The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Beyond Nuclear, Paul Gunter, 301.523.0201; Kevin Kamps, 240.462.3216

Federal Agency to Meet with Citizens Groups in Nationwide Call to Revoke the Operating Licenses of Dangerous U.S. Fukushima Design Reactors

GE Mark I and Mark II reactors are in violation of operating licenses

Takoma Park, MD

Representatives from 24 organizations from across the United States have petitioned the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to revoke the operating license of the General Electric Mark I and Mark II boiling water reactors like those at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear site in Japan. More than 2,500 co-petitioners are calling for the emergency closure. The NRC public meeting will be broadcast live in a webcast and toll-free telephone conference call by the agency on Thursday, May 2, 2013 from 1 to 3PM Eastern.

"Anybody paying attention during the Fukushima disaster knows that if a nuclear accident happens here these same reactor designs very likely will not protect us from radiation releases," said Paul Gunter, Director of the Reactor Oversight Project for Takoma Park, MD-based Beyond Nuclear.

"We charge that this is a violation of the licensing agreement for these aging and vulnerable nuclear power plants and the NRC should revoke their licenses," he continued.

"The licensing agreement for these reactors clearly requires that the containment structures 'shall be an essentially leak-tight barrier against the uncontrolled release of radioactivity,'" he said. Gunter was pointing to the NRC regulations for General Design Criteria 16 of the Federal Code of Regulation. "Given the 100% containment failure rate witnessed during the Fukushima catastrophe, the GE Mark I and Mark II reactors are demonstrated to be totally unreliable and unacceptable for continued operation," said Gunter. "Essentially, the NRC is choosing to indeterminately delay any decision to enforce the radiation containment requirement. The agency is once again deferring its regulatory responsibilities to save the nuclear power industry additional costs and allow for increased production from these demonstrably dangerous and vulnerable reactors," said Gunter.

Since the Fukushima nuclear disaster first began on March 11, 2011, the NRC has been conducting its Fukushima Lessons Learned Task Force safety review for US reactors including the 31 GE reactor Mark I and II units operating in the US. The NRC staff review concluded that, in its technical judgment, the agency should issue an immediate Order to require all Mark I and Mark II operators to install radiation filters on upgraded containment venting systems in order to restore compliance with the required leak-tight barrier against uncontrolled releases of radiation.

But on March 19, 2013, in a 4-1 vote, the NRC Commissioners rejected their own staff's technical recommendations. Instead, the Commission issued an Order to require only an upgraded containment venting system to relieve the high temperature, pressure and explosive hydrogen gas generated during a severe nuclear accident from a damaged reactor core. In addition, and as requested by the nuclear industry, the Commission voted for an open-ended delay to any decision. This will allow for years of further study, and contentious Rulemaking, on how operators might contain the simultaneous large releases of radiation from these vulnerable and aging reactors to downwind communities.

"We are thankful to NRC Chairwoman Macfarlane for voting in favor of the agency staff recommendation that radiological filters be installed on the hardened vents, but shocked that the other four Commissioners would so blatantly violate NRC's mandate to protect public health, safety, and the environment by indefinitely blocking the filters," said Beyond Nuclear's radioactive waste specialist Kevin Kamps. "As former NRC Chairman Jaczko has recently concluded, the basic lesson learned from the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe is that Mark Is and IIs must be permanently shut down before they melt down."

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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