Category Archives: The Nuclear Nightmare

Why the focus on nuclear? Ten years and $645 MILLION in lobbying might explain it

I came across this enlightening piece from Harvey Wasserman last week. It scares me to think that our government can be bought… but I know I am naive and overly optimistic in this regard. Perhaps I shall start a “Buy a Senator” campaign and lay these cards plainly on the table. Care to make a donation?

$645 MILLION in Lipstick for a Dead Radioactive Pig

Submitted by BuzzFlash on Wed, 02/24/2010

The mystery has been solved.

Where is this “new reactor renaissance” coming from?

There has been no deep, thoughtful re-making or re-evaluation of atomic technology. No solution to the nuke waste problem. No making reactors economically sound. No private insurance against radioactive disasters by terror or error. No grassroots citizens now desperate to live near fragile containment domes and outtake pipes spewing radioactive tritium at 27 US reactors.

No, nothing about atomic energy has really changed.

Except this: $645 MILLION for lobbying Congress and the White House over the past ten years.

As reported by Judy Pasternak and a team of reporters at American University’s Investigative Reporting Workshop, filings with the Senate Office of Public Records show that members of the Nuclear Energy Institute and other reactor owner/operators admit spending that money on issues that “include legislation to promote construction of new nuclear power plants.”

Money has also gone to “other nuclear-related priorities” including “energy policy, Yucca Mountain and nuclear waste disposal, plant decommissioning costs, uranium issues, such as tariffs, re-enrichment and mining, and Nuclear Regulatory Commission funding.” But even that may not fully account for money spent on coal and other energy sources, or on media campaigning.

In short: think $64.5 million, EVERY YEAR since the coming of George W. Bush.

That’s $1 million per every US Senator and Representative, plus another, say $100 million for the White House, courts and media.

“I think that’s understated,” says Journalism Professor Karl Grossman of the State University of New York/College at Old Westbury. The “torrent of lies” from General Electric and Westinghouse, the “Coke and Pepsi” of the nuclear industry, “has made the tobacco industry look like a piker.

Their past, present and/or future media mouthpieces, says Grossman, span CBS, NBC and a global phalanx of interlocking radio-TV-print directorates.

All are geared, adds MediaChannel.org’s Rory O’Connor, to flood the globe with “Nukespeak,” the Orwellian lingo that sells atomic power while rehtorically air brushing its costs and dangers.

Thus Noam Chomsky’s “manufacturing consent” has become an “outright purchase.”

Thus National Public Radio is now the Nuclear Proliferation Redux. Disgraced ex-Greenpeacer Patrick Moore (who also sells clear-cut forests and genetically modified food) is portrayed as an “environmentalist” rather than an industry employee.

That’s not to say all reactor advocates do it for the money. Certainly some have grown on their own to like nuke power.

But $645 million—SIX HUNDRED FORTY-FIVE MILLION—can buy a lot of opinion going one way, and suppresses a lot going the other. Op eds, air time, “independent” reports, phony claims that “green” nukes can solve global warming…not to mention campaign “donations,” fact-finding junkets, political fundraisers, K-Street dinners…all can be had for a trifling drip from the mega-slush fund.

The latest payback is Barack Obama’s $8.33 billion in promised loan guarantees for two new nukes proposed in Georgia. Two old ones came in at 3000% over budget at a site where the Nuclear Regulatory Commission warns the proposed new ones might crumble in an earthquake or hurricane.

As Juan Gonzalez of Democracy Now! points out, Team Obama has taken VERY goodly chunks of that $645 million from Chicago’s nuke-loving Exelon. Despite his campaign hype for a green revolution, Obama’s first two named advisors, David Axelrod and Rahm Emmanuel, were proud Exelon “associates.”

Now Obama wants taxpayers to pony up $36 billion MORE in loan guarantees. (John McCain wants a mere trillion).

All this BEFORE the US Supreme Court ruled that corporations are “persons” who can spend without limit to buy Congress and the media. The cash pouring into the pockets of politicians voting for still more taxpayer money to build still more reactors will parallel the gusher of radiation that poured from Chernobyl.

But does this mean the flood of new reactors is inevitable?

NO!

Despite that cash tsunami, grassroots activists stopped $50 billion in loan guarantees three times since 2007. No new US reactor construction has started since the 1970s, when public opinion was over 70% in favor of atomic power, and Richard Nixon promised 1000 US reactors by the year 2000.

With green jobs advocate Van Jones ditched and Obama now openly in the nuclear camp, atomic energy is still a loser.

It can’t solve its waste problems, can’t operate without leaking radiation, can’t pay for itself and can’t get private insurance against terror or error.

Once hyped as “too cheap to meter,” Warren Buffett, the National Taxpayers Union, the Heritage Foundation and the CATO Institute are among those joining the Congressional Budget Office in warning that atomic energy is really “too expensive to matter.”

With all those hundreds of millions to spend, the reactor backers are still selling a technological corpse. With licensing and construction and the inevitable unforeseen, not one new US reactor can come on line in less than seven years.

Meanwhile, renewable/efficiency prices will continue to plummet. And grassroots opposition will not stop, as in Vermont and wherever else reactors operate or are proposed.

As Abe Lincoln reminds us: you can’t buy all the people all the time. And the ones that can’t be bought CAN be damn powerful.

Those loan guarantees, all that hype about a new nuclear age…they are NOT a done deal. They still must withstand a Solartopian revolution in green technology that’s left atomic power in its economic dust…and a human species whose core instincts DEMAND economic and ecological survival.

So when you hear some hired gun selling nukes, remember: even $645 million can buy only so much green lipstick for a dead radioactive pig.

And when Nature bats last, the final score is not about cash.

Original article: http://blog.buzzflash.com/contributors/3019

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Massachusetts residents living downstream from Vermont Yankee tell Douglas to shut down the plant now

From: http://vtdigger.org/2010/02/11/massachusetts-residents-living-downstream-from-vermont-yankee-tell-douglas-to-shut-down-the-plant-now/

February 11, 2010

Dear Governor Douglas:

I believe the tritium leak at ENVY is a greater environmental disaster than you realize. Just one gram of tritium contaminates 500 billion liters of water up to the fed. limit of 20,000pCi/L. The leak has been allowed to continue at full speed for over one month. The level of tritiated water found in groundwater monitoring wells is now at 2.7 million pCi/L, near the level of the reactor water itself.  This represents a breach of containment, understood as the systems in the reactor and powerplant intended to isolate radioactive contamination from the public.

The groundwater belongs to the public, not to ENVY. ENVY’s leak has polluted our groundwater to the second highest level of all tritium leaks from reactors in the country. NRC rules have allowed contamination of groundwater resources at 27 leaking nuclear reactors. This is illegal in Vermont. Your agencies can stop the leak by shutting down the reactor, but they are waiting for you to give the nod. You must protect public trust resources. Please instruct your agencies (DPS, ANR, VDH) to act swiftly to turn off the reactor water that is contaminating the groundwater by shutting down the reactor.

It is not necessary to run the reactor at overpressure levels to find the leak. Drilling wells just maps the toxicity and extent of the plume, it does not find the leak. All power plants have design drawings, sophisticated gauges and flow meters on their pipes and engineers who can do mass balance calculations to detect leaks.  This has gone on far too long, is based on industry lies and incompetence and NRC tolerance of groundwater pollution, and MUST BE STOPPED IMMEDIATELY. Please do the right thing and act.

Thank you for your rapid consideration of my concerns.

Sally Shaw

Gill, Mass.

An 11th generation Vermonter and mother, living in the EPZ.

A letter from Sally Shaw’s husband, Bart Bales, follows.

Leak detection in plant systems with regard to the VT Yankee tritium leak.

By Bart Bales, P.E., M.S.M.E

February 9, 2010

This is an evaluation of the facts surrounding the VT Yankee tritium leak as reported in the press and to the public through the VT Dept. of Health’s website. It is the opinion of a registered mechanical engineer with twenty-five years of professional experience in energy engineering. It provides approaches to leak detection in power plant piping systems in general, and evaluates the approach being employed, according to public information, to find the tritium leak at VT Yankee.

1.    A plant operator should have up-to-date schematics for all piping and the expected pressures and flow rates throughout the piping network.

2.    Design pipe layouts and as-built pipe layouts are necessary elements for responsible operation and maintenance of a power plant.

3.    Use of design and as-built drawings and specifications along with gauge and instrumentation operating parameters should provide information sufficient to determine expected flow rates and pressures in the piping networks.

4.    The design documents at VT Yankee should enable plant personnel to identify a limited number of pipes that could contain tritiated water.

5.    Plant personnel should determine actual flows through and between elements and components of those piping networks that contain tritium, and determine quantities in various storage vessels by a mass balance calculation.

6.    These calculations can determine flows from within the plant enclosure to the piping network and storage vessels outside the enclosure and should provide information sufficient to identify the leaking pipe loop.

7.    Differences in flows into and out of parts of the network can help localize the leak as the mass balance will indicate a shortfall in expected values for the piping network containing the leak.

8.    This is a more prudent approach to leak detection that can allow the plant system to be operated at lower and safer pressures and flow rates until the leak is found and repaired.

9.    It is expected that there would be existing flow meters on all the various piping loops, especially those conveying radioactive liquids or gases. These should be calibrated, serviced or replaced and rendered reliably functional to determine flow rates and diagnose leaks.

10.     Maintenance of full pressure ratings throughout the power plant should not be necessary to accomplish leak detection. Maintenance of even moderate pressures in the piping will produce a sufficient gradient for leak detection.

11.     There is no justification for maintaining pressures at uprated or even original design conditions for leak detection.

12.     Fluid flow through holes in the leaking pipes erodes the edges of these holes.  Larger holes result in even higher rates of leakage.

13.     It should be recognized that the higher the pressure the greater the flow through leaks, and the faster the introduction of contaminants into the groundwater.

14.     A higher influx rate into the groundwater increases the rate of migration of the plume into adjacent areas and into the Connecticut River.

15.     A more responsible leak detection protocol would be to shut down the plant, evaluate and model analytically, prioritizing the pipe systems most likely to be leaking tritium, then test each system progressively in order of probability that it is the source of the leak.

16.     This approach to leak detection methods from inside the plant employs existing flow gauges or installation of mechanical measuring gauges, and use of ultrasonic or inflow measurements.

17.     For a plant operator or engineer to lack knowledge of location of piping networks and their contents is an unacceptable situation, especially in the handling of potentially hazardous fluids.

Over 21% of sirens fail at latest Indian Point test

37 sirens flunk emergency test at Indian Point

Original article: http://www.recordonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20091213/NEWS/912139996

By Adam Bosch
Posted: December 13, 2009 – 2:00 AM

BUCHANAN — A total of 37 emergency sirens failed last week during a test of the emergency notification system at the Indian Point nuclear power plant.

The result constitutes a 21.5 percent failure for the system.
The test Wednesday was triggered using a battery backup method. The battery and cell trigger system worked with 100 percent success later in the day.

Officials at Indian Point and inspectors from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission were meeting last week to determine why the battery backup method had failed.

Entergy can’t be trusted

Big thanks go out to Gary Sachs for stating what so many of us believe… with clarity, logic and passion.

Published: August 6, 2009 by the Rutland Herald

http://www.rutlandherald.com/article/20090806/OPINION02/908060304

“Yes officer I was speeding, but it was an oversight.” This tactic generally doesn’t work.

“We measured the temperature but forgot to check the radioactivity,” says the largest radioactive emitter in the state.

“We agreed to a memorandum of understanding and then forgot to implement what we understood,” says the same company.

Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee forgot to measure the radioactivity coming off the dry cask storage installation. It is now August. The 2008 fence line dose monitoring data is still not available.

Entergy wants permission to operate another 20 years.

Entergy wants permission to expand their fence line boundary.

Entergy wants permission to spin off Vermont Yankee and a few other reactors into Enexus.

What is wrong with this picture?

In 1967 the Vermont state Legislature agreed to host an in-state nuclear reactor for 40 years, not 60. In 2006, Entergy won permission to store waste in dry casks as long as the radiation off the casks was measured. They forgot.

Where is the common courtesy, aka, compliance with the state that Entergy promised Chairman Dworkin of the Public Service Board in 2002 during the sale case?

Entergy does not show that they can keep their word to the chair of the regulatory board, and Entergy does not hold up its end of the agreements it signs with the Department of Public Service. Clearly one should not reward these poor behaviors with extended operation. Please encourage your state representative and senator to vote against continued operation beyond 2012.

GARY SACHS
Brattleboro

America imports nuclear waste from other countries

Do you know this? Do you think it is wise to allow PRIVATE CORPORATIONS to import RADIOACTIVE NUCLEAR WASTE into the U.S.? One more question… Who the hell is going to pay to safely and securely store highly volatile spent fuel rods when this private corporation goes out of business?

Now, I don’t yet know much of anything about this EnergySolutions… YET.

But I will.

They’ve got a dumptruck full of federal money heading their way (in the form of stimulus contracts)… and the path is being cleared as I write for them to begin importing nuclear waste from Italy. I’m sorry… but what the hell is going on here? Who are they related to?

Why would we do something so stupid?

The reasoning, as stated, is that EnergySolutions “needs to dispose of foreign waste here so it can develop relationships with foreign countries, and ultimately, build disposal facilities abroad.”

I’m sorry, folks, but I could give a DAMN about your corporate objectives abroad. And I certainly don’t think it’s the least bit reasonable, or logical, or practical to risk you royally screwing this up — or even moderately screwing this up — so that you can pursue your dreams of storing toxic waste around the globe. It seems more than likely that you will make some quick cash and disappear while America is left footing the bill for dealing with Europe’s toxic waste in addition to our own!

And… forgive me if I’m wrong, but didn’t our President just make it impossible to continue development of the federal facility we were promised in Yucca Mountain? Yeah, I thought so. So, why would we even consider a proposal like this from a private corporation? I have no idea. But I know for fact that if every American was aware of this bullshit, it would NEVER be permitted.

So what’s a girl to do but everything she can to spread the word?

THIS IS LUNACY, PEOPLE. WAKE THE HELL UP!

Judge Lets Utah Accept Foreign Nuclear Waste

From Courthouse News (http://www.courthousenews.com/2009/05/19/Judge_Lets_Utah_Accept_Foreign_Nuclear_Waste.htm)
05/19/09
By SUZANNE ASHE

(CN) – A federal judge in Utah has ruled that EnergySolutions can dispose of foreign nuclear waste at its facility in the western part of the state.

EnergySolutions claimed that the Northwest Compact – which consists of representatives from Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming – had unlawfully banned importation of low-level radioactive waste  from international sources. Specifically, EnergySolutions argued that Northwest had tried to exercise greater authority over the disposal of the waste than is allowed under current law.

EnergySolutions sought clarification from the district court in Utah in May 2008.

U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart agreed with EnergySolution’s interpretation of the law that Northwest was overreaching its scope. This ruling paves the way for EnergySolutions to bring low-level radioactive waste from Italy to its facility in Clive, Utah.

The Clive facility has been safely disposing of low-level material for more than 20 years and has been disposing of residuals from internationally generated material for about eight years.

Judge says Utah can accept foreign nuclear waste

From the Miami Herald (http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation/AP/story/1051933.html)
5/16/09
By BROCK VERGAKIS
Associated Press Writer

SALT LAKE CITY — A federal judge has ruled that a Utah company can dispose of foreign nuclear waste at its facility in the western Utah desert.

EnergySolutions Inc. wants to import up to 20,000 tons of low-level radioactive waste from Italy. After processing in Tennessee, about 1,600 tons would be disposed of in Utah.

If approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the waste would be imported through the ports of Charleston, S.C. or New Orleans.

EnergySolutions contends it needs to dispose of foreign waste here so it can develop relationships with foreign countries, and ultimately, build disposal facilities abroad.

EnergySolutions has pledged to limit the amount of international waste disposed at its Utah facility to 5 percent of its remaining capacity.

———————-

Lastly, here’s the gigantic red flag i saw waving tonight…

EnergySolutions wins big with stimulus contracts

Utah » 12 cleanup projects will ship material to Clive

By Judy Fahys
The Salt Lake Tribune
05/16/2009

Utahns rejoiced a few weeks ago when Washington announced stimulus money would be used to speed the removal of a massive pile of uranium-contaminated mill tailings near Moab.

What wasn’t publicized at the time is that still more of the $6 billion in Energy Department Recovery Act funds will come to Utah in the form of low-level radioactive waste.

Salt Lake City-based EnergySolutions Inc. is specifically named in more than half of the project proposals for the Energy Department stimulus money. And trainloads of waste contaminated with low-level radioactive and hazardous waste will be coming to Utah under the two dozen cleanup projects.

Company Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Steve Creamer recently told investors that his nuclear waste company campaigned to be included.

“We have a full team that’s doing nothing but working on the stimulus package,” Creamer said in a May 7 conference call.

He told investors his staff is helping contractors figure out how to spend the money.

“We’re pleased with it,” he added, “and we think it’s a very positive thing for the company.”

EnergySolutions has long touted the value of the Utah disposal site, a mile-square facility that offers the only commercial disposal available for waste from 36 states.

Its federal contracts with the departments of Defense and Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency used to account for about half of the waste going to the 20-year-old company, which had rates so low that even government-owned and -operated disposal sites could not compete.

But the volumes headed for EnergySolutions have fallen off in the last couple of years, and the company has turned to such proposals as accepting waste from foreign nations.

The stimulus money projects that specifically mention the Utah company include the large government cleanups of the nation’s nuclear-weapons complex in Hanford, Wash., Oak Ridge, Tenn., and Savannah River, S.C.

But the specifics of many stimulus projects still haven’t been worked out, said Energy Department spokeswoman Jen Stutsman.

“…[T]here is not yet detailed waste forecast information on the incremental volumes of low-level and mixed low-level waste that may be suitable for disposal at the Clive facility in Utah,” she said.

But, even before the stimulus bonanza, EnergySolutions was counting on lots of waste from the Energy Department sites nationwide — about 52,000 cubic feet this year and 26,000 cubic feet in the next two years, according to Stutsman.

Stimulus-funded projects will add to that volume, but there is no way of saying how much, she said.

The additional cleanup funding is also good news for the cleanups.

At the Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York, an infusion of $42 million will allow the demolition of buildings associated with a nuclear research reactor and the removal of contaminated soil and pipes. About 6,000 cubic yards of waste — including contaminated soil, concrete and debris — will come to Utah by rail, according to Brookhaven spokeswoman Mona Rowe.

At the Savannah River Project, an additional $1.6 billion from the stimulus is slated for cleanup, including the disposal of 16,000 containers of depleted uranium oxide. And, while the Savannah River cleanup sent 5,500 containers of depleted uranium to Utah last fall, spokeswoman Paivi M. Nettamo said where the remaining thousands of containers will go is not certain.

“We will ensure all shipments of depleted uranium oxide or any other radioactive material from [the cleanup] meet all applicable state and federal regulations,” she said.

Depleted uranium has become controversial in Utah recently because of the radioactive metal’s unusual quality of becoming more hazardous over time. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is looking at the issue but isn’t expected to finish its study until after the stimulus money is spent.

—————————

Did you read that last line? Please… Read it once more…

Depleted uranium has become controversial in Utah recently because of the radioactive metal’s unusual quality of becoming more hazardous over time. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is looking at the issue but isn’t expected to finish its study until after the stimulus money is spent.

For everything that is good and right about America… PLEASE, please, pretty please… SEE HOW WRONG THIS IS AND LEND YOUR VOICE, YOUR ENERGY, YOUR VOTE to prevent this shit from happening.

ATTENTION

If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention. Please pay attention.

Bribery will get you nowhere… if people are AWAKE

From the PUTNAM COUNTY NEWS and RECORDER in Cold Spring, NY on 5/20/09:

Entergy Contributes to Fire Hall

Entergy, which operates the Indian Point nuclear generating plant in Buchanan, NY, recently contributed $15,000 to the new North Highlands Fire Department fire hall on Fishkill Rd. The hall would be used for decontamination purposes in the event of an incident at Indian Point.

http://www.pcnr.com/news/2009/0520/general_stories/013.html

Massachusetts joins NY and CT in appeal of NRC ruling

State appeals NRC ruling

GateHouse News Service
PLYMOUTH — Attorney General Martha Coakley and her counterparts in New York and Connecticut are appealing a Nuclear Regulatory Commission decision that could impact the relicensing of Pilgrim Station Nuclear Power Plant.

Massachusetts, New York and Connecticut officials have filed a brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York challenging the NRC’s ruling that there was no “new and significant information” on the risks of severe accidents in the spent fuel pools at nuclear plants, including Pilgrim and Vermont Yankee, caused by terrorist attack, human error, equipment malfunction, or natural disaster.

In 2006, Massachusetts filed a petition claiming that new and significant information on these risks to Pilgrim and Vermont Yankee, both owned by Entergy Nuclear Operations, and should be part of the relicensing process for each nuclear power plant.

“Our appeal is intended to ensure that the NRC give due consideration, including a meaningful opportunity for public comment, on these important environmental and public safety issues,” Attorney General Coakley said in a press release.

Original article: http://www.wickedlocal.com/plymouth/news/x2133272855/State-appeals-NRC-ruling (published May 6, 2009)

Words of fury, despair

Vermont Yankee is old and unsafe

Vermont Yankee is old and unsafe

An editorial published on RutlandHerald.com:

Vermont Yankee produces about 30 tons a year of the most toxic and long-lasting waste known to man, which will stay forever on the banks of the Connecticut River in casks that, over its half-life of 250,000 years, will crack every 100 years or so, leaving this unspeakable waste to thousands of generations of our children (if they live). Ray Shadis called it “the gift that keeps on killing.” Every minute of the day and night it releases radioactive material in the air, none of which is safe, and since children are most vulnerable, they, our children, have been and will continue to be, victims of cancers and leukemias as long as the reactor is rattling along like a broken down old car.

On top of all that there is a sneaky connection between nuclear reactors and the military, with “depleted” uranium (which is making the world for the world’s children a radioactive wasteland) and nuclear bombs, which are all part of the atom-smashing process. Helen Caldecott called Vermont Yankee a “cancer and a bomb factory that must be shut down.”

I understand completely why Sally Shaw placed compost (which she called “good waste”) on the table behind which Entergy’s officials and the NRC sat. Anyone who doesn’t understand, and because of that, not only condemns her, but in the Legislature, might vote to poison us and keep us in constant fear for our children and grandchildren for 20 more years, was never on the side of desperate parents and grandparents anyway, and care nothing about our children.

There are times when I am so tired of feeling sad, hopeless, and cynical in the face of corporate power, that I can hardly find the right words. However, criticism of Sally’s despair and fury, which I share, made me find some.

Thank you, Sally.

JANE NEWTON
South Londonderry

(Thank YOU, Jane. You are NOT alone!)

We don’t need dirty money for our playgrounds

Vermont Yankee needs a “Certificate of Public Good” in order to get the 20-year extention to operate beyond the nuclear power plant’s scheduled closing. In a county of just over 40,000 people, there were approximately 75 who bothered to show up for the latest meeting of Vermont’s public service board to weigh in on whether Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee deserve the required certification.

According to the Brattleboro Reformer’s news story of May 1 (http://www.reformer.com/ci_12270340), the audience appeared evenly split on whether to grant this certificate or not. Reporter Bob Audette notes that those opposed focused on the environmental impact, the potential costs involved, and the negative impact the over-extended plant will have on the Vermont brand.

Those in favor of granting the certificate seemed to focus only on the tens of thousands of dollars that Entergy has “donated” to local non-profits, as if the local towns would suffer harshly without such charity. It seems to me that a rudimentary review of profits reaped by Entergy Nuclear versus their supposedly charitable investment in local towns would render this argument laughable in the face of the financial burden their spent fuel rods will cost to contain and secure once they have divested themselves of the no-longer-viable plant… twenty years beyond when it was scheduled to close… twenty years beyond when it was built to last.

Let us remember that we were promised a national storage facility for spent nuclear fuel rods… the Yucca Mountain fantasy that will never be. Have we considered the financial burden to the state and to the country based on the reality that the facility will never be built? Has any Vermonter looked over to Maine to review the state costs related to the decomissioning of Maine Yankee in light of the lack of federal safe-keeping of their spent fuel rods?

Fuck Entergy’s playgrounds. Who the hell wants a new playground built from the supposed charitable contributions from a corporation who maintains facilities like this?

Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee on August 21, 2007

Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee on August 21, 2007

June 18, 2004 - Fire at Vermont Yankee

June 18, 2004 - Fire at Vermont Yankee

Are your tire swings worth it? Why don’t you show the children these photos and ask them if they think it’s worth it to accept their money for playgrounds or little league? I trust that the children will know better. In fact, I already know that they do know better.

A “Certificate of Public Good”? You must be JOKING. Where is the public good in this equation? It DOES NOT EXIST.

Wake up, Vermont. These Louisiana folks are not your friends… and no amount of playground building changes the fact that they want to squeeze as much profit out of a dangerously aging nuclear power plant as they are able to, without regard for the potential short- and long-term financial burdens placed on the state and its residents.

Do not sit idle while your playgrounds are glowing. WAKE UP. Please.

Good Morning, People!

From The Burlington Free Press: http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/article/20081125/NEWS02/81124033

Nuclear plant renewal dealt setback

By Sam Hemingway • Free Press Staff Writer • November 25, 2008

Entergy Nuclear’s hopes for renewing its Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant’s license for another 20 years were dealt a surprise setback Monday when a federal panel raised concerns about possible metal fatigue problems at the facility.

The Atomic Safety and Licensing Board, a panel that acts as the judicial arm for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said in a 154-page decision that Entergy needs to do more tests now, not later, on metal nozzles used to supply water and maintain the temperature in the reactor core.

Entergy had proposed putting off such tests until sometime after the anticipated 2012 date for renewal of its license. One of the nozzles is critical to protecting the reactor’s core in the event of an accident.

The board said it would not issue a license renewal for Vermont’s only nuclear power plant until the panel is satisfied that the metal fatigue issue regarding the nozzles has been adequately addressed.

“The key question is as follows: Is it legally and technically permissible to issue the license now, and allow Entergy to postpone the necessary metal fatigue analyses until later? Our answer is — no,” the three-member, quasi-judicial board ruled.

“To defer determining such a significant safety issue until after the license has already been issued would impermissibly remove it from the opportunity to be reviewed in the hearing process.”

Monday’s ruling was a victory for the New England Coalition, a Brattleboro nuclear watchdog group that had brought the metal fatigue issue before the board in the face of stiff opposition from Entergy lawyers and the NRC’s staff.

“We are the first citizen organization in the country to have one of our contentions sustained by the hearing board,” said Raymond Shadis, a coalition consultant. “Vermonters ought to be extremely proud of what this little, homegrown, organization has done.”

Shadis said the board did not go far enough in examining problems at Vermont Yankee and said his group would ask the board to reconsider its decision. He said the cost of appearing before the board had nearly bankrupted his organization, however, and he called on Vermont energy regulators to help pursue issues the group has raised.

“This is their opportunity to bring in their experts or help us a little,” Shadis said. The state supported the coalition’s contentions at the board’s hearings, but only minimally participated in the proceedings.

Sarah Hofmann, director of public advocacy for the state Public Service Department said that, in light of the board’s decision, Vermont will hire xperts to monitor Entergy’s handling of the metal fatigue issue.

“We’re very excited about this ruling,” Hofmann said. “It is an historic decision to actually have an intervenor or a state to prevail at the board level.”

An Entergy spokesman said late Monday saying the company would not appeal the board’s decision and that it had begun more extensive testing of the metal nozzle components as required by the panel.

“Time is of the essence,” said Laurence Smith, Vermont Yankee communications manager. “We are not going to wait.”

Smith, in a statement, said the company expects that once the additional testing is done, it will show that the nozzles are in good shape.

“Entergy … is confident that they will show that there is significant margin in the components so that they will continue to be in service safely throughout the license renewal period,” Smith’s statement said.

The board’s decision also contained a sharply worded rebuke of the NRC. The board noted that the NRC had initially required that the nozzles undergo a full testing regimen for any aging problems, but then relented and concluded that Entergy’s plan to do the work later was legal and permissible.

“This is an example of form over substance,” the board said. “Entergy re-labeled its TLAA (time-limited aging analyses) as an AMP (aging management program) and the NRC staff now deems it compliant.”

Read the entire article: http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/article/20081125/NEWS02/81124033

Thank you, Ray Shadis and the New England Coalition!

CRACK IS WHACK

Engineers find more cracks in VY steam dryer

Reformer Staff

Friday, November 21

BRATTLEBORO — During a recheck of the results of Vermont Yankee’s steam dryer inspection, engineers found that the number of additional hairline cracks in the dryer was actually 18, and not 16, as previously reported.”These two additional ones were also likely created in the early years of plant operations and are not a result of metal fatigue that had been seen in some other boiling water reactors that had been through a power uprate,” stated Rob Williams, spokesman for Yankee, in an e-mail to the media.

The steam dryer inspection was conducted during a recent refueling outage at the nuclear power plant in Vernon. The inspection was the second of three required by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission following the approval of a 20 percent power uprate.

In addition to the dryer inspection, Yankee technicians conducted more than 5,000 tasks including inspections and parts replacements.

[The following content added by blogger]

Let Us Not Forget!

This is Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee in August of 2007. WAKE UP!

Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee on August 21, 2007

Just Say No to Aging Nuclear Power Plants

Boston.com posted a piece in their BUSINESS IN BRIEF section:

Ruling appealed as Pilgrim nears license extension

NRC definitely having “issues” dealing with New England

Nuclear Regulatory Commission under fire over fire

Rep. Markey looking for answers from regulators on Pilgrim safety oversight


The Patriot Ledger
Posted Nov 05, 2008 @ 05:30 AM

QUINCY —

U.S. Rep. Edward Markey is using a fire last week at the Pilgrim nuclear power plant in Plymouth to turn up the heat on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Markey sent a letter to the federal agency on Friday, posing a long list of questions about the Oct. 29 fire in an outbuilding at the plant property that the plant operator says was contained to one room.

The Malden Democrat, a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce committee, has longstanding concerns about the NRC’s oversight of its fire safety rules. Markey believes that the agency isn’t doing enough to ensure that nuclear plant operators meet or exceed the agency’s fire safety standards.

“I have yet to be persuaded that the NRC is on a path to do the right thing and require the nation’s plants to be brought (into) compliance with NRC’s fire protection regulations,” Markey wrote in the letter to NRC Chairman Dale Klein. “This latest event only heightens my concern and my interest in assuring that all appropriate measures are undertaken to protect these facilities against dangerous fires.”

Diane Screnci, a spokeswoman for the nuclear agency, said the two NRC inspectors assigned to the plant are investigating the fire’s cause and reviewing plant owner Entergy Corp.’s steps to ensure such a fire doesn’t happen again. Screnci said the agency received Markey’s letter and will respond as quickly as possible to the congressman.

Read the entire story >

Inspectors got an obstructed view

NRC cites visibility for probe failure

November 18, 2008

VERNON — A special inspection team from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission failed to find five degraded support columns in the only safety-related cell in Vermont Yankee’s cooling towers because inspectors didn’t have a clear view of the interior of the cell, according to an NRC spokesman.

The columns, estimated to be 40 feet tall, were either bowed or cracked and were in the interior of the cooling towers, where inspectors’ views were obscured by louvers that cover the structural timbers but accommodate the trickling and cooling of the water.

“There was no way the special inspection team could see these with fill and louvers in place,” according to NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan.

“It’s almost better not to have a regulator, than to have a regulator that just obscures the picture,” said Raymond Shadis, senior technical advisor to the New England Coalition, a Brattleboro-based anti-nuclear group. “The work that the NRC has done is counter-productive to public safety.”

Deteriorating cooling towers produce loose debris, which falls into the cooling tower basin underneath the towers, Shadis noted. “You cannot have loose debris in the cooling tower basin without affecting safety,” he added.

Shadis said the coalition also plans to file a formal complaint with the Office of Inspector General regarding the NRC oversight. “This is a very serious matter. It has to be handled in a formal way, we want a serious response — the fact is — at every level, headquarters, at NRC Region One, at the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board, at the Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards, on very level of review, NRC has fallen on its face.”

Read the entire story >

Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee is counting on YOU

… to help bear the expense of cleaning things up once the plant is at last permitted to enter its delayed retirement.

TimesArgus.com reports an AP story by Dave Gram [http://www.timesargus.com/article/20081119/NEWS02/811190355/1003/NEWS02] :

Vermont Yankee decommissioning fund suffers large loss

November 19, 2008

A sign warns of radioactivity inside the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. State officials note the fund that holds money for decommissioning the plant has taken another big hit.

A sign warns of radioactivity inside the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. State officials note the fund that holds money for decommissioning the plant has taken another big hit.

MONTPELIER — The fund set aside to pay for dismantling the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant when it shuts down was already about $400 million short of what would be needed to do the job, according to an estimate by a subsidiary of the plant’s owner.

Then it lost nearly $76 million more amid the turmoil in the financial markets during the past 13 months, with more than $33 million of that loss coming last month, according to the state Department of Public Service.

The health of the decommissioning fund — money set aside to haul away the plant’s radioactive components when it is retired — has been a hot issue this year. Gov. Jim Douglas vetoed a bill passed by the Legislature calling on Vermont Yankee owner Entergy Nuclear to shore up the fund, amid complaints from lawmakers that

Vermonters might end up stuck with the bill

.

Read More >

Thanks, again, Bob Audette, for reporting on the safety issues at Vermont Yankee

From the good Bob Audette of the Brattleboro Reformer (http://www.reformer.com/ci_10961916):

More cracks found in VY steam dryer

Wednesday, November 12
BRATTLEBORO — Opponents of the relicensing of Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant want to know why a press release announcing the successful refueling of the reactor did not include notification that 16 additional cracks had been found in the plant’s steam dryer. In its press release Yankee stated the steam dryer had been inspected and it “remains in very good condition.”

No mention was made of the cracks, said Rob Williams, spokesman for Yankee, because they were not new and had been discovered using enhanced inspection techniques. Inspections of the steam dryer during three refueling outages were required by Vermont’s Public Service Board when it authorized the plant to increase power production by 20 percent in 2004.

“In our best engineering judgment, these cracks have been there since the early days of plant operation,” said Williams.

“Why should we trust them?” asked Ray Shadis, technical consultant to the New England Coalition on Nuclear Pollution, which raised issues with the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board about fatigue cracks in the dryer.

Shadis said Entergy, which owns and operates Vermont Yankee, has not been totally up-front about problems at the power plant, including a failure last May of a gantry crane used to move nuclear waste and the collapse of a cooling tower in August 2007.

“They would not have told us about the collapse except for the fact that the photos got out,” said Shadis. Pictures of the cooling tower collapse were forwarded to NEC by an anonymous source several days after the failure. Shadis said Entergy doesn’t do themselves any favors by not being as forthright as possible with information about the plant.

“Just tell us the way it is.”

A spokesman for the anti-nuclear Citizen Awareness Network also expressed his dismay.

“Frankly, there is no reason to trust them based on their previous behavior,” said Bob Stannard. “We have been told time and time again that things are fine there. The state was assured the cooling towers were fine just a couple of days away from having it almost collapse again.”

Earlier this year Entergy revealed changes to the cooling towers meant to prevent a collapse such as had occurred in 2007 had led to sagging in a distribution pipe’s support system. Entergy voluntarily supplied the information to the media after the problem was discovered.

The cracks identified during the most recent refueling outage and were not of the type that were of concern to NEC, said Williams.

“All were determined to be due to intergranular stress corrosion cracking.”

NEC was concerned with metal fatigue, said Shadis, which happens when metal is flexed. The steam dryer is a static device with no moving parts meant to extract water vapor from steam produced by the reactor before it is sent to the power turbine.

Intergranular stress corrosion cracks occur “due to the relief of metal stress first induced by the heat of the original weld process,” said Williams.

None of the additional cracks nor any of the previously identified cracks have grown since the last inspection, he said, nor were they related to metal fatigue.

The additional cracks weren’t included in the original press release, he said, because close to 5,000 tasks were performed during the outage — including inspections and parts replacements — making it nearly impossible to inform the public of everything that was done while the reactor was being refueled.

It’s up to the licensee to inspect the plant and up to regulators to oversee the process, he said.

“The dryer is in good condition and that’s why it passed the inspection,” he said.

Entergy is required to submit a report to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission following all outages, wrote Neil Sheehan, NRC spokesman, in an e-mail to the Reformer.

“They will need to document for us the results of their steam dryer inspections, as they have in the past,” wrote Sheehan. “(But) Entergy does not need to file a report with us on every task undertaken during the outage.”

Sheehan wrote that the NRC supplements its regular inspection program during outages because they are periods of high activity.

“That includes bringing in specialists coming in to evaluate discrete outage activities, such as the replacement of large components.”

Whether Entergy is required to submit a report to Vermont’s Department of Public Service was not known Tuesday night. DPS did not return a phone call for comment on matter.

In addition to determining the steam dryer was in good condition, Entergy inspection teams checked the reactor vessel as well as its surrounding containment structure and both were found to be in good condition, according to Williams.

Upgrades to the plant during the outage included service water valves and piping, the safety-related cooling tower cell, installation of a new main feedwater pump motor and routine refurbishment of the main turbine valves.

“Our team carefully selected the tasks to be done, planned each task and brought the plan together in a very successful outage,” stated Entergy Vermont Yankee Site Vice President Mike Colomb.

The next refueling outage is scheduled for the Spring of 2010, at which time another inspection of the steam dryer will be conducted.

Though it’s too late to bring the new cracks to the attention of the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board, which is reviewing evidence on metal fatigue cracks in the steam dryer submitted by NEC, Shadis said the organization will present the information to the Vermont Public Service Board, which is reviewing whether the plant should receive a certificate of public good to continue to operate from 2012 to 2032.

“That’s for certain,” he said.

Bob Audette can be reached at raudette@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.

[ BLOGGER’S NOTE: GO RAY! ]

The Rutland Herald also reports: Legislators want rewrite for plant radiation rules

November 14, 2008

Associated Press

MONTPELIER — Vermont lawmakers want the state Department of Health to rewrite a rule about how radiation from Vermont Yankee is measured.

And the special legislative panel wants to be sure the public has a chance to comment on it.

Opponents of the nuclear plant have said the Health Department reinterpreted a rule on how it calculates radiation releases, allowing radiation at the edge of the plant’s property to exceed state limits.

On Wednesday, a special legislative panel voted unanimously to declare that part of the rule was unclear.

Lawmakers say changes made to the rule never went through a formal rule-making process.

Health Commissioner Wendy Davis plans to review the committee’s findings.

Rutland Herald reports: New Yankee discoveries raise doubts about NRC

November 14, 2008

By Susan Smallheer Herald Staff

BRATTLEBORO — The discovery of more degraded wooden support beams in Vermont Yankee’s cooling towers — this time in the reactor’s only safety dedicated cell — raised questions Thursday about how thorough a special Nuclear Regulatory Commission inspection was this summer.

Workers at the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant had to immediately replace five deteriorated major support columns in the one safety-related cell of the reactor’s two cooling towers during the plant’s recent refueling outage, according to the NRC.

The degraded columns, which are about 40 feet tall, were discovered after Entergy Nuclear started its gradual overhaul of the two cooling towers, replacing the wood with fiberglass. The overhaul is expected to take a couple of years.

Entergy Nuclear spokesman Robert Williams said the columns were bowed and cracked. “All could have been deemed acceptable for continued service, but we conservatively chose to replace them rather than wait until the next refueling outage,” Williams wrote in an e-mail.

He noted that two 2-by-4-inch “transverse” timbers were also replaced.

The news of the compromised columns surprised the Department of Public Service, which said the safety cell of the west cooling tower had been inspected by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission this summer, after other problems developed in the east cooling tower.

“We are eager to hear the NRC’s explanation,” said Stephen Wark, spokesman for the department, noting that the NRC had sent a special team of inspectors to the Vermont reactor in July, after a large leak developed in the eastern tower because of a lack of adequate supports.

Neil Sheehan, spokesman for the NRC, declined to say exactly what was wrong with the wooden timbers, saying only they had to be replaced because of “aging.” But he said workers have been classifying all the wood in the cooling towers according to how quickly they should be replaced, giving each a grade of 1, 2 or 3. The timbers in question required immediate replacement, he said.

“Entergy replaced four or five columns as well as a number of diagonal braces. As for other timbers in the cell, they were categorized based on their condition. Some were determined to be in need of immediate replacement and they were changed out. Our senior resident inspector observed the work as timbers were being taken down and replaced,” Sheehan said.

“This will improve the structural integrity” of the cell, he said.

The cooling towers are currently not in service because of the cool weather and the cool temperature of the Connecticut River, which is used for cooling water by the reactor. Typically, the cooling towers are not in service from mid-October until mid-May.

Sheehan noted that the safety cell provided back-up cooling for the reactor in the event of a “catastrophic” event, such as the loss of cooling water from the Connecticut River.

Wark said that Uldis Vanags, the state nuclear engineer, had been informed by Entergy Nuclear about the problem, as well as the five panel members of the state’s special inspection team.

The cooling towers have become a persistent source of problems at the Vernon reactor, ever since the west cooling tower partially collapsed in spectacular fashion on Aug. 21, 2007. The plant sharply reduced power for weeks as it made emergency repairs. Problems cropped up twice this summer in the west cooling tower, also causing Entergy Nuclear to cut power production.

Contact Susan Smallheer at susan.smallheer@rutlandherald.com.

Cooling towers at Vermont Yankee continue to be uncool

State wants more tower inspections

By BOB AUDETTE, Reformer Staff

Saturday, September 20
BRATTLEBORO — Recent problems with Vermont Yankee’s cooling towers “are totally unacceptable,” stated Vermont Department of Public Service Commissioner David O’Brien, in a letter to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

“We need your help in getting to the bottom of these repeated cooling tower failures,” O’Brien wrote Friday, requesting the NRC conduct additional inspections of the system.

Recently, the NRC sent an inspection team to the nuclear power plant in Vernon to determine whether prior cooling tower problems were affecting the operation of a cooling fan cell designed to be available during an emergency.

The NRC has not yet indicated when that report will be available to the public.

“Our special inspection of the cooling tower leakage identified at Vermont Yankee in July is still open,” wrote NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan, in an e-mail to the Reformer. “We are evaluating the most recent event against what we saw during the special inspection.”

On Tuesday morning, a Yankee maintenance worker discovered a 60-gallon-per-minute leak in the pipe that feeds water to the east bank of cooling fans.

Yankee has two banks of 11 cooling fan cells each. In August 2007, one of the 11 cells in the west bank collapsed due to the failure of rotted wooden support members.

Yankee management admitted the collapse was due to shortcomings in the plant’s tower maintenance and inspection program.

During the in-house review, Yankee technicians developed a program to replace certain wooden supports with fiberglass supports.

On Wednesday, Yankee employees identified several wooden beams that required replacement ahead of the schedule created after the August 2007 collapse.

Last month, brackets used to attach the header pipe to new fiberglass supports in the east tower failed, causing a leak of about 100 gallons per minute. The leak was blamed on a faulty bracket design.

“The cooling towers have presented problems over the last two years with leaks due to faulty or degraded materials that comprise the towers,” stated DPS spokesman Stephen Wark, in an e-mail announcing the letter to the NRC. “We are asking the NRC to come back and do additional inspections to determine if this new development impacts safety or the seismically rated cells.”

If there is any “new and significant information,” that arises from this latest leak, wrote Sheehan, the NRC has the option of keeping the special inspection open to further evaluate the cooling towers.

“We’ll review (O’Brien’s) request and respond to it in a timely manner,” wrote Sheehan. “As we’ve noted in the past, our primary focus is on the safety-related cell in the west cooling tower since that could, under some very low-probability scenarios, be needed for the shutdown of the plant.”

One cooling fan cell of the west tower is specially designed to withstand natural disasters such as an earthquake or hurricane. The NRC’s special inspection team came to Vernon to evaluate the safety cell’s integrity in light of the recent problems with the cooling towers.

Entergy, which owns and operates Vermont Yankee, has applied to the NRC to extend the power plant’s operating license for another 20 years, from 2012 to 2032. The NRC has indicated it has found no significant safety or environmental reasons for not issuing the license renewal and is expected to release it final decision in November.

Vermont’s Public Service Board is conducting hearings to determine whether Yankee should receive a certificate of public good to continue operations past 2012. The PSB must decide whether keeping the plant online for another 20 years is in the best interest of Vermonters.

The state Legislature also has the power to prohibit continued operation of the plant.

To inform both the PSB and the Legislature, “a thorough, independent, and public assessment of the reliability of the systems, structures, and components of the Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee facility” was authorized by the state.

“Our comprehensive vertical audit inspection team will be looking at the failures from a reliability standpoint through engineering and management assessments,” wrote Wark.

A spokesman for Vermont Yankee said plant managers were working with DPS and the NRC to make sure both agencies get the information they need. The spokesman had no comment on the DPS request for additional inspections.

“The NRC will do what is appropriate,” said Larry Smith. “They’ve been fully briefed on the cooling tower issue.”

The plant was expected to be back up to 100 percent early Friday night.

Original article: http://www.reformer.com/ci_10516112

Is there any amount of radioactive material too small to pose a health risk?

Nuclear Plant Logs 3rd Radiation Leak

Published: July 20, 2007

KASHIWAZAKI, Japan, July 19 — Troubles at a Japanese nuclear power plant damaged by an earthquake on Monday continued Thursday when the plant’s operator reported that it had detected a third radiation leak.

In a statement, Tokyo Electric Power, the operator, said that it had found tiny amounts of radioactive material in an exhaust filter at the plant, which was shut down Monday during a magnitude-6.8 earthquake near this city in northwestern Japan. The material was detected Wednesday, meaning it might have leaked a day or two after the earthquake, Tokyo Electric said.

The company said the amount of radioactive material was too small to pose a health risk. Still, the discovery is sure to add to criticism of Tokyo Electric, which has repeatedly apologized for delays and mistakes in reporting the extent of damage at the plant.

The company said the force of the earthquake set off a string of accidents, including a spill of slightly radioactive water and an earlier leak of radioactive material into an exhaust filter.