Environmental Coalition Vows Continued Campaign to Shut Down Dangerously Age-Degraded Atomic Reactor Pressure Vessel

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Kevin Kamps, Beyond Nuclear, (240) 462-3216, kevin@beyondnuclear.org;

Michael Keegan, Don’t Waste MI, (734) 770-1441;

Bette Pierman, Michigan Safe Energy Future-Shoreline Chapter, (269) 369-3993;

Mark Muhich, Sierra Club Nuclear-Free Michigan Committee, (517) 787-2476, markmuhich0@gmail.com;

Terry Lodge, environmental coalition attorney, tjlodge50@yahoo.com

Environmental Coalition Vows Continued Campaign to Shut Down Dangerously Age-Degraded Atomic Reactor Pressure Vessel

ROCKVILLE - On November 23rd, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) staff, headquartered in Rockville, MD near Washington, DC, published two related approvals, representing safety regulation rollbacks regarding age-related degradation risks at Entergy Nuclear’s 44-year old Palisades atomic reactor in Covert, MI, four miles south of South Haven on the Lake Michigan shore. Links to the NRC staff approvals, regarding “Appendix G” (ductile tearing risk) safety regulation rollbacks, and also the “PTS (Pressurized Thermal Shock) Amendment” (brittle fracture risk rollback), are posted at: http://www.beyondnuclear.org/safety/.

These NRC staff rubber-stamped approvals represent a green light for Entergy to operate Palisades for 60 years, till 2031, despite the increasing risks at what has long been acknowledged as the worst neutron radiation embrittled and age-degraded reactor pressure vessel (RPV) in the U.S. The environmental coalition, which from 2005-2007 also unsuccessfully challenged Palisades’ 2011-2031 license extension, has vowed continued efforts to permanently shut down Palisades, in hopes of preventing a reactor core meltdown and catastrophic radioactivity release.

“Once again, the NRC Commissioners, and now staff, demonstrate that there is no way to thread the needle; the public remains excluded. This is likely the public's last opportunity ever to question the absurdly embrittled and dangerous pressure vessel at Palisades. We can only hope the NRC's incurious facade and implacable public-be-damned attitude does not give rise to a spectacular radioactive catastrophe,” said Toledo attorney Terry Lodge, the environmental coalition’s legal counsel.

The coalition’s researcher, Michael Keegan of Don’t Waste MI, documented in 1993 that Palisades had already violated NRC’s RPV embrittlement safety standards by 1981, just ten years into its operations.

“NRC has custom-tailored weakened regulations to accommodate the severely age-degraded Palisades atomic reactor, and to allow Entergy to run it into the ground till 2031,” said Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear, a national watchdog group based in Takoma Park, MD. “The collusion between Entergy, NRC, and U.S. Representative Fred Upton (R-MI’S 6th District) to keep Palisades operating, is frighteningly similar to the root cause of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe in Japan, as determined by the Japanese Parliament: collusion between the safety regulator, nuclear utility Tokyo Electric Power Company, and elected officials,” Kamps said.

“It is once again disheartening and frightening to know that the NRC continues to issue its rubber stamp approval on this aging and failing nuclear power plant on the shore of Lake Michigan,” said Bette Pierman, chairman of Michigan Safe Energy Future—Shoreline Chapter. “Greed rules over best practice and faulty infrastructure and an ever-problematic safety culture. They will continue to allow this plant to produce highly-toxic, radioactive waste while it is on the verge of a meltdown when they do not have a guaranteed safe waste storage facility in place and discuss transporting it by rail, and even by barges on Lake Michigan,” Pierman said.

“Why not test the safety of the Palisades reactor pressure vessel?” asked Mark Muhich, chairman of the Sierra Club’s Nuclear-Free Michigan Committee. “Palisades is one of the oldest commercial nuclear reactors in the world. It only makes common sense to take a precautionary approach ensuring safe operations at Palisades. Physical testing of the reactor pressure vessel at Palisades is long overdue, and should not wait until 2019, or even later. ‘Testing coupons’ are accessible for physically testing the embrittlement of Palisades’ RPV. Why not test them? Why has NRC overruled its own Safety Board, which ordered hearings into the integrity of Palisades’ RPV? Why has NRC ruled in favor of an appeal to delay testing by Entergy? Is it because NRC and Entergy do not want to know the results of that embrittlement test? Why is NRC authorizing huge potential risks to Michigan and the Great Lakes by eroding the conservative safety protocols that were built into the operations at Palisades in previous decades? NRC is ignoring science and safety in not testing the Palisades’ RPV. Is NRC's dismissal of its own Safety Board's findings, the environmental community, and local elected officials the final word on Palisades? NEVER!” Muhich said.

“The ‘Shutdown Before Meltdown Campaign’ continues despite these morally wrong decisions to deny this coalition, representing people of the Great Lakes region, to present evidence proving that the old Palisades reactor vessel, and the entire plant, are too degraded to safely operate. NRC, other federal government officials, and Entergy are knowingly entangled with the risks--a dangerous game of radioactive Russian roulette for all who live in the Lake Michigan basin and beyond,” said Iris Potter, Palisades Shutdown Campaign coordinator for Michigan Safe Energy Future’s Kalamazoo Chapter.

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Beyond Nuclear aims to educate and activate the public about the connections between nuclear power and nuclear weapons and the need to abandon both to safeguard our future. Beyond Nuclear advocates for an energy future that is sustainable, benign and democratic.

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