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Posts from the ‘Announcement’ Category
For the second time in two weeks, Entergy’s Pilgrim nuclear reactor experienced an “event” requiring notification to the NRC. The scram discharge volume valve (valve CV-302-22B) failed on March 1, 2013 and February 18, 2013. http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/event-status/event/
According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, “The scram discharge volume is a large metal tank that collects the water vented from the control rod’s hydraulic pistons during a scram. It is sized to contain all the water vented during a scram. CV-302-22B is one of the valves on the drain line from the scram discharge volume. When a scram signal occurs, this valve automatically closes (or is designed to do so, whether it does so is another matter).”
The NRC requires Entergy to make sure this valve is operating as designed because it is a mechanical system that is critical to Pilgrim’s safe operation. The valve is part of the reactor shutdown system, and must be able to operate during a “scram”. A scram means for some reason Entergy has to stop the nuclear reaction (the fission that splits the atoms) from happening.
During the February, 2013 blizzard (Nemo) Pilgrim had to shut down twice – that is, Entergy had to stop splitting the atoms. What if the valve had failed then-instead of a mere 9 days later, on Feb. 18?
Pilgrim exceeds industry averages for automatic shutdowns and unplanned power outages. http://www.capecodonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20130227/NEWS/302270347
The U.S. NRC says that the valves (called “scram discharge volume piping”) have only a one in a million chances of interfering with reactor shut down. But, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, in June, 1980, that is exactly what happened at the Brown’s Ferry nuclear plant in Alabama: that one in a million chance happened and almost caused a nuclear disaster. http://allthingsnuclear.org/fission-stories-107-mystery-plug/
If Entergy’s valve had failed to operate during one of Pilgrim’s many shutdowns during the last year, there could have been a serious nuclear emergency.
Pilgrim is old and worn out. It presents an unacceptable risk to our region-and this is just one more example of that.
The following is the fifth in an ongoing series of articles being published in the Old Colony Memorial newspaper of Plymouth and on the Wicked Local website.
By Genevieve Byrne and Meg Sheehan, Cape Cod Bay Watch
Published Feb. 15, 2013
The Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station on the shores of Cape Cod Bay in Plymouth has been operating since 1972. Electricity is only the fleeting by-product of Pilgrim’s operations. Pilgrim’s long-term legacy is the high level nuclear waste generated by 40 plus years of splitting atoms to make electricity. This waste is now being stored on site in a temporary facility that is potentially dangerous.
In May 2012, after a highly contested process, Entergy Corporation of Louisiana was relicensed by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to operate for another 20 years. Pilgrim makes more nuclear waste every day it operates. Pilgrim’s nuclear waste has nowhere to go, and will be staying in Plymouth for an indeterminate period of time.
In the 1960s, the Town of Plymouth issued a special zoning permit for Pilgrim. This permit did not authorize a long-term nuclear waste storage facility at Pilgrim. The plan–until recently–was to send the nuclear waste off site to a safer deep geological repository. The federal Department of Energy was responsible for siting and building this nuclear waste storage facility. The site chosen, Yucca Mountain in Nevada, has been cancelled. The nuclear waste at Pilgrim has nowhere to go. Entergy is due to run out of room in its current “fuel pool” and needs a new place to put the irradiated waste fuel. This fuel is at least a million times more radioactive than fresh fuel. So, Entergy is building a high-level nuclear waste storage facility at Pilgrim to store its nuclear waste indefinitely.
Entergy is required to apply for and obtain a special zoning permit for its high level nuclear waste storage facility. As of mid-December, 2012, Entergy had not applied for a zoning permit to build a nuclear waste facility in Plymouth, even though it has openly told town officials it has started construction on this facility. Nor has Entergy received approval for its waste storage facility from the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
The legal doctrine of preemption prevents the Town from regulating the radiological safety aspects of Entergy’s storage of irradiated waste fuel in Plymouth. The Town does have authority to require Entergy to submit a zoning application that includes a schematic plan of the proposed facility, and the exact size, shape and location of all proposed structures. The zoning law also requires an impact statement and public hearing.
Entergy’s construction of a high level radioactive waste facility in America’s Hometown is not a positive development. It is, however, an unfortunate reality. Right now, there are opportunities for the public to get involved. A sound public process with well-informed public input will help guide the permitting and regulatory processes and bring about a better result for our community.
Meg Sheehan is a Plymouth native and environmental attorney. Genevieve Byrne is an environmental attorney working with EcoLaw, a public interest group. Cape Cod Bay Watch is dedicated to protecting and restoring water quality and marine life in Cape Cod Bay through public education, networking, and advocacy.
…it’s no surprise — and it’s not over yet!
On February 26, 2013, the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office lost a bid to force the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to consider new information about public safety and environmental risks from the continued operation of Entergy’s Pilgrim nuclear reactor. A copy of the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals decision is here. Mass AG v NRC
The Attorney General tried to argue that Fukushima nuclear disaster revealed new information about high level nuclear waste spent fuel pool fires and core damage events that should be considered before Pilgrim was relicensed for 20 years, beyond its 40 year life. These “events” would release large amounts of radioactive material throughout the region, with unimaginable consequences.
The Court ruled in favor of Entergy and the NRC, and would not let the AG proceed with the challenge. No surprise there! Winning a court case against the NRC and the nuclear industry is extremely difficult. This is because the law that created the NRC, called the Atomic Energy Act, gives the NRC expansive powers to make the rules about who can challenge their decisions. As the Court said, the Atomic Energy Act is “a regulatory scheme which is virtually unique in the degree to which broad responsibility is reposed in the administering agency [the NRC]….” The Act is pro-industry, and the NRC, in making more rules (called regulations) on who can challenge its decisions, has taken that mission to heart: protect the industry, shut out public interest advocates.
In the February 26 decision, the Court said the AG did not meet NRC procedural standards for getting a hearing on the safety issues. The Court also said the AG was barred from bringing the case under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which requires the NRC to take a “hard look” at environmental impacts.
The Court’s decision does not mean Pilgrim is “safe.” In fact, the Court said the NRC still has to make Entergy fix numerous defects at Pilgrim, even though Pilgrim was relicensed. There are three types of defects at Pilgrim the NRC deciding whether Entergy must fix as a result of Fukushima: lack of filtered vents for emergencies, inadequate ways to figure out the water level in the spent nuclear waste fuel pool, and inadequate core cooling containment. As we speak, industry is lobbying the NRC to say “no fixes”, claiming they are too expensive and unwarranted. Today, the New York Times wrote about this. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/27/business/energy-environment/a-divisive-debate-on-need-for-more-nuclear-safeguards.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&#comments
The NRC isn’t the only one who gets to say how Pilgrim operates, however. State and local officials have a say, too. Entergy must meet state and local environmental and zoning laws. Admittedly, state and local authority over Pilgrim is limited, but it does exist. Unfortunately, Massachusetts state regulators are taking a hands off approach on Entergy’s water pollution. Other officials are looking the other way while Entergy builds a $165 million nuclear waste storage facility without proper permits. Vermont and New York officials have been much more proactive in using their state authority to protect the public and the environment from Entergy’s nuclear reactors in those states.
Politicians at the state and federal level are discussing new nuclear waste laws. In the U.S. Congress today, Sen. Ron Wyden said he expects a draft nuclear waste bill shortly – http://thehill.com/blogs/e2-wire/e2-wire/285319-sen-wyden-expects-draft-nuclear-waste-bill-shortly Sen. Wyden said, “I call the nuclear waste issue one of those issues that feels like the longest running battle since the Trojan War, and I think it’s time to get on with it.” Massachusetts state legislators have also announced legislation to deal with Pilgrim. Let’s hope these legislators can “get on with it.”
Meanwhile, back in Manomet, Entergy is refueling Pilgrim in March or April. This means Entergy is going to bring in more uranium based nuclear fuel rods so that Pilgrim can keep on running — and making even more nuclear waste to sit in those dangerous spent fuel pools that were the focus of the Attorney General’s lawsuit.
Since the NRC’s laws are stacked against them, local residents are telling state and local officials that enough is enough when it comes to the pollution and dangers from Pilgrim.
Find out more:
Federal, state, and local regulators need to ensure proper regulatory oversight of Entergy’s construction of a nuclear waste storage facility at Pilgrim
Entergy is building a long term storage facility for over 40 years worth of nuclear waste at Pilgrim. Citizen groups have revealed that this construction does not have proper local, state, or federal approvals.
In February, 2013, citizen groups wrote to the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission asking the agency to enforce its own regulations governing construction of the dry cask waste storage facility. Letter to NRC on Waste Storage
In December, 2012, the public interest advocacy group EcoLaw asked the town to enforce local zoning laws governing the construction. EcoLaw Letter to Town The groups also challenged the December 2012 town permit for a retaining wall, saying it was piecemeal zoning, and asked for enforcement of wetlands laws. Town Wall Permit Dec. 2012
In February, 2013, two groups asked the NRC to investigate the possible improper use by Entergy of public decommissioning funds. Letter to NRC on Funds
During a conference call today, NOAA officials described the impacts of the “historic winter storm” that is due to hit eastern Massachusetts starting Friday, February 8, 2013. NOAA’s slides are here: NOAA Analysis Feb 6 2013
Entergy’s Pilgrim nuclear reactor in Plymouth, Massachusetts presents an unacceptable risk to the public and the environment during this storm. NOAA is predicting prolonged power outages, coastal flooding and erosion, and hurricane force winds.
Entergy stores high level radioactive waste at Pilgrim in “wet pools.” These “spent fuel pools” require water to be constantly circulating to keep them cool. During a prolonged power outage, the pools could lose power, causing a fire. This would result in a massive release of radioactive materials that would be devastating to the environmental and the public. According to an expert for the Massachusetts Attorney General, such a fire could cause $488 billion in damages. Read more here. Spent Fuel Article For more information on the consequences of a spent fuel fire at Pilgrim: Thompson Report 2011 Thompson Affidavit 2011
Coastal flooding and high tides could also cause Pilgrim’s pumps and cooling water intake system to malfunction. Pilgrim takes in almost a half billion gallons a day of water from Cape Cod Bay. If the pumps clog, the reactor operations would be at risk. During Hurricane Sandy, the nuclear reactor at Oyster Creek came close to a meltdown when the pumps failed. See more at: http://publicjustice.net/blog/hurricane-sandy-highlights-safety-issues-oyster-creek-nuclear-plant
Pilgrim is simply in the wrong location –in a hurricane zone, subject to coastal flooding. With rising sea levels, we can expect more historic storms like this one. Here’s a link to a map showing rising sea levels in the Boston area. Pilgrim is not that far away. http://www.tbha.org/preparing-rising-tide-report
When the NRC relicensed Pilgrim until 2032, the agency ignored rising sea levels and the more frequent, severe storms that are predicted. Pilgrim is a poster child of how climate change is already causing us to rethink decisions about things like where to locate a nuclear reactor. In 1972, when Pilgrim went on line, the world was a different place. It’s time to address these issues at Pilgrim.
If Entergy can’t keep the lights on during the Super Bowl, what can we expect at Pilgrim during this historic winter storm and others to come?
The following is the fourth in an ongoing series of articles being published in the Old Colony Memorial newspaper of Plymouth and on the Wicked Local website.
By Meg Sheehan and Genevieve Byrne, Cape Cod Bay Watch
Published Jan. 17, 2013
Since 1972, the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station has been operating in Plymouth on the shore of Cape Cod Bay. It is owned and operated by Entergy Corporation of Louisiana. The past 40 years of operations have polluted our groundwater, and the pollution is ongoing.
There are two types of groundwater pollution at Pilgrim. First, tritium, a radioactive form of hydrogen, has been found in the groundwater under Pilgrim. Tritium is a gas in its elemental form and combines with oxygen to make tritiated water, which is radioactive. Second, Entergy runs an onsite waste-water treatment facility that discharges other types of pollution, including nitrogen, into the groundwater. The presence of radioactive tritium, nitrogen and other pollutants is documented in Entergy’s own reports.
Media Release: Entergy Water Pollution at Pilgrim Nuclear Is Subject of Federal Notice of Intent to Sue for $831 Million In Penalties
Plymouth, MA –Entergy Corporation could be could be liable for up to $831,325,000.00 in civil penalties for polluting Cape Cod Bay at its Pilgrim nuclear reactor.
According to a letter sent to the company and federal officials on October 5, 2012 by local residents, since 1996, there have been 33,253 violations of the federal Clean Water Act at the Pilgrim station. The law provides a $25,000.00 civil penalty for each violation.
The letter was sent under the provisions of the federal Clean Water Act, which gives citizens the right to enforce the law if the government fails to do so. Citizens must give
the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency written notice of the pollution and a chance to act on the violations. If the agency does not act, citizens can bring a suit after 60 days.
Entergy could avoid being sued by reaching an agreement with the citizens or EPA over the violations, and stopping the activities that are alleged to be unlawful. The letter tells the EPA that the citizens may file a lawsuit after 60 days if the agency does not act.
Cape Cod Bay Watch invites you to join in celebrating the opening of our community office in historic downtown Plymouth.
When: Friday, Sept. 7, 5-7 p.m.
Where: 58C Main Street, Plymouth, MA
Complimentary chowder and offerings from New World Tavern, a favorite establishment nearby. Meet new friends, and learn about our work. This is an informal gathering and all are welcome.
RSVP Karen Vale at firstname.lastname@example.org or 508-746-9400.
Licensed to Kill is an informative and compelling report detailing how once-through cooling operations like the one at Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth are irreversibly harming our marine life. Click here for the report.
Marine life in all forms, from endangered manatees and sea turtles to essential microscopic organisms, is being harmed and killed by once-through cooling systems, used to remove waste heat at nuclear power stations. A typical once-through cooling system draws into each reactor unit more than a billion gallons of water a day, 500,000 gallons a minute. After cycling through the power generating station, the heated water is discharged at temperatures up to 25 degrees F hotter than the water into which it flows. A total of 59 out of the 103 U.S. reactor units rely on this system, either exclusively or in conjunction with closed cycle canals or cooling towers.
This report examines the toll the once-through cooling intake and discharge system takes on marine biodiversity around nuclear plants, including sea turtles and other endangered marine animals. The report takes into account the already severe problems affecting the health of U.S. oceans and waterways and the impacts of nuclear power plant operation within the context of this crisis. The authors review the cumulative impact of marine ecosystem destruction by coastal nuclear reactors as well as the local effect on marine life in the vicinity of the plant. Particular attention is given to the effectiveness of regulatory oversight and the adherence to and implementation of the federal Clean Water Act (CWA), the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA).