Monthly Archives: April 2023

Company’s safety, security violations raise real concerns

SUNDAY, APRIL 23RD, 2023 AT 9:00AM

The record of Holtec International and its CEO Krishna Singh deserve scrutiny in light of Holtec’s efforts to site a spent nuclear fuel facility in Lea County.

Holtec’s nuclear safety record is tarnished by numerous violations. Many arise from the company’s repeated failure to obtain approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) prior to design changes.

Work was halted in 2018 at San Onofre nuclear plant in California when a loose piece of bolt was discovered in a storage canister Holtec manufactured. It had altered the design without permission midway through the fabrication process. Singh termed it “much ado about nothing.” The NRC disagreed, issuing two “safety significant” violations to Holtec.

Holtec management also fail to recognize risks regarding fuel transfer. Holtec personnel working at the San Onofre plant as contractors for Southern California Edison in 2018 did not recognize for almost an hour that a 50-plus-ton canister lowering into an 18-foot concrete silo within the Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation – similar to that planned for Lea County – had gotten hung up on a metal flange. This constituted a “near-miss” event. The NRC issued two violations because of Holtec’s management failure, imposing a $116,000 civil penalty on Edison, the licensee.

Holtec’s safety violations also involve security. In 2021, the NRC identified three security-related violations at Holtec’s Oyster Creek nuclear power plant in New Jersey, which yielded a $150,000 civil penalty for Holtec. In 2022, the NRC issued a $50,000 civil penalty to Holtec for security-related violations, again at Oyster Creek, this time related to its armorer’s deliberate falsification of records and failure to perform mandatory firearms maintenance.

Singh also has a record of providing false information to governmental authorities. In a 2014 application to the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) for $260 million in tax breaks, Singh gave a false sworn statement, failing to disclose Holtec’s debarment for 60 days as a contractor by the Tennessee Valley Authority in 2010 for (funneling money) to a TVA manager. Holtec agreed to pay a $2 million administrative fee related to the debarment. Singh also falsely stated that Ohio and South Carolina had offered “robust” incentives to persuade Holtec to relocate to their states. In reality, Ohio had just stripped Holtec of tax credits for failing to create promised jobs in Orrville. When NJEDA placed a hold on the $260 million in tax breaks in response to Singh’s false sworn statement and began a criminal investigation, Holtec sued.

New Mexico Commissioner of Public Lands Stephanie Garcia Richard has called out patently false claims by Singh to the NRC and New Mexicans about its control of the proposed nuclear site. For example, despite Singh’s claims, Holtec does not control the subsurface mineral rights to the site. The Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance, which plans to sell land to Holtec, only owns the surface estate.

Singh also has a history of racist comments and disrespect for local workers. In 2018, Singh complained he was having trouble retaining employees from Camden because the impoverished city lacked a culture of work. “They don’t show up to work,” Singh said of Camden workers. “They can’t stand getting up in the morning and coming to work every single day. They haven’t done it, and they didn’t see their parents do it. Of course, some of them get into drugs.” Singh’s comments led to protests and press conferences. In response, Singh issued a written apology which a Camden business recruiter characterized as “tone-deaf.” As of 2020, Holtec had hired only 28 Camden residents as workers in return for the $260 million tax breaks.

TEPCO running out of space to store radioactive slurry at plant

By RYO SASAKI/ Staff Writer
April 27, 2023 at 07:00 JST

The Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant is running out of storage space for slurry, a mud-like waste product containing radioactive materials removed from contaminated water that is still accumulating at the site.

If the slurry tanks reach full capacity, Tokyo Electric Power Co. may have to review its operations on treating contaminated water. The slurry problem could also destabilize the overall premise of the company’s decommissioning work.

TEPCO said it has come up with measures to deal with the problem, but hurdles remain and some past mistakes must still be addressed.

Slurry is removed from contaminated water through the Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS).

The radioactive sludge is then placed in High Integrity Containers (HICs) at a temporary storage facility on an elevated platform on the south side of the No. 1 to No. 4 reactors at the Fukushima plant.

The storage facility is part of the spent cesium absorption tower.

Over the past year, TEPCO has added about one HIC every two days on average.

As of March 2, the facility contained 4,143 HICs, or 98 percent of the storage capacity of 4,192 tanks.

TEPCO had feared full capacity would be reached in spring, but it said it has secured enough space for an additional 192 HICs by the end of April.

The utility also said it will continue to add HICs, and that up to 4,720 containers can be stored in already-secured spaces at the plant.

The company said it can prevent the HICs from becoming totally full until around April 2026 at the earliest. If all countermeasures work, full capacity can be staved off until around June 2027.

However, TEPCO’s estimates do not take into consideration a possible unexpected increase in slurry volume from retreating water that is not meeting the standards for release into the sea.

Moreover, it is unclear whether the utility can secure more storage room if additional HICs are required.

Seen through a fence and surrounded by concrete walls, the storage facility looks like a dam measuring 7.7 meters high, nearly 30 meters wide and at least 100 meters deep.

“Inside this box are HICs, which contain slurry,” a TEPCO worker told reporters at the site in late January. “It will remain stored here for a while until a disposal method is determined.”

That brings up another problem.

TEPCO’s slurry dewatering facility has yet to become operational.

The company in 2021 submitted an application to build the facility, hoping it would reduce the volume of slurry by about 70 percent.

But TEPCO was forced to revise the design after the Nuclear Regulation Authority pointed out inadequate measures to protect workers from radiation exposure.

Radiation readings of 10 millisieverts per hour have been recorded on the surface of some HICs. At that level, a worker remaining in the area for about five hours would be exposed to the annual limit for radiation dosages.

For that reason, HICs must be stored in concrete boxes that can block radiation.

TEPCO plans to start operations of the dewatering facility in March 2027, four years behind schedule.

“We were a little naive (about the situation),” Akira Ono, president of TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Decontamination & Decommissioning Engineering Co., said at a news conference in October last year. “I think we should have taken what the NRA pointed out more seriously.”

TEPCO also failed to take into account the shortened lifespan of HICs caused by the high radiation levels.

The NRA said 56 HICs will reach the end of their lifespans this year, and they could be damaged.

Since the triple meltdown in 2011, the plant’s premises have become covered with storage tanks and other facilities for radioactive waste.

There is no more extra space on the grounds of the Fukushima plant.

An area on the south side of the plant is crammed with tanks containing water processed by ALPS.

On the north side are various facilities, including temporary storage structures containing highly radioactive debris and other waste covered in soil.

The government and TEPCO aim to complete the decommissioning of the plant between 2041 and 2051.

But they have yet to come up with a plan on how to store or treat the slurry and most of the other radioactive waste.

German Federal Government Concurs with Termination of Plan to Ship Highly Radioactive Spent Fuel from Germany to U.S. DOE’s Savannah River Site in South Carolina

Decade-long Effort Funded by Germany to Develop Reprocessing Technique at SRS for Irradiated Graphite Fuel has Ended, Thus No Dumping of German Waste in Tanks and Trenches at SRS
Savannah River Site Watch Columbia, South Carolina
For Immediate Release, April 19, 2023

Contact: Tom Clements, director, SRS Watch, tel. 803-834-3084,

Columbia, SC – Documents obtained from Germany make it crystal clear that plans to ship highly radioactive spent fuel from storage in Germany to the Savannah River Site in South Carolina have been terminated with the agreement of key German federal government agencies.

The documents, from a formal community meeting near the spent fuel storage site in Juelich, Germany, bring the ultimate blow to a decade-long plan to bring highly radioactive graphite spent fuel to SRS:

“Rückführung in die USA (im Einvernehmen mit der Bundesregierung BEENDET)”

“Return shipment to the USA (terminated in agreement with the federal government)”

The documents include a presentation by the company managing the spent fuel, Jülicher Entsorgungsgesellschaft für Nuklearanlagen (JEN), and the minutes of the meeting held on March 6, 2023 in Juelich (in western Germany, near Aachen). The highly radioactive waste in question consists 152 casks of around 300,000 irradiated graphite balls impregnated with uranium, used as fuel in the long-closed gas-cooled AVR reactor at Juelich.

The presentation by JEN states that German federal agencies have agreed with the decision by JEN not to export the spent fuel to SRS:

“Atomaufsicht sowie Bundesministerien BMUV, BMBF, BMF schließen sich den Ausführungen der JEN an, die USA-Optionen zu beenden.”

“The nuclear supervisory authority and the federal ministries BMUV, BMBF, BMF agree with JEN’s statements to end the US options.”

The nuclear licensing authority is the Federal Office for the Safety of Nuclear Waste Management (BfE). The BMUV is the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection, the BMBF is the Federal Ministry of Education and Research and BMF is the Federal Ministry of Finance. All agree with JEN’s decision not to export the spent fuel, a step not known until the mentioned meeting.

“The project to import and dump German spent fuel at SRS is now fully confirmed to be dead, due to diligence of activists and concerned officials in Germany in the face of DOE efforts to keep the scheme alive,” said Tom Clements, director of Savanah River Site Watch. “The termination of this misguided project is not only an environmental victory but is also significant from a nuclear non-proliferation perspective as funding by Germany of a reprocessing technique to remove uranium from graphite fuel has also been terminated,” added Clements.

Additionally, in the Q&A period at the March 6 meeting, a JEN official stated that the research agreement between JEN and SRNL would not be renewed after the last modification (number 9) ended on February 28, 2023. SRS Watch has an outstanding Freedom of Information Act request, dated March 1, 2023, for any new agreement but an embarrassed DOE has yet to admit that no renewed agreement exists. SRS Watch has stepped in to update the public about that as DOE has so far been silent.

JEN reports three reasons for the decision not to continue with plans to export the spent fuel: 1) security for the transport on land and by sea (to Charleston, South Carolina) would be extremely costly, 2) development of the reprocessing technique (by the Savannah River National Lab) is not technologically developed and 3) issuance of an export license would not be permitted as storage in Germany is possible.

The proposal to export the spent fuel from Germany to the US emerged in 2012 and the project has faced public opposition in Germany and the US since then. In 2017, the SRS Citizens Advisory Board (CAB) opposed the export. Also in 2017, DOE made a commitment under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to give updates to the public and the CAB about the status of the project but has repeatedly failed to do so, calling into question DOE’s commitment to honoring NEPA.

“Given DOE’s abdication of its responsibility to tell us about the status of the nuclear waste import plan, Savannah River Site Watch has assumed the role of updating the public and CAB about the project,” said Clements. “As DOE refuses to do so, we hereby once again provide the update to the public that the German-spent-fuel-import project has reached a good conclusion,” added Clements.

More project-termination details were outlined in a SRS Watch news release of January 10, 2023 – SRS Watch had been told by JEN the plan was terminated by them. The twists and turns of the project were outlined in a report released by SRS in January 2023 and entitled Auf Wiedersehen to DOE Nuclear Waste Dumping Scheme.

According to SRS Watch and colleagues in Germany, the spent fuel in question must now be stored in a newly licensed facility to be constructed at the same storage site, the Forschungszentrum Jülich (Jülich Research Center, FZJ) and not transported to an interim storage facility in Ahaus, Germany.



Minutes of March 6, 2023 meeting (Protokoll, 20. Sitzung des Jülicher Nachbarschaftsdialogs am 06.03.2023) – also confirm termination of the project:

Friends of the Earth Sues PG&E Over Diablo Canyon Nuclear Extension

“We hope our litigation can push PG&E to reconsider its potential breach and uphold its obligations, including preparing for the agreed-upon retirement,” FOE’s legal director explained.

This aerial photograph of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant near Avila Beach, California was taken on December 1, 2021. Photo: George Rose/Getty Images) 


The environmental group Friends of the Earth on Tuesday sued Pacific Gas and Electric in a bid to block the California utility giant from breaching its contract to shutter the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant when the operating licenses for its two reactors expire in 2024 and 2025.

Friends of the Earth (FOE) explained the reason for its lawsuit, which was filed in San Francisco Superior Court, in a statement Tuesday:

In 2016, Friends of the Earth entered into a contract with PG&E to retire Diablo Canyon. This was in exchange for Friends of the Earth dropping a separate legal challenge over environmental and public safety concerns associated with the power plant’s continued operations. Diablo Canyon—California’s last remaining nuclear plant—is located in San Luis Obispo near at least three seismic fault lines, which puts the entire state at risk of a devastating accident. It also operates on an outdated cooling system that puts marine life and water quality at significant risk of harm.

Friends of the Earth’s new lawsuit follows recent actions by PG&E that indicate an intent to breach the 2016 contract. These include applying to the U.S. Department of Energy for funding to aid Diablo’s extended operations and securing approval from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to continue operating Diablo Canyon beyond the expiration of current operating licenses while NRC considers PG&E’s forthcoming license renewal applications.

“Contracts simply don’t vanish into thin air,” FOE legal director Hallie Templeton said in a statement. “Yet ever since California passed legislation supporting Diablo Canyon’s extension, PG&E has been acting as if our contract has disappeared.”

“Setting aside the agreement to retire Diablo, there are myriad legal prerequisites for extending operations of a nuclear power plant, including federal decisions that states cannot dictate,” Templeton added. “We hope our litigation can push PG&E to reconsider its potential breach and uphold its obligations, including preparing for the agreed-upon retirement.”

“Contracts simply don’t vanish into thin air.”

PG&E said last month that it would seek permission to keep Diablo Canyon operating for up to 20 more years. However, state officials have not said whether they will allow the plant to continue running after 2030. A law passed last year by the California Legislature allows the facility to remain operational for the remainder of this decade, while the Biden administration last November announced a billion-dollar bailout for PG&E to keep the plant running.

Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom, the Democrat-controlled state Legislature, and even some environmentalists favor keeping Diablo Canyon operational.


Over and out: Germany switches off the last of its remaining nuclear plants

“Nuclear, no thanks!”
Frank Jordans / Berlin, Germany
The Associated Press, Published April 15, 2023

What was once a slogan found on the bumper of many a German car became a reality Saturday, as the country shut down its three remaining nuclear power plants [out of a total of 17]  in line with a long-planned transition toward renewable energy.

The shutdown of Emsland, Neckarwestheim II and Isar II shortly before midnight drew cheers from anti-nuclear campaigners outside the three reactors and at rallies in Berlin and Munich. Inside the plants, staff held more sombre ceremonies to mark the occasion.

Decades of anti-nuclear protests in Germany, stoked by disasters at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima, had put pressure on successive governments to end the use of a technology that critics argue is unsafe and unsustainable.

But with other industrialized countries, such as the United States, Japan, China, France and Britain, counting on nuclear energy to replace planet-warming fossil fuels, Germany’s decision to stop using both has drawn skepticism at home and abroad, as well as unsuccessful last-minute calls to halt the decision.

Defenders of atomic energy say fossil fuels should be phased out first as part of global efforts to curb climate change, arguing that nuclear power produces far fewer greenhouse gas emissions and is safe, if properly managed.

As energy prices spiked last year due to the war in Ukraine, some members of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government got cold feet about closing the nuclear plants as planned on Dec. 31, 2022. In a compromise, Scholz agreed to a one-time extension of the deadline, but insisted that the final countdown would happen on April 15.

Still, Bavaria’s conservative governor, Markus Soeder, who backed the original deadline set in 2011 when Chancellor Angela Merkel was Germany’s leader, this week called the shutdown “an absolute mistaken decision.”

“While many countries in the world are even expanding nuclear power, Germany is doing the opposite,” Soeder said. “We need every possible form of energy. Otherwise, we risk higher electricity prices and businesses moving away.”

Advocates of nuclear power worldwide have slammed the German shutdown, aware that the move by Europe’s biggest economy could deal a blow to a technology they tout as a clean and reliable alternative to fossil fuels. On Friday, dozens of scientists including James Hansen, a former NASA climate expert credited with drawing public attention to global warming in 1988, sent a letter to Scholz urging him to keep the nuclear plants running.

The German government has acknowledged that, in the short term, the country will have to rely more heavily on polluting coal and natural gas to meet its energy needs, even as it takes steps to massively ramp up electricity production from solar and wind. Germany aims to be carbon neutral by 2045.

But officials such as Environment Minister Steffi Lemke say the idea of a nuclear renaissance is a myth, citing data showing that atomic energy’s share of global electricity production is shrinking.

At a recent news conference in Berlin, Lemke noted that new nuclear plants in Europe, such as Hinkley Point C in Britain, have faced significant delays and cost overruns. Funds used to maintain aging reactors or build new ones would be better spent on installing cheap renewables, she said.

Energy experts such as Claudia Kemfert of the German Institute for Economic Research in Berlin say the 5% share of Germany’s electricity currently coming from nuclear can be easily replaced without risking blackouts.

The northwestern town of Lingen, home to the Emsland plant, plans to become a hub for hydrogen production using electricity generated from North Sea wind farms, Mayor Dieter Krone told the Associated Press in an interview this week.

The power plant’s operator, RWE, made clear that it is committed to the shutdown. The company still runs some of Europe’s dirtiest coal-fired power plants. It recently pushed through the destruction of a village for a mine expansion as part of a plan to increase short-term production before ending coal use by 2030.

Many of Germany’s nuclear power plants will still be undergoing costly dismantling by then. The question of what to do with highly radioactive material accumulated in the 62 years since the country’s first reactor started operating remains unsolved. Efforts to find a final home for hundreds of containers of toxic waste have faced fierce resistance from local groups and officials, including Soeder, the Bavarian Governor.

“Nuclear power supplied electricity for three generations, but its legacy remains dangerous for 30,000 generations,” said Lemke, who also pointed to previously unconsidered risks such as the targeting of civilian atomic facilities during conflicts.

Finding a place to safely store spent nuclear fuel is a problem that other nations using the technology face, including the United States. Still, U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm has said that nuclear power will “play a critical role in America’s clean energy future.” This week, she welcomed Japan’s decision to restart many of its reactors.

With debate raging again in Germany about whether the shutdown is a good idea, the top official in charge of nuclear safety at the Environment Ministry, Gerrit Niehaus, was asked by a reporter to sum up in a single sentence what lessons should be learned from the country’s brief atomic era.

“You need to think things through to the end,” Niehaus said.