NRC reviewing decades of reactor operating license extensions, while cutting its safety inspection programs to make money for industry

Peach Bottom nuclear power station Photo credit: U.S. Department of EnergyOn June 20, 2019, an Atomic Safety Licensing Board of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) denied Beyond Nuclear a federal public hearing to scrutinize how Exelon plans to manage the attack of age-related degradation as part of a “Subsequent License Renewal” application that seeks the continued operation of Pennsylvania’s Peach Bottom Unit 2 and 3 out to 2053 and 2054. The federal nuclear agency’s denial of a request for a hearing is big step towards granting a second twenty-year license extension to the two Fukushima-style reactors (both1960’s-vintage designs of the GE Mark I boiling water reactor) beyond their current expiration dates of 2033 and 2034; a total of 80 years of operation.  Beyond Nuclear has filed a formal appeal to the Commission.

At the same time, the NRC announced it is cutting back core safety inspections for operational impact on reactor systems, structures and components exposed to the harsh day to day environment of extreme levels of temperature, radiation bombardment, vibration, pressure and fatigue that cause cracking and corrosion.   The reduction in the NRC core safety inspection programs additionally includes reducing, if not eliminating completely as industry requested, the NRC inspection of onsite Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installations at operating reactors around the country, replacing NRC led inspections of drills of mock terrorist attacks with industry self assessments, industry self assessments of radiation protection including onsite radiological monitoring equipment and radioactive effluent control and relaxation of emergency planning performance indicators by relaxing the frequency of NRC reviews from annual to biennial.

Democrats in the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee wrote a letter on July 15, 2019 to the NRC Commissioners callnig for a hearing and expressing their concern that the NRC is abandoning its core mission to protect the public health and safety through the Reactor Oversight Process in favor of allowing a financially distressed nuclear industry to save money on what they claim to be unduly burdensome regulations.

Beyond Nuclear agrees. At a time when the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is seeking to extend operations for the nation's nuclear reactors by decades, considering this is an inherently dangerous technology, to place industry financial margins ahead of public safety margins, is negligence, pure and simply. Its just common sense, for any technology, the older it gets, more wear and tear requires more inspections, not less, whether its an automobile or an atomic reactor.  Otherwise, such neglect puts us on a collision course with an accident.

In the event of a severe nuclear accident here in the United Station with radioactive releases as occurred at the Ukraine's Chernobyl and Japan's Fukushima nuclear power stations, that negligence becomes criminal in our view.


Karl Grossman: “The Hoax That Nuclear Power Is Green”

Just out TV program -- “The Hoax That Nuclear Power Is Green.” 

This “Enviro Close-Up with Karl Grossman” debunks the hoax that nuclear power is green. The program features actor Alec Baldwin who has long challenged nuclear power; former U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission chairman Gregory Jaczko who declares that nuclear power “is not the right way forward” and not “a solution to climate change;” Joseph Mangano, executive director of the Radiation and Public Health Project, who tells of releases to the environment by nuclear power; attorney Susan H. Shapiro now in court taking on the $7.6 billion New York State bail-out of nuclear plants based on the no-emissions claim—a bail-out being imitated by other states; Dr. Mark Cooper of the Vermont School of Law who says continuing with nuclear power “will delay the transition to a clean energy future:’ New York State Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee who blasts the $7.6 billion bail-out; and Dr. Mark Z. Jacobson, energy analyst at Stanford University who emphasizes how “nuclear is not zero carbon at all." The program was filmed at a New York City conference organized by the Radiation and Public Health Project.

Karl Grossman serves as a Beyond Nuclear board of directors member.


Nuclear just can't hack it in the heat

The false claims that nuclear power can address the climate crisis were dealt another blow last week as France faced the possibility of having to shut down its nuclear plants due to extreme heat. Nuclear plants cannot operate safely when their intake water is too hot — or at all if water supplies drop too low and are not sufficiently available to cool the plant.

Both of these conditions will occur with greater frequency in our rapidly warming world. In addition, water resources are becoming scarcer under the climate emergency, meaning that large thermo-electric plants, such as nuclear power plants, are devouring — or are in competition for — water resources needed for drinking and irrigating essential crops.

As the World Resources Institute pointed out last year, “47 percent of the world's thermal power plant capacity—mostly coal, natural gas and nuclear — . . . are located in highly water-stressed areas.” Clearly, nuclear power is a serious liability, detrimental to addressing global warming, and far from “reliable.”

And as US News wrote this week: "In little-noticed but publicly available reports to regulators, nuclear plant owners revealed that unusually hot temperatures last year forced them to reduce the plants' electricity output more than 30 times – most often in the summer, when demand from nuclear plants is at its highest. In 2012, such incidents occurred at least 60 times. At one plant in Connecticut a reactor was taken offline for nearly two weeks when temperatures in the Long Island Sound surged past 75 degrees."

The same article also pointed out that: "it's not just water temperatures that plants have to contend with. Air temperatures can also cause conditions inside the plant to get too hot to operate. So desperate was a power plant in France during last year's heat wave that it began spraying water on the outside of the building to keep the interior from overheating. Plants in the U.S., meanwhile, have regularly slashed their output by anywhere from 3% to 60%." More


Update on uranium mining and the Grand Canyon

Efforts are underway in Congress to push back on the Trump administration's move to classify uranium as a "critical mineral" essential for national security. Here is the statement by Aaron Mintzes, Senior Policy Counsel at Earthwork in response to the House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources’ hearing on uranium mining and introduction of HR 3405. 

"We strongly support Chairmen Grijalva’s and Lowenthal’s effort to remove uranium from the so-called “critical minerals” list. This bill exposes the Commerce and Interior Departments’ sleight of hand: a misdirection aimed at raising the specter of national security that only thinly veils their desire to give away our most treasured places. Foreign mining companies covet public minerals in areas surrounding the Grand Canyon, Bears Ears, and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monuments. Our current mining law, dating from the 19th century, allows this public wealth giveaway to an industry that leads the nation in toxic pollution.

"Messrs. Grijalva and Lowenthal also champion HR 2579, the Hardrock Leasing and Reclamation Act, a reform measure that will update the General Mining Law of 1872 by clarifying the people’s power to choose land uses, like National Monuments, over uranium mining. We won the Cold War more than a quarter century ago and our mining law is nearly a century and a half years old. The reform we need is HR 2579 that holds polluters accountable for their messes and protects taxpayers, communities, and our most iconic places."

(Photo: Danny Santiago, WikiCommons)


Building new nuclear is lost opportunity for humankind

Fairewinds has created this two-minute animation to show why building new nuclear power plants is a lost opportunity for humankind with precious time and money wasted on the wrong choice. At least $8.2 Trillion would be needed to build the 1,000 atomic reactors the nuclear industry wants – that’s 1 reactor every 12-days for 35-years. Watch the animation to find out why the nuclear "solution" to climate change is a smokescreen.

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