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Freeze Our Fukushimas

"Freeze Our Fukushimas" is a national campaign created by Beyond Nuclear to permanently suspend the operations of the most dangerous class of reactors operating in the United States today; the 23 General Electric Mark I Boiling Water Reactors, the same flawed design as those that melted down at Fukushima-Daiichi in Japan.

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Thursday
Oct152015

Entergy announces early closure of Pilgrim nuclear power station in 2019 but continued operation means a more dangerous nuke in the interim

Entergy announced that because its Pilgrim nuclear power station in Plymouth, MA is losing more than $40 million annually, it has decided to close the reactor no later than June 1, 2019 rather than 2032 as relicensed. That's not half the story. Beyond Nuclear issued its statement the same day Entergy announced the project closure. 

Now that the profit motive is increasingly lost upon nuclear power's misadventures, the danger from the continued operation of reactors like the  Pilgrim  is amplified.

The New Orleans-based nuclear utility is closing  the 728 megawatt General Electric boiling water reactor early not only because of its failing economics but also the mounting  costs of operating a  fixer-up Fukushima-style reactor. However, in order to run the reactor nearly four more years with one more refuleing, Entergy would have to get permission from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to operate the reactor without a major required safety modification that is now part of Pilgrim's operating license put there by a federal Order issued by the Commission on June 6, 2013 and finalized on August 19, 2015.

Entergy's effort to stanch Pilgrim's financial hemorraghing means that the company will try to avoid a costly upgrade (in the range of $15 million) to its fatally flawed GE Mark I containment system; a system identical to those that failed under severe accident conditions at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station. The first  modification (Phase 1) for a "severe accident capable" containment vent is required to be installed before the reactor would be allowed to restart following its May 2017 refueling outage. Entergy may in fact permanently close sooner (Summer 2017) rather than risk a fight.

Stay tuned.

 

Friday
Sep042015

A Fukushima Lesson Unlearned: NRC scraps public rulemaking on weak GE containments

The United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) typically begins its narrative on the “lessons learned” from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe with Japan’s March 11, 2011  accident. Not surprisingly, the agency has avoided addressing the most critical lesson recognized in the accident’s official investigative report by Japan’s National Diet. In their finding, the unfolding radiological catastrophe is “manmade” and the result of “willful negligence” of government, regulator and industry colluding to protect Tokyo Electric Power Company’s financial interests.  Likewise, here in the US, addressing identical reactor vulnerabilities remain subject to a convoluted corporate-government strategy of “keep away” with public safety as the “monkey in the middle” going back more than four decades and, for now, three nuclear meltdowns later.

More on Enformable    http://enformable.com/2015/09/a-fukushima-lesson-unlearned-nrc-scraps-public-rulemaking-on-weak-ge-containments/

 

Friday
Jan232015

Press release: Public health and safety issues of U.S. "Fukushimas" unresolved

TAKOMA PARK, MD -- The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has rejected a Beyond Nuclear petition signed by 10,000 members of the U.S. public that called for the agency to suspend the operation of the country’s vulnerable “Fukushima” style nuclear reactors. The emergency enforcement petition asked the NRC to suspend operating licenses at the country’s now 22 remaining General Electric Mark I boiling water reactors identical to Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors units 1, 2 and 3 that exploded and melted down following the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

The petition was originally filed on April 13, 2011. It took the agency four years of deliberations behind closed doors before issuing its decision, which is published in today’s Federal Register.

Read the full press release in PDF here. Feel free to circulate to your media outlets and activist lists.

Wednesday
Jan212015

Four years later, NRC rejects Beyond Nuclear and 10,000+ co-petitioners' call to close Fukushima-style reactors

After nearly four years of behind closed doors deliberations, on January 15, 2015, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued its “Final Director’s Decision” rejecting the April 13, 2011 emergency enforcement petition filed by Beyond Nuclear along with more than 10,000 co-petitioners from around the country. The public emergency enforcement petition called for the immediate suspension of the continued operation of the General Electric Mark I boiling water reactors in the U.S. that are identical to Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors units 1, 2 and 3 that exploded and melted down following the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

The NRC makes its best case for dismissing the petition by arguing that “each of the Petitioner’s requests has been addressed through other actions.”  We acknowledge that after four years a portion of the actions that we requested in April 2011 have been taken at some of these reactors. However, we strongly disagree with the NRC’s overall conclusion that each and every action request is addressed and that the public health and safety hazard is resolved such that the petition can be legitimately dismissed in total. We remain concerned that the agency is not capable of effective regulation and enforcement given the long standing nature of the Mark I reactor hazards and a recalcitrant nuclear industry that first considers its financial margins over public safety margins.

Regrettably, we recognize that under existing NRC provisions (Chapter 10 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulation Part 2.206) the public has absolutely no recourse to appeal a Director’s Decision to the Commission level or legally challenge Mark I design vulnerability and its operational hazards in a court of law. This denial of due process comes in spite of the fact that agency orders and industry corrective actions referenced in dismissing the petitioner are inadequate half measures that need not be fully implemented for years still to come, if ever. In critical safety areas for the Mark I, the proposed corrective actions credited in the Director’s Decision are not even conceptually finalized nor approved by the regulator as we approach the fourth anniversary of the nuclear catastrophe. Moreover, there are numerous agency staff non-concurrences on how to even proceed with post-Fukushima action plans.

Realistically, the expenditure of public interest time and resources in preparing and arguing these emergency enforcement petitions needs to be seen as an effort to build a public record of the NRC’s extreme bias to promote and protect the nuclear industry agenda. Even one of the NRC’s own Administrative Law Judges, Alan S. Rosenthal, after looking into agency claims that any public petitioner can make their case through the emergency enforcement petition process acknowledged, “at least where truly substantive relief is being sought (i.e., some affirmative administrative action taken with respect to the licensee or license), there should be no room for a belief on the requester’s part that the pursuit of such a course is either being encouraged by Commission officialdom or has a fair chance of success.”  [See “Additional Opinion of Judge Rosenthal,” Memorandum and Order (Denying Petitions for Hearing), ASLBP No. 12-918-01-EA-BD01, July10, 2012, at page 10 of 20].

In a post-Fukushima Japan, public and political opposition continue to maintain “zero nuclear” power in the country. Most recently, rather than face the mounting economic costs of safety backfits, the Japanese nuclear industry has chosen to permanently close and decommission two of its remaining four Mark I reactors, not counting Fukushima Daiichi Units 1 through 5 and the now permanently closed Unit 6 ( a Mark II boiling water reactor). Conversely, here in the U.S., the NRC has again distinguished itself with the dubious justification for the continued operation of the oldest and most dangerous class of nuclear reactors in the world---the majority here in this country.

Any one of the hazards cited for suspension of the operating licenses in the April 2011 petition serves as ample reason for why the GE Mark I reactors need to be promptly and permanently shuttered.  But a primary focus remains on the threat of catastrophic failure of the Mark I containment under severe accident conditions.

The petitioners remain concerned that because the GE Mark I containment system is only 1/6th the size by volume of a typical pressurized water reactor like Three Mile Island it will not reliably serve to "contain" the tremendous pressures, extreme heat, explosive hydrogen gas and highly radioactive releases associated with an accident involving reactor core damage. In fact, this was demonstrated by a 100% failure rate of the Mark I containment systems for Fukushima Daiichi Units 1, 2 and 3 which were operating at full power at the time of the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The current action plan is  a rehash of a 1989 "fix" to deliberately vent a nuclear accident to the environment by temporarily defeating the containment concept to save it from permanent rupture. Moreover, the current NRC order to improve the reliability of containment venting systems similar to those that failed Fukushima, need not be fully implemented by industry until 2019.

Ironically, when the NRC's Japan Lessons Learned Task Force reviewed the nuclear catastrophe for recommending modifications to the U.S. Fukushima-style reactors, the staff concluded that what was really needed was not only an enhanced hardened containment vent for the controlled release of heat, pressure and explosive gas but requiring the re-institution of the defense-in-depth concept to more reliably contain the high-level radioactive releases that would also be generated by the nuclear accident. On November 29, 2012, the Japan Lessons Learned Task Force recommended that the Commission issue an Order to all GE Mark I and Mark II boiling water reactor operators to promptly install hardened containment vents with the engineered radiation filters as a "cost-benefited substantial safety enhancement." The nuclear industry vigorously opposed the additional radiation filter concept on economic grounds and "unintended consequences" and successfully lobbied the five-member Commission by majority vote to reject the filter recommendation on containment vents. The Commission instructed the NRC staff to take up consideration of the installation of radiation filters  in a proposed rulemaking and gather independent scientific expert experience as well as public and industry comments. However, in December 2014, the NRC rulemaking staff reversed course for considering the addition of external radiation filters and now seeks to abandon the rulemaking process effectively locking out public and independent expert input.

Our common struggle for real public safety, environmental protection and energy independence remains to permanently closing down an inherently dangerous atomic power industry.

Keep your eyes on the prize and hold on.

Thursday
Dec112014

Press release: Federal Nuclear Regulator Opts Not To Reconsider Critical Safety Enhancements at U.S. “Fukushima” Reactors

NEWS FROM BEYOND NUCLEAR

For immediate release: Thursday, December 11, 2014

Contact: Paul Gunter, Director, Reactor Oversight Project: 301-270-2209 (o) 301-523-0201 (cell)

Federal Nuclear Regulator Opts Not To Reconsider Critical Safety Enhancements at U.S. “Fukushima” Reactors

Decision designed to save industry money but exclude experts and public 

TAKOMA PARK, MD -- The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has buckled to industry pressure and will recommend that the Commission disallow independent experts and the public from participating in a process to reconsider minimal but critical safety enhancements at the nation’s Fukushima-style nuclear power plants.

The NRC staff today said that a rulemaking proposed by the NRC Commission to further analyze filtered venting for containment protection and radiation release reduction following a severe accident is “not necessary.”  The nuclear industry has vehemently opposed the installation of external filtered containment vents on the basis of cost and “unintended consequences.” 

The NRC staff had recommended the installation of filters as a “cost-benefited substantial safety enhancement,” but the Commissioners instead ordered the installation of containment vents without radiation filters and had instructed the staff to pursue a “proposed rulemaking” to re-analyze the GE containment filtering strategy.

There are 31 GE Mark I and Mark II boiling water reactors operating today in 14 states with the same undersized containment design flaw as those units that exploded and melted down in Fukushima, Japan.

“The NRC is more interested in filtering out the truth about these vulnerable Fukushima-style reactors than filtering the radioactive releases,” said Paul Gunter, Director of Reactor Oversight Project at Beyond Nuclear, who is pursuing independent expert and public support for the filtered containment vents. “The NRC is gambling to save the industry some millions of dollars in safety retrofits against potentially hundreds of billions in damages and human suffering following that next nuclear accident,” Gunter said.

A July 24, 2014 report by a committee of the National Research Council with the National Academies on lessons learned from the Fukushima disaster criticized the NRC for significantly under-estimating the likely costs of a Fukushima-style accident using the Peach Bottom, PA GE Mark I reactor as a theoretical test case. While the NRC put the figure at $6 billion, the committee report concluded the cost would be more than $200 billion.

“There is growing evidence that the NRC is not only ignoring the consequences and real costs of a severe nuclear accident by abandoning a reasonable safety upgrade,” Gunter added. “The agency is also ignoring the input of independent experts from such prestigious institutions as the National Research Council. The agency is demonstrating gross abandonment of its regulatory responsibilities in order to shield an economically beleaguered and inherently dangerous nuclear industry,” he concluded.

BACKGROUND

In March 2013, the Commission majority rejected a staff November 26, 2012 recommendation to order GE reactor operators to install external engineered radiation filters on severe accident capable containment vents as a “cost-benefited substantial safety enhancement.” NRC’s extensive documentation and recommendation is found in “Consideration of Additional Requirements for Containment Venting Systems for Boiling Water Reactors with Mark I and Mark II Containments,” (SECY 2012-0157).   

Instead, the Commission ordered the installation of containment vents without radiation filters. The Commissioners instructed the staff to pursue a “proposed rulemaking” to re-analyze the GE containment filtering strategy. The process opened an opportunity for the public and independent experts to participate in analyzing how operators plan to reliably manage the extremely high pressure, extreme heat and explosive gases while keeping the structure intact and still containing harmful levels of radioactivity during a severe accident.

A July 24, 2014, report by a committee of the National Research Council with the National Academies entitled “Lessons Learned from the Fukushima Nuclear Accident for Improving Safety at U.S. Nuclear Plants” investigated the implications of the Fukushima nuclear accident for U.S. reactors. Appendix L of the committee report “Factoring the Cost of Severe Nuclear Accidents into Backfit Analysis” identified that the NRC severe accident analysis has significantly low-balled its $6 billion estimate for a hypothetical Fukushima-style nuclear accident at the Peach Bottom GE Mark I reactor in Pennsylvania. The National Academies committee estimated the cost to be more than $200 billion. 

The committee report concludes, “that severe accidents such as occurred at the Fukushima Daiichi plant can have large costs and other consequences that are not considered in USNRC backfit analyses. These include national economic disruption, anxiety and depression within affected populations, and deterioration of social institutions arising from a loss of trust in governmental organizations.”

Please download and feel free to circulate a PDF copy of the press release here.

 

Beyond Nuclear aims to educate and activate the public about the connections between nuclear power and nuclear weapons and the need to abandon both to safeguard our future. Beyond Nuclear advocates for an energy future that is sustainable, benign and democratic. The Beyond Nuclear team works with diverse partners and allies to provide the public, government officials, and the media with the critical information necessary to move humanity toward a world beyond nuclear. Beyond Nuclear: 6930 Carroll Avenue, Suite 400, Takoma Park, MD 20912. Info@beyondnuclear.org. www.beyondnuclear.org.