the Unit 3 reactor at Oconee. The NRC dispatched a special team to the site to investigate. UCS described the near miss in commentary posted to our blog at

[Beyond Nuclear has also posted Lochbaum's previous analysis, with his permission, at the entry below.]

Since then, I found two pictures of the open phase condition at Oconee. This picture clearly shows the open phase condition [see photo, top left].

The open phase condition resulted from the broken connection flapping in the breeze in the center of the photograph. The wire is a seven strand cable (six aluminum conducting wires around a central steel wire).

This photograph shows the broken wires on the right and where they were supposed to be connected on the left [see photo, bottom left].

The seven strand cable is connected via four bolts, shown on the left. Oconee's owner theorized that movement of the cable back and forth over years broke all seven wires, similar to how bending a paper clip back and forth eventually breaks it.

This cable was one of three cables carrying the three-phase electrical current from the 230 kilovolt switchyard to a transformer that reduced its voltage level for use inside the plant.

Conveniently, workers found a similarly damaged cable on Oconee Unit 1 a week later. It was convenient in that if the severed wires had been found the same day that the problem on Unit 3 was found, at least one of the reactors would have had to be shut down. But by waiting to find the problem on Unit 1 until after the problem on Unit 3 was fixed, the reactors could continue operating. Very, very convenient. Suspiciously convenient.

The open phase condition problem that the seven NRC engineers seek to resolve is that existing monitoring of three-phase electrical systems does not always detect problems. For example, it's not known how long this broken cable floated free at Oconee before a worker noticed it. The systems that are supposed to continuously monitor the three phases have a design defect that essentially blinds them to certain single-phase failures. That's the problem the seven NRC engineers petitioned the NRC to fix.

The original photographs are in the NRC's ADAMS thing under ML16027A069.


Dave Lochbaum


UCS's Lochbaum: "The NRC Seven: Petitioning the NRC over Safety"

Project Mercury Astronauts (Source: Wikipedia)The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) has posted commentary by its Nuclear Safety Project Director, David Lochbaum, on the 2.206 (emergency enforcement) petition submitted to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) by seven private citizens who happen to work for the NRC.

Lochbaum's "All Things Nuclear" blog begins:

Roy Mathew, Sheila Way, Swagata Som, Gurcharan Singh Matharu, Tania Martinez Navedo, Thomas Koshy, and Kenneth Miller—the NRC Seven— are not names as well known as Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, John Glenn, Gus Grissom, Wally Schirra, Alan Shepard, and Deke Slayton—the Mercury Seven astronauts—but their courage and service to the country are comparable.

The NRC Seven filed a petition with their employee seeking to resolve a safety problem affecting every operating nuclear plant in the United States, and the handful of new reactors currently under construction.

The Mercury Seven wore special gear to protect them from the harsh environment they could encounter during their journeys.

Hopefully, the NRC Seven will not encounter a harsh environment in response to their efforts to protect millions of Americans from a longstanding nuclear safety problem.

Lochbaum's blog then summarizes the key milestones leading to the NRC Seven submitting their petition, beginning with the reverlation of the problem on January 30, 2012 with an "open phase event" at Exelon's Byron nuclear power plant in Illinois.

An "open phase event," in short, involves dysfunction in a nuclear power plant's electrical systems, structures, and components essential for running vital safety and cooling systems, such as the Emergency Core Cooling System (ECCS). In certain circumstances, the ECCS is the last line of defense against reactor core meltdown, and catastrophic radioactivity release.

Reuters,, EcoWatch, and Utility Dive have reported on this story.