Nuclear Shutdown News – April 2015

by on May 12, 2015 · 1 comment

in Culture, Energy, Environment, Health, History

Oyster Creek nuke

Oyster Creek nuke plant

Nuclear Shutdown News chronicles the continuing decline of the US nuclear power industry, and highlights the efforts of those who are creating a better energy future.

Here’s the April edition:

By Michael Steinberg /Black Rain Press

Oyster Creek – oldest US nuke keeps shutting itself down

On April 28 patch.com ran “NRC Oyster Creek Nuclear Has Substantial Safety Problems.” Located in New Jersey, the Oyster Creek nuclear plant is the nation’s oldest (sometimes) operating nuke. It started up in late 1969, and is now 45 years old. US nuclear plants were designed to last only 40 years.

The patch article reported:

“The NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission) plans additional inspections after discovering past problems with electromagnetic relief valves that help keep the reactor fuel covered and cool during a plant shutdown.

“Two components that can play an important role during shutdown experienced material failures that could have prevented them from performing their function when needed.”

The Patch story also reported that Oyster Creek is already under additional NRC oversight “because of four unplanned shutdowns from 2013 and 2014.”

The fourth unplanned shutdown was on 6-11-14. Oyster Creek is owned and operated by Chicago based Exelon. Exelon is currently lobbying the Illinois legislature to bail it out with taxpayers’ money because a number of its old nukes can’t make money in the marketplace anymore.  Source: patch.com

Vermont Yankee nuke plant

Vermont Yankee nuke plant

Tales of Two Shutdown Nuke Plants – San Onofre and Vermont Yankee

The two most recently shutdown US nuke plants are San Onofre in Southern California and Vermont Yankee in New England. San Onofre shut down in June 2013, Vermont Yankee at the end of last year.
Here’s what’s been happening with them lately.

In its April 14 story, “Judge Won’t Take San Onofre Case,” the U-T San Diego reported that San Diego federal judge Cathy Ann Bencivengo refused to accept a lawsuit that challenged a decision by the California Public Utilities Commission that allowed Southern California Edison, San Onofre’s principal owner, to evade responsibility for paying most of the costs of shutting down its SoCal nuke.

Last November the PUC “unanimously approved a deal that assigned 70% of the $4.7 billion in costs to utility customers rather then stockholders,” the U-Tribune.

A week before that decision, Citizen’s Advocacy and several other taxpayer groups filed suit against the PUC and Edison, the U-T reported. In the suit they alleged,

“In making customers pay for the failed steam generators (major plant components whose demise led to the plant’s closure) and permanently shut plant, CA PUC and Edison are taking customers private property without just compensation.”

But Bencivengo ruled that the case was “better suited for state court.”

san onofreWhat to do with all that nuclear waste? – San Onofre

What to do with all the high level nuclear waste sitting in these shutdown nukes a continent apart? And how long will it take to do anything? Some of this “spent fuel’ will be lethal for thousands of years.

Plant owners and residents of surrounding communities have sharply different opinions.

The Orange County (CA) Register published a story on April 15 titled “Watchdog: Is San Onofre Waste Plan a Bomb in Your Backyard?

The article profiles a local resident, Rita Conn, who followed an Edison employee’s truck into a San Onofre nuke plant parking lot. From there it’s easy to gaze at the twin domes of the shut down reactors, and the hovering spent fuel pools full of 1600 metric tons of high level radioactive waste above.

This devil’s brew awaits transfer to the bluffs at the end of the beach into “a concrete monolith,” the Register reported.

The federal government’s plan for a permanent nukewaste disposal site at Yucca Mountain in Nevada has been discredited and there is no other solution in sight.

“It is terrifying,.” said Audrey Prosser of Laguna Beach, the Register reported. “It’s like having a nuclear bomb in your backyard. We want it out of there..”

The Register reported the cost of dismantling the plant and managing its radwaste as $1.27 billion.

Southern California Edison plans to transfer all the liquid waste into a dry cask Holec STORMMAX underground system. Or is that under bluff?

But critic Dana Gilmore of sanonofresafety.org says:

“The Holtec system cannot be inspected, repaired or maintained, is subject to corrosion cracking within 30 years, and has no monitoring system.

“We will only know the that thin steel canisters have failed after they leak radiation into the environment.”

Did we mention that all this is happening right on the shores of the Pacific Ocean?

Nuclear waste at Vermont Yankee

Meanwhile, on the shores of the Connecticut River in southern Vermont, this is what’s been happening.

On April 21 MASS LIVE filed this report on how Vermont Yankee ‘s owner, Entergy of New Orleans, plans to deal with that shutdown nuke’s high level radioactive waste. The report on a 4-20 public meeting in Vermont that day might leave you wondering if the Entergy rep had been smoking too much Vermont Green that day.

At the meeting, Entergy spokesperson Joseph Lynch announced that VY had been undergoing a “15 month transition toward a decommission period” known as SAFESTORE.

This deferred dismantling option for the shutdown nuke was expected to last 60 years, MASSLIVE reported. It will take until 2020 to get all the nuke waste out of Vermont Yankee’s spent fuel pool and into dry cask storage (compared to 2019 for San Onofre).

The radioactive waste will stay in dry storage for as long as 32 years. The feds will then supposedly remove the radwaste “as obligated”, for whatever final solution it comes up with “by 2052.”
Estimated cost: $1.24 billion (San Onofre $1.27 billion, even though there are 2 pools there).

Over its years of operating (since 1972.) VY ratepayers contributed to a decommissioning trust fund. But since Entergy bought Vermont Yankee for $185 million in 2002, it has contributed not a penny to the fund

As of 10-31-14, there was $664.5 million in the trust fund.

Entergy’s plan to make up the shortfall? “Conservative investment” of the ratepayers contributions to the fund, a $145 million loan, and—finally,–sue the feds for not providing a permanent place to dump all the high level radioactive waste.

And good luck with that!

Among the comments from people at the 4-20 meeting:

Judy Walter, Northfield:

“Shareholders have made millions and now you’re going to sue the federal government to pay for the spent fuel management. Suing the federal government is like suing us. We’re all taxpayers.”

Loren Kramer, Greenfield:

“A terrible potential here, if anything happens in the cooling water (for the spent fuel pool, which has to be constantly electrically cooled) from an accident, weather events, or terrorist act.”

Until next month’s Nuke Shutdown – then.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Howard Shaffer May 12, 2015 at 5:45 pm

I was at the meeting and heard those statements. It was on April 14 in Greenfield, MA.
Because the statements were made does not make them true. Fuel pools can go a long time without cooling. The time depends on how long after the fuel last operated in a reactor. Each hour the time grows longer, as the heat generated by the used fuel decreases. Soon the pool can go days without forced cooling.

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