Committed to shutting down Diablo Canyon reactors – sunset for nuclear power in California.

Monthly Archives: July 2015

PG&E's aging, ill-managed nuclear reactors at Diablo Canyon are an existential threat to California say Mothers for Peace

PG&E’s aging, ill-managed nuclear reactors at Diablo Canyon are an existential threat to California say Mothers for Peace

IMPORTANT NRC MEETING IN San Luis Obispo AUGUST 5TH The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is developing an environmental impact statement (EIS) for the proposed 20-year license renewal of the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant and is seeking public comment on issues to be covered by the report. Mothers for Peace sees it as very important that our supporters have a strong presence at this meeting. We will send a future alert with suggestions of topics to be addressed, but your presence is important even if you do not plan to speak. There is a group of current and former PG&E employees who dominate public meetings recently. They all wear green T-shirts, identify them selves as “people for green nuclear energy”, and speak about how nuclear is the answer to global warming. We need to counter them by having more than a handful of Mothers and supporters there. We request that you wear BLUE shirts (or a Mothers for Peace T-shirt if you have one) and be ready to stand for a few seconds if one of the Mothers asks those in the room who consider Diablo and its radioactive wastes dangerous to stand. You can prepare to counter the distortions of “facts” presented by this PG&E group by checking out this document on the Mothers for Peace website: http://mothersforpeace.org/MYTHSOFTHENUCLEARINDUSTRYjz.pdf PLEASE COME AND SUPPORT THE MOTHERS FOR PEACE! RAISE YOUR VOICE AND BE HEARD! NO 20-YEAR LICENSE EXTENSION FOR DIABLO CANYON! August 5, 2015 1:30 – 4:30 p.m. 7:00 – 10:00 p.m. Courtyard by Marriott, San Luis Obispo, 1605 Calle Joaquin Road. Both the afternoon and evening meetings are for the purpose of receiving public input on what topics should be included in the coming EIS.
Japanese & Korean colleagues listen as attorney Charles Bonner reports on his lawsuit on behalf of US sailors harmed by Fukushima fallout.

Japanese & Korean colleagues listen as attorney Charles Bonner reports on his lawsuit on behalf of US sailors harmed by Fukushima fallout.

Litigating Nuclear Energy’s Toxic Legacy [ cross-posted on PlanetarianPerspectives.net ] As the harm radioactive contamination does to human health and the environment becomes more widespread and undeniable, the international nuclear industry is beginning to face a barrage of litigation its victims around the world. On Friday, July 17, 2015, in Rohnert Park California, a delegation of South Korean and Japanese litigants on a tour of the West Coast teamed up with a US attorney to report on the progress of their respective lawsuits. Entitled ‘Taking Nuclear to Court in Japan, Korea and the USA,’ the program was co-sponsored by Project Censored, Fukushima Response, EON, and Sonoma Peace & Justice Center. In this edition we present the first three segments of the program. Please watch this space for more to come. Choi Seungkoo is the Secretary General of No Nukes Asia Action (NNAA), a Japanese nonprofit organization that recently filed the Reactor Suppliers Lawsuit to hold companies that profited from Fukushima’s nuclear operations responsible for the continuing nuclear disaster (GE, Hitachi, Toshiba). The suit has almost 4000 plaintiffs from Japan, Mongolia, South Korea, Taiwan, Russia, the US, Canada, and Malaysia. Attorney Charles Bonner gives an update on his class action litigation on behalf of military personnel harmed by exposure to Fukushima fallout during an aid mission. The suit targets the plant operator and its manufacturers. More to come:
Lee Jin Seop has successfully sued his local nuclear operator. He charges that radioactive pollution caused his wife's cancer and his son's autism.

Lee Jin Seop has successfully sued his local nuclear operator. He charges that radioactive pollution caused his wife’s cancer and his son’s autism.

In the forthcoming segments, Lee Jin Seop talks about his wife’s case and other lawsuits that have been filed in S. Korea, seeking to establish judicial accountability for the dangers of nuclear power, and compensation for the cancers it can cause.
Rev. Deasoo Lee

Rev. Deasoo Lee

Rev. Deasoo Lee, the pastor of the Shinano-machi Church in Tokyo, points to the role faith communities can play in educating their members about the dangers of nuclear power. Here’s EON’s background coverage on the USS Reagan lawsuit.
By James Heddle and Marybeth Brangan
Diablo Boys  Cartoon by Mark Bryan - ArtOfMarkBryan.com

Diablo Boys Cartoon by Mark Bryan – ArtOfMarkBryan.com

Rickety & Risky Diablo Canyon Unit 1 is on the NRC’s short list of the worst embrittled pressurized water reactors in the U.S. along with 4 others – including New York’s Indian Point. “Embrittlement” happens over time as the steel in the reactor pressure vessel becomes weakened by intense long-term neutron bombardment from the radioactive fuel inside. As pressurized water reactors (PWRs) age they become increasingly vulnerable to ‘pressurized thermal shock risks.’  Rapid severe cooling plus sudden re-pressurization could shatter the weakened reactor vessel like a glass and cause through-wall cracks that would allow intense radioactivity to escape. Another Nail in Diablo’s Coffin? In the case of Diablo Canyon – located over 13 intersecting earthquake faults in a tsunami zone on California’s coast north of Santa Barbara – this adds thermal shock risks to the seismic and fire safety risks already afflicting the aging plant. Then there’s the sobering fact that the plant is operated by Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), a company under multiple federal indictments for safety violations in the recent fatal explosion of its San Bruno, CA gas pipeline, and embroiled in an evolving scandal about illegal back-channel communications with the state’s Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). Here’s how the NRC explains embrittlement:
Reactor pressure vessels, which contain the nuclear fuel in nuclear power plants, are made of thick steel plates that are welded together. Neutrons from the fuel in the reactor irradiate the vessel as the reactor is operated. This can embrittle the steel, or make it less tough, and less capable of withstanding flaws which may be present. Embrittlement usually occurs at a vessel’s “beltline,” that section of the vessel wall closest to the reactor fuel. Pressurized water reactors (PWRs) are more susceptible to embrittlement than are boiling water reactors (BWRs). Source
Here’s how Fairewinds’ Arnie Gundersen explains embrittlement: Nuclear Crack Down from Fairewinds Energy Education on Vimeo. A National Issue for America’s Fleet of Aging Nuclear Plants The news about Diablo’s embrittlement rating comes thanks to Kevin Kamps of BeyondNuclear.org, who has been working on the campaign to shut down Entergy’s Palisades atomic reactor on the shore of Lake Michigtan, just across the lake from Chicago. A southwest Michigan native, and board member representing the Kalamazoo Chapter of Don’t Waste MI, which filed a winning intervention with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) regarding aging plant’s continued operation, Kamps says, “We filed this intervention in hopes of preventing a Fukushima on the Lake Michigan shoreline. The Japanese Parliament concluded that collusion between regulator, industry, and government officials was the root cause of the ongoing Fukushima nuclear catastrophe, and frighteningly, we’ve got that in spades at Palisades, between NRC, Entergy, and the likes of U.S. Representative Fred Upton.”. He notes that the Great Lakes downstream from Palisades serve as the drinking water supply for 40 million people in eight U.S. states, two Canadian provinces, and a large number of Native American First Nations, not to mention Chicago’s drinking water supply.
A kayaker shoves off onto Lake Michigan from the beach at Van Buren State Park near the Palisades Nuclear Powerplant.  Grand Rapids Press File Photo

A kayaker shoves off onto Lake Michigan from the beach at Van Buren State Park near the Palisades Nuclear Powerplant. Grand Rapids Press File Photo

[ See also: UCS’s Lochbaum’s insights on RPV embrittlement risks at Entergy’s Palisades atomic reactor ] Successful Activist Intervention According to a joint press release from Beyond Nuclear and Michigan Safe Energy Future—Shoreline Chapter on the ASLB Panel’s decision in response to their intervention,
The ASLBP also cited the coalition’s reliance on a Greenpeace Belgium expert report on potentially catastrophic micro-cracking in two Belgian RPVs as grounds for granting the evidentiary hearing. Greenpeace Belgium cited two nuclear materials experts, as well as the head of the Belgian nuclear regulatory agency, as warning that RPVs worldwide should be carefully examined for such micro-cracking, due to pressurized hydrogen blistering of the RPV metal. NRC has required no such tests, nor has Entergy performed them. The coalition urges that Palisades be the first U.S. RPV to be subjected to such an examination, given the plague of problems already known. Critics have for decades brought to the attention of the NRC the dangerously advanced embrittlement at Palisades. Despite hard-to-garner meetings with NRC Commissioners (Magwood, in March 2013) and Chairmen (Jaczko in May 2012; Macfarlane in June 2014) having been secured on Palisades’ RPV safety concerns, each time this fragile can has been kicked further down the road by the captured, complicit, and inept regulatory agency. Intervenor Alice Hirt with Don’t Waste Michigan in Holland said “I feel like Alice in Atomic Blunderland, hearing Humpty Dumpty tell me we can’t take the metal sample, because if we take the sample, we won’t have any samples left to take. Consequently, they operate the reactor vessel blind to the potential of shattering, fracturing, or tearing, which would render Lake Michigan and surrounding environs uninhabitable forever. This is criminal negligence.” (scroll down for full text)
Relevance to Diablo In a post addressed to ‘Dear Diablo Canyon watchdogs,’ Kamps draws attention to the following paragraph in SUMMARY OF THE MARCH 19, 2013, PUBLIC MEETING WEBINAR REGARDING PALISADES NUCLEAR PLANT : http://pbadupws.nrc.gov/docs/ML1310/ML13108A336.pdf
On March 19, 2013, the U S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) held a two part Public Meeting webinar to discuss NRC’s perspectives on pressurized thermal shock (PTS)….The NRC staff stated in the opening remarks that the second part of the meeting was geared towards answering follow up questions from the public about PTS…. 4. Which are the other most embrittled plants in the U.S.? How many PWRs will reach their screening criteria in the next 10 years? The NRC currently estimates that the following plants will exceed the PTS screening criteria of 10 CFR 50.61 during their 20-year period of operation beyond their original 40 year licenses. Updated fluence calculations, capacity factors changes, power uprate, new surveillance data, and improved material property information (i.e., the use of direct rather than correlative measurements of the vessel material’s resistance to fracture) can change these estimates. For example, Point Beach has made a recent licensing submittal that seeks to use improved material property information to re-evaluate the level of embrittlement in the vessel. If approved, it is estimated that Point Beach would not exceed the screening criteria of 10 CFR 50.61 during their 20-year license extension period. 1. Point Beach 2 (2017) 2. Palisades (2017) 3. Diablo Canyon 1 (2033) 4. Indian Point 3 (2025) 5. Beaver Valley 1 (2033) Another method by which nuclear power plants that are projected to exceed the screening criteria of 10 CFR 50.61 may justify their continued safe operation is to prepare a submittal following the requirements of the alternative PTS rule, 10 CFR 50.61a. Such a submittal would employ improved screening criteria that are based on updated and more accurate PTS analyses that were performed by the staff over a 10 year period. To use these improved screening criteria, licensees would need to provide the NRC with evidence that key assumptions regarding embrittlement and flaws that underlie the staff’s PTS analysis are satisfied by the nuclear power plant. To date, the licensees for Beaver Valley Unit 1, Palisades, and Diablo Canyon Unit 1 have expressed their intention to submit updated PTS evaluations using 10 CFR 50.61a.
According to the NRC’s technical documentation on CFR 50.61a: “If an embrittled RPV had a flaw of critical size and certain severe system transients were to occur, the flaw could very rapidly propagate through the vessel, resulting in a through-wall crack and challenging the integrity of the RPV. The severe transients of concern, known as pressurized thermal shock (PTS), are characterized by a rapid cooling of the internal RPV surface in combination with repressurization of the RPV.” Kamps, comments, “The 2033 date for Diablo Canyon Unit 1 surpassing embrittlement safety standards screening criteria is to be taken with a grain of salt. Palisades’ End-of-Life date due to RPV embrittlement has been postponed from the early 1980s…to the mid-1990s…to various years in the first decade of this century…to 2014…to April 2017…to August 2017…and now they want a green light out to 2031! So it could well be the Diablo Canyon Unit 1 also crossed over that particular danger threshold (pressurized thermal shock risks) already, as well.” This is one more factor in the growing list of compelling reasons for the NRC to deny PG&E’s irresponsible request, bordering on insanity, to renew Diablo’s operating license for another 20 years. Epidemic of Embrittlement The embrittlement issue is likely to become an increasingly persuasive incentive in the growing public push to decommission America’s aging fleet of rickety, risky reactors. ============= ‘You couldn’t make this stuff up!’ After reading the above post Kevin Kamps kindly wrote us with the following additional thoughts and valuable resources:
It dawned on me just now — D’Oh! (to quote Homer Simpson) — that an earthquake could be the triggering event for the Pressurized Thermal Shock (PTS) that fractures the brittle Diablo Canyon Unit 1 reactor pressure vessel (RPV). But then again, any number of PTS precursors could start the dominoes falling. Anything that caused the emergency core cooling system to activate, and pump colder water onto the hot RPV metal, could be all it takes. In fact, we’ve documented the top NRC embrittlement staffer, Mark Kirk, admitting that it might not even take the P part of PTS to cause a through-wall fracture of the RPV. The temperature change alone, even before re-pressurization of the RPV, could drive a through-wall crack through the entirety of the RPV, starting at an internal flaw (and 13,000 — yes, thirteen THOUSAND — internal flaws, or micro-cracks, have been found in a single Belgian RPV — NRC and the U.S. nuclear industry refuse to take the Belgian revelations seriously, most directly and relevantly in the current Palisades proceeding!). By the way, some serious PTS accidents took place at Rancho Seco when it was operating: March 20, 1978: Severe overcooling accident at Rancho Seco, CA. (See also December 26, 1985 severe overcooling accident at Rancho Seco). As reported by NIRS in August 1988, “On March 20, 1978, the B&W designed Rancho Seco nuclear power plant experienced a PTS event precipitated by a control system failure. While replacing a light bulb in the integrated control system, an operator dropped the bulb into the control panel shorting out the control room instrumentation which eventually led to an overcooling of the reactor accompanied by repressurization of the vessel. The event is believed to represent the most severe and prolonged overcooling event to date with a change in temperature of 300 degrees F. per hour. [NRC safety engineer Demetrios] Basdekas was able to convince the NRC that control system failures were an unresolved safety issue, but the Commission continued to ignore these failures in their calculations on pressurized thermal shock.” December 26, 1985: A second severe overcooling accident at Rancho Seco, CA (see March 20, 1978 above, as well). UCS published a backgrounder on this accident, and the earlier one. I think NRC staffers — perhaps Demetrios Basdekas, one of the original NRC staff whistleblowers who brought PTS risks to light in the early 1980s — revealed to the media that had Rancho Seco been older, and more neutron embrittled, its RPV likely would have fractured under the forces of the PTS accident. Palisades, dangerously old and embrittled, came very close to testing Entergy’s and NRC’s false assurances, on 9/25/11. Luckily, the emergency core cooling system did NOT activate completely! (which is it’s own can of worms — an ECCS that does not operate when ordered to, even inadvertently, is a sign of a real problem!) Check out the Detroit Free Press’s coverage of that 9/25/11 accident http://static1.1.sqspcdn.com/static/f/356082/16771770/1330042111127/Freep+1+15+2012.pdf?token=JtZEuWvsVFx7FBtzhLtnc6LdZtw%3D and note, on the bottom of page 1, that “It began with a light bulb.”! Just as did the 1978 accident at Rancho Seco! Two near-misses at U.S. atomic reactors that involved the changing of light bulbs, gone very badly! You couldn’t make this stuff up! Those 1978 and those 1985 postings are part of a grand chronology, or grand compilation, I’ve assembled here: http://www.beyondnuclear.org/safety/2014/10/30/beyond-nuclear-warns-nrc-against-weakening-rpv-embrittlement.html Mostly Palisades related, but not only — also about embrittlement in general. That chronology/compilation is far from complete, but it’s a start! I did it last late November — so much more to add since, but haven’t had time! Thanks again for spreading the word about embrittlement risks at Diablo!
And many thanks to Kevin for providing his technical perspective and helping to preserve our collective institutional memory! ================= Kevin also attached the following press release from the Michigan campaign:
For Immediate Release, July 9, 2015 Contact: Kevin Kamps, Beyond Nuclear, (240) 462-3216 Terry Lodge, environmental coalition attorney, via email at: tjlodge50@yahoo.com Bette Pierman, Michigan Safe Energy Future—Shoreline Chapter, (269) 369-3993 Nuclear Licensing Board Denies Entergy’s Request for Delay in Disclosing Documents on Risk of Brittle Vessel Fracture at Palisades Atomic Reactor Environmental Coalition Argued Safety Significance Demands Prompt Disclosure, Maximum Transparency Covert, MI and Rockville, MD—At the agency’s HQ near Washington, D.C., a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Atomic Safety and Licensing Board Panel (ASLBP) has issued a unanimous “Order Denying Entergy’s Motion to Defer Initial Disclosures.” This is the second major legal victory for an environmental coalition seeking the permanent shutdown of Entergy Nuclear’s Palisades atomic reactor on the Lake Michigan shoreline, which has the worst embrittled reactor pressure vessel (RPV) of any U.S. pressurized water reactor. Today’s Order, and all related documents, are posted online at: http://www.beyondnuclear.org/safety/ The first legal victory was the granting of an evidentiary hearing to the environmental coalition, on the merits of its technical safety concerns, issued by a 2-1 split decision of the ASLBP on June 18. The coalition is calling for closure of Palisades due to the age-related degradation of its RPV walls and welds, caused by 44 years of neutron radiation bombardment and thermal stresses. Entergy has indicated it will appeal the ASLBP’s June 18th granting of a hearing to the environmental coalition, by its July 13th deadline for doing so, to the full NRC Commission. However, today’s ASLBP Order requires Entergy to make mandatory documentary disclosures related to these RPV safety risks by July 31st. Entergy had requested such disclosures be postponed for 90 days, or until the NRC Commission had ruled on its appeal, in hopes that a cancellation of the hearings would do away with any mandatory disclosure requirements altogether. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) staff, which likewise opposes the environmental coalition’s intervention, will now also be required to publish documents in a hearing file, sooner rather than later. NRC has announced that its Safety Evaluation Report on Entergy’s Equivalent Margins Analysis (EMA) will likely be published in late November, 2016. Palisades’ RPV will violate Title 10 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Part 50, Appendix G safety standards by December 2016, unless Entergy’s application for an EMA-based License Amendment Request (LAR) is approved by NRC beforehand. “We are the only party in this case who’re looking out for the protection of the public,” said Terry Lodge of Toledo, who serves as the coalition’s legal counsel. “We believe there may be disturbingly frank exchanges between the NRC Staff and Entergy which they would prefer not become public. The fact that the Staff sided with Entergy to try to thwart the public’s access to information is the proof of how little they respect the public and a great disappointment.” “Entergy’s reliance on ‘Equivalent Margins Analysis’ is a leap of logic that no one should fall for,” stated Michigan Keegan of Don’t Waste Michigan. “It’s time to pull the plug on Palisades, and shutdown before meltdown,” Keegan concluded. The coalition, comprised of Beyond Nuclear (Takoma Park, MD), Don’t Waste MI (Grand Rapids), MI Safe Energy Future—Shoreline Chapter (South Haven), and Nuclear Energy Information Service (NEIS, of Chicago), on March 9th filed an intervention petition against Entergy’s second major LAR to NRC in just the previous few months, due to chronic age-related degradation of the RPV at Palisades. This current Entergy LAR seeks to apply an EMA regarding loss of safety-significant Charpy V-Notch “Upper-Shelf Energy” in RPV plates and welds. If successful, the intervention could force the permanent shutdown of the 44-year-old, problem-plagued nuclear power plant. The coalition cites the risk of catastrophic release of hazardous radioactivity to the environment due to a potential “ductile tearing,” or fracture, of the neutron radiation-embrittled and thermally stressed RPV, causing a Loss-of-Coolant-Accident (LOCA), core meltdown, and containment failure. Links to the ASLBP’s ruling, the coalition’s intervention petition and contention, and related documents (the coalition’s expert witness declaration, by Arnold Gundersen, Chief Engineer at Fairewinds Associates, Inc. of Burlington, Vermont; a relevant, recent Greenpeace Belgium expert report; etc.) have been posted at Beyond Nuclear’s website at this link: http://www.beyondnuclear.org/safety/ “Finally, after years of expressing concerns about the embrittled RPV and the poor welding quality history at Palisades, we are being heard that there is a problem with their testing and monitoring methods,” said Bette Pierman, Chair of Michigan Safe Energy Future—Shoreline Chapter, who resides in Benton Harbor, just over 10 miles from Palisades. “It is our lives that are and have been at risk as this aging plant is allowed to continue to operate with equipment that has a history of breakdowns with regularity. The actual condition of this reactor pressure vessel is critical information for granting their continued operation. Relying on a dubious equivalent margins analysis is not reassuring and should not be an acceptable practice to ensure our safety at this location since it does not give us accurate information about the real situation at this plant,” Pierman concluded. “We filed this intervention in hopes of preventing a Fukushima on the Lake Michigan shoreline,” said Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear, a southwest Michigan native, and board member representing the Kalamazoo Chapter of Don’t Waste MI. “The Japanese Parliament concluded that collusion between regulator, industry, and government officials was the root cause of the ongoing Fukushima nuclear catastrophe, and frighteningly, we’ve got that in spades at Palisades, between NRC, Entergy, and the likes of U.S. Representative Fred Upton.” The Great Lakes downstream from Palisades serve as the drinking water supply for 40 million people in eight U.S. states, two Canadian provinces, and a large number of Native American First Nations. In fact, the risk to Chicago’s drinking water supply from Lake Michigan is what has motivated NEIS of Illinois to watchdog Palisades for decades. The RPV contains the reactor core and its highly radioactive nuclear fuel. As confirmed by NRC, as well as the reactor’s various owners and operators, numerous times over the past decades, Palisades has long had the worst embrittled RPV in the U.S. The embrittlement is caused by neutron radiation bombardment impacting impurities – such as nickel and copper — in the RPV walls and welds. Entergy and its contractor, Westinghouse Nuclear, now admit that sulfur impurities in the metallic plates also make Palisades’ RPV vulnerable to ductile tearing. The age-related degradation has been so bad, for so long, at Palisades, that the nuclear utilities, and NRC, had previously indicated “End-of-Life” (permanent closure) dates as early as 1995. However, that has been postponed till 1999, 2000, 2001, 2004, 2014, April 2017, and now August 2017, thanks to regulatory rollbacks. Palisades’ “Charpy V-Notch Upper-Shelf Energy” will also fall below the 50 ft.-lb. screening criteria by December, 2016, Entergy admits. The company has thus applied to NRC for yet another weakening of the safety rules, to allow continued operation into 2017 and beyond. Despite widespread environmental and public interest resistance, in 2007, NRC rubber-stamped a 20-year license extension at Palisades, allowing it to operate until 2031. A severe overcooling of the RPV, as due to activation of the emergency core cooling system (ECCS), combined with sudden re-pressurization, could cause pressurized thermal shock (PTS) – a one-two punch that could fracture the RPV metal or welds at an internal flaw. The coalition recently appealed to the full NRC Commission to overturn the ASLBP’s rejection of a PTS-related contention, separate and distinct from this current EMA proceeding, but parallel and overlapping. Arnie Gundersen, Chief Engineer at Fairewinds Associates, Inc. in Burlington, Vermont, provided an expert declaration, on behalf of the environmental coalition, and critiqued the beleaguered Palisades RPV in the previous December 1, 2014 filing. Gundersen’s declaration was re-submitted as the technical basis for intervenors’ current legal challenge, as well. The ASLBP majority cited Gundersen’s expert declaration as a basis for granting the evidentiary hearing on the merits of the coalition’s technical safety concerns. Gundersen has challenged NRC’s and Entergy’s reliance on mere mathematical estimates and extrapolation, rather than readily available, hard physical data. The last metal sample (surveillance coupon) extracted and tested at Palisades was in 2003; the next scheduled is not until 2019. The ASLBP majority has ruled that the coalition’s call for the extraction and testing of one or more capsules is a permissible challenge deserving further consideration. Fairewinds Energy Education has produced a short, humorous, educational video featuring Gundersen, explaining that PTS could fracture Palisades like a hot glass under cold water – and 2,200 pounds of pressure per square inch. The ASLBP also cited the coalition’s reliance on a Greenpeace Belgium expert report on potentially catastrophic micro-cracking in two Belgian RPVs as grounds for granting the evidentiary hearing. Greenpeace Belgium cited two nuclear materials experts, as well as the head of the Belgian nuclear regulatory agency, as warning that RPVs worldwide should be carefully examined for such micro-cracking, due to pressurized hydrogen blistering of the RPV metal. NRC has required no such tests, nor has Entergy performed them. The coalition urges that Palisades be the first U.S. RPV to be subjected to such an examination, given the plague of problems already known. Critics have for decades brought to the attention of the NRC the dangerously advanced embrittlement at Palisades. Despite hard-to-garner meetings with NRC Commissioners (Magwood, in March 2013) and Chairmen (Jaczko in May 2012; Macfarlane in June 2014) having been secured on Palisades’ RPV safety concerns, each time this fragile can has been kicked further down the road by the captured, complicit, and inept regulatory agency. Intervenor Alice Hirt with Don’t Waste Michigan in Holland said “I feel like Alice in Atomic Blunderland, hearing Humpty Dumpty tell me we can’t take the metal sample, because if we take the sample, we won’t have any samples left to take. Consequently, they operate the reactor vessel blind to the potential of shattering, fracturing, or tearing, which would render Lake Michigan and surrounding environs uninhabitable forever. This is criminal negligence.” —30—
image_preview In Pursuit of Folly PG&E – the company that brought us the San Bruno gas explosion, and is under multiple Federal indictments – has reactivated its request to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for a 20-year extension of its license to operate the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant located on 13 intersecting earthquake faults in a tsunami zone north of Santa Barbara on the California coast. The request had been on hold since the triple meltdown at Fukushima. Although the Fukushima nuclear disaster continues to this day with no solutions in sight, PG&E is hoping the short attention spans of the media, the public, regulators and politicians have improved its chances despite the obvious safety risks. According to San Francisco Chronicle business reporter David Baker, “…like most everything else in Diablo’s long, contentious history, the move is sure to provoke a fight.” Longtime Diablo opponents San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace (SLOMFP) agree and have challenged this license extension. PG&E claims to have completed a study of the network of intersecting earthquake faults on which the aging plant sits and concluded that there is no problem. But one of the NRC’s own inspectors disagreed, recommending the plant be shut down until seismic safety can be guaranteed. And scientific critics say PG&E is fudging the numbers and lying about the plant’s resistance to predicted levels of seismic stress. Writes the Chronicle’s Baker in his article ‘Feds to decide whether state’s last nuclear plant stays or goes,’ “The commission has called two hearings in San Luis Obispo on Aug. 5 to take public comments on issues that should be covered in an environmental impact study on the license renewal project. A draft of the study will likely take a year to complete, according to a schedule the commission sent PG&E in April. A final decision on the license renewal likely won’t arrive before mid-2017, according to the schedule.” A State Law Breaker Another impediment to Diablo’s continued operation is the fact that it is in violation of California’s ‘once-through-cooling law,’ an issue now under consideration by the state’s Water Quality Control Board. The plant sucks in billions of gallons of sea water per day for its cooling system, then dumps it out hot, killing massive numbers of sea creatures at both ends of the process. Critics call it ‘a mass destruction of sea life’and is clearly in violation the law prohibiting such water usage. Opponents hope that if PG&E is required to build expensive cooling towers to comply with the law, and is not allowed by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to pass on the cost to ratepayers, the utility may choose to cut its losses and close the plant. Baker’s article goes on,
Activists who never wanted Diablo in the first place have been pushing hard to close it, particularly after California’s only other commercial nuclear plant — San Onofre, north of San Diego — shut down in 2012. They argue that PG&E has consistently underestimated earthquake threats to the plant, and that PG&E has a long record of snafus at Diablo, such as replacing the steam generators and vessel heads without first conducting a necessary seismic test. PG&E, in contrast, says the plant boasts a solid safety record. “Our point is, this is a pattern with them,” said Jane Swanson, with Mothers for Peace. “They keep screwing up — and this is a nuclear plant.” California law forbids building more nuclear plants in the state until the federal government comes up with a long-term solution for dealing with the radioactive waste. And with San Onofre closed, nuclear advocates say the state needs Diablo Canyon in order to rein in greenhouse gas emissions. Nuclear plants generate electricity without pumping carbon dioxide into the air, and unlike solar power plants and wind farms, their output doesn’t vary from one hour to the next.
Worn-out Arguements In fact, all stages of nuclear energy production from mining and milling, to transport, processing and plant construction, to radioactive waste management are heavily dependent on fossil fuels and carbon emissions. Regular emissions of radioactive pollution into their surrounding environments and communities are a necessary part of nuclear power plants’ routine operation. Breakthroughs in energy storage is rendering intermittent production by renewables a non-problem. Baker quotes Jessica Lovering, a senior analyst at the Breakthrough Institute, an Oakland think tank focused on energy and the environment, “We really need to have a low-carbon, base load source of electricity. Taking offline the last nuclear plant would be pretty detrimental to carbon emission reduction goals.” Barbara George, the celebrated late founder of WomensEnergyMatters.org, demolished that specious, oft-repeated argument years ago. Using the California Energy Commission’s own data, she showed that, even without nuclear power, California already has an excess of electric power. [ To learn why nuclear power is no cure for climate change, see Background Information on Climate Change and Nuclear Power by NIRS. ]
Barbara George shows California needs no nuclear power.  EON photo by Mary Beth Brangan.

Barbara George shows California needs no nuclear power. EON photo by Mary Beth Brangan.

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