Watchdogs Slam Entergy Nuclear CEO’s Compensation
as Needed Safety Fixes Go Undone at Palisades Atomic Reactor
Covert, Michigan – Atomic watchdogs in Michigan are asking why the Palisades atomic reactor near South Haven on the Lake Michigan shore has deferred or canceled needed safety repairs, while the Chief Executive Officer of Entergy Nuclear, J. Wayne Leonard, has raked in $54.3 million in compensation in just the past three years alone. A scathing article in Vermont’s Brattleboro Reformer this week, written by Bob Audette, asked similar questions regarding the Vermont Yankee atomic reactor’s shortfall in radiological clean-up funding, and failure to make needed repairs, despite seeking a 20 year operating license extension.
The article also reports numerous lawsuits and other government actions against Entergy Nuclear for assorted alleged and proven wrongdoing. This includes a pending lawsuit filed by the Attorney General of the State of Mississippi, charging Entergy with fraud, price fixing, anti-trust violations, and other illegal conduct. So far this decade, the State of Louisiana has ordered Entergy to refund ratepayers over $100 million, after it had gouged its own electricity customers. In Texas, a class action lawsuit against Entergy seeks a rebate on overpriced power. In 2006, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission cited Entergy for rigging bids.
The article can be viewed online at http://www.reformer.com/localnews/ci_13288650.
“While Palisades’ neglected, age-degraded safety systems risk a catastrophic radioactivity release on an on-going basis, Entergy Nuclear’s CEO is laughing all the way to the bank,” said Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear in Takoma Park, Maryland.
Kamps also serves as a board member of Don’t Waste Michigan, representing the Kalamazoo chapter. Don’t Waste Michigan was an official intervener against the 20 year license extension granted by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to Entergy at Palisades in 2007, after it had bought the reactor from Consumers Energy Company.
In a May 2006 presentation to the Michigan Public Service Commission, seeking approval of Palisades’ sale to Entergy, Consumers Energy admitted to several “[r]equired significant future capital expenditures above the routine $20M [million] per year.” These included: reactor vessel head replacement, costing $100 million; steam generator replacement for the second time, the first such transplant taking place in 1991; reactor vessel embrittlement concerns; increasing NRC fees and fire protection requirements; and containment coatings and sump strainers. The Consumers power point presentation documenting this can be found at http://www.nirs.org/reactorwatch/licensing/kampsconsbrifeinf051806.htm (see page 2).
“A Consumers vice president told me that the reason for selling Palisades to Entergy was so that this giant corporation with deep pockets could make all the needed safety fixes,” said Kamps. “Instead, the money generated at Palisades seems to be lining the Entergy CEO’s pockets.”
At an NRC-Entergy meeting about Palisades attended by members of Don’t Waste Michigan earlier this year, the company announced for the first time that previous plans to replace Palisades’ corroded reactor lid had now been called off. Consumers Energy had previously planned to replace the lid in 2007. A massive corrosion hole in the lid at the Davis-Besse atomic reactor on the Lake Erie shore near Toledo in 2002 is considered the closest near-miss to a major accident at a U.S. nuclear power plant since the Three Mile Island meltdown in 1979.
“Palisades has the most brittle reactor pressure vessel in the country,” said Kamps. “In addition, failure of its thin-walled steam generator tubes could cause a loss of coolant accident in the core. These, and the other problems admitted to by Consumers Energy years ago, could each lead to a catastrophic radioactivity release. Yet, they have gone unaddressed since Entergy took over. J.Wayne Leonard’s $223 million net worth would go a long way towards making those needed safety repairs at Palisades. But better yet, the reactor should just be permanently shut down,” Kamps added.
Similar to Vermont Yankee, Entergy’s ownership of Palisades has raised concerns over the site’s future decommissioning after permanent shut down of the reactor.
“As part of the sale agreement, hundreds of millions were looted from the clean-up fund, putting the long term future health of Lake Michigan and its shoreline communities at risk,” Kamps said.
In the 1980s, J. Wayne Leonard headed a nuclear utility in Indiana. The company was convicted of illegally charging ratepayers in advance, on their monthly bills, for the construction of a nuclear power plant, even though no electricity was yet being provided. The courts ordered the utility to refund many millions of dollars to customers. The reactor was never completed.
The Monster on the Beach
NEW YORK, Feb 11 (Reuters) - New York's utility regulator said on Thursday its staff found Entergy Corp's plan to spin off six nuclear power plants, including three in New York, to a new company, Enexus Energy Corp, was not in the public interest.
The New York State Public Service Commission said in a release it was considering other options, including changes to the transaction to improve the financial stability of the three New York reactors and provide benefits to ratepayers.
Officials at Entergy did not immediately comment.
Entergy wants to transfer the James A. FitzPatrick nuclear station in Oswego County and the Indian Point nuclear station in Westchester County to Enexus.
Entergy shareholders would eventually receive all of Enexus's capital stock and receive cash and reductions in outstanding debt worth about $3.5 billion. Upon completion of the transaction, the shares of Entergy and Enexus would trade independently.
The PSC staff said the proposed transaction was problematic because the amount of debt leverage to finance Enexus was excessive.
The PSC did not say when it would reconsider the Enexus spinoff but noted it would look at staff recommendations and hear from interested parties before bringing the matter back "for final deliberations at the earliest possible Commission session."
Entergy announced the spinoff in November 2007. In January 2008, Entergy sought a ruling that the New York PSC need not review the proposed spinoff. But in May 2008, the PSC said it would review the spinoff because of its potential to harm captive New York utility ratepayers.
After review by administrative law judges and months of negotiations, Entergy in July 2009 requested the PSC take action no later than November so the proposed spinoff could be completed by the end of 2009.
In addition to New York approval, transfer of the nuclear units requires authorization from the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the Vermont Public Service Board.
FERC and the NRC gave their initial approvals on June 12, 2008, and July 28, 2008, respectively. Hearings in the Vermont case were completed in August 2008. Final action has not been taken by the Vermont Public Service Board.
Entergy wants to spinoff six reactors: FitzPatrick, Indian Point 2 and 3, Pilgrim in Massachusetts, Palisades in Michigan and Vermont Yankee in Vermont.
No Nukes – an essay by Ralph Nader
Saturday, February 13, 2010 by CommonDreams.org
A generation of Americans has grown up without a single nuclear power plant being brought on line since before the near meltdown of the Three Mile Island structure in 1979. They have not been exposed to the enormous costs, risks and national security dangers associated with their operations and the large amount of radioactive wastes still without
a safe, permanent storage place for tens of thousands of years.
All Americans better get informed soon, for a resurgent atomic power lobby wants the taxpayers to pick up the tab for relaunching this industry. Unless you get Congress to stop this insanely dirty and complex way to boil water to generate steam for electricity, you'll be paying for the industry's research, the industry's loan guarantees and the estimated trillion dollars (inflation-adjusted) cost of just one meltdown, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, plus vast immediate and long-range casualties.
The Russian roulette-playing nuclear industry claims a class nine meltdown will never happen. That none of the thousands of rail cars, trucks and barges with radioactive wastes will ever have a catastrophic accident. That terrorists will forgo striking a nuclear plant or hijacking deadly materials, and go for far less consequential disasters.
The worst nuclear reactor accident occurred in 1986 at Chernobyl in what is now Ukraine. Although of a different design than most U.S. reactors, the resultant breach of containment released a radioactive cloud that spread around the globe but concentrated most intensively in Belarus, Ukraine and European Russia and secondarily over 40% of Europe.
For different reasons, both governmental and commercial interests were intent on downplaying both the immediate radioactively-caused deaths and diseases and the longer term devastations from this silent, invisible form of violence. They also were not eager to fund follow up monitoring and research.
Now comes the English translation of the most comprehensive,scientific report to date titled Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment whose senior author is biologist Alexey V. Yablokov, a member of the prestigious Russian Academy of Sciences.
Purchasable from the New York Academy of Sciences (visit nyas.org/annals), this densely referenced analysis covers
the acute radiation inflicted on both the first-responders (called "liquidators") and on residents nearby, who suffer chronic
radioactive sicknesses. "Today," asserts the report, "more than 6 million people live on land with dangerous levels of
contamination--land that will continue to be contaminated for decades to centuries."
Back to the U.S., where, deplorably, President Obama has called for more so-called "safe, clean nuclear power plants." He just sent a budget request for another $54 billion in taxpayer loan guarantees on top of a previous $18 billion passed under Bush. You see, Wall Street financiers will not loan electric companies money to build new nuclear plants which cost $12 billion and up, unless Uncle Sam guarantees one hundred percent of the loan.
Strange, if these nuclear power plants are so efficient, so safe, why can't they be built with unguaranteed private risk capital? The answer to this question came from testimony by Amory B. Lovins, chief scientist of the Rocky Mountain Institute, in March 2008 before the [House of Representatives of the U.S.] Select Committee on Energy Independence (rmi.org). His thesis: "expanding nuclear power would reduce and retard climate protection and energy security ... but can't survive free-market capitalism."
Making his case with brilliant concision, Lovins, a consultant to business and the Defense Department, demonstrated with numbers and other data that nuclear power "is being dramatically outcompeted in the global marketplace by no and low-carbon power resources that deliver far more climate solution per dollar, far faster."
Lovins doesn't even include the accident or sabotage risks. He testified that "because it's [nuclear power] uneconomic
and unnecessary, we needn't inquire into its other attributes." Renewable energy (eg. wind power), cogeneration and
energy efficiencies (megawatts) are now far superior to maintain.
I challenge anybody in the nuclear industry or academia to debate Lovins at the National Press Club in Washington,
D.C., with a neutral moderator, or before a Congressional Committee.
However, the swarm of nuclear power lobbyists is gaining headway in Congress, spreading their money everywhere
and falsely exploiting the concern with global warming fed by fossil fuels.
The powerful nuclear power critics in Congress want the House energy bill to focus on climate change. To diminish
the opposition, they entered into a bargain that gave nuclear reactors status with loan guarantees and other subsidies in
the same legislation which has passed the House and, as is usual, languishing in the Senate.
Long-time, staunch opponents of atomic power who are leaders in countering climate change, such as Cong. Ed
Markey (D-MA), have quieted themselves for the time being, while the Republicans (loving the taxpayer subsidies) and some Democrats are hollering for the nukes. All this undermines the valiant efforts of the Union of Concerned Scientists, NIRS, Friends of the Earth, and other established citizen groups who favor a far safer, more efficient, faster and more secure energy future for our country and the world.
Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer, and author. His most recent book -- and first novel -- is,
Only The Super Wealthy Can Save Us. His most recent work of non-fiction is The Seventeen Traditions.
NRC Issues Notice of Violation to Entergy Nuclear Palisades
for High-Level Radioactive Waste Risk
Watchdogs Call for Safety Upgrades on Indoor Pool and Outdoor Dry Cask Irradiated Fuel Storage
Covert, MI—The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has issued an official violation notice to Entergy, owner of the Palisades Nuclear Power Plant, for a problem in the irradiated fuel storage pool, according to a public announcement from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Midwest regional headquarters in Lisle, IL. The NRC Notice of Violation is attached.
In the Notice of Violation dated January 20, NRC acting regional administrator Cynthia Pederson wrote:
“During a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) inspection completed on November 9, 2009, a violation of NRC requirements was identified. In accordance with the NRC Enforcement Policy, the violation is listed below:
Technical Specification (TS) 4.3.1, Amendment 189, required, in part that Region I fuel storage racks be designed and maintained with a Keff ≤ 0.95, if fully flooded with unborated water, which includes allowances for uncertainties as described in Section 9.11 of the Updated Final Safety Analysis Report.
Contrary to the above, from July 2008 to February 6, 2009, the licensee failed to maintain the Region I fuel storage racks with a Keff ≤ 0.95 when fully flooded with unborated water. Specifically, the Region I fuel storage racks contained fixed poison in the form of boron carbide (B4C) plates which were less than required by the TS to ensure the design feature was met. The B4C neutron absorption capability degraded to the point that Keff in Region I was greater than 0.95 under the bounding conditions described in Section 9.11 of the Updated Final Safety Analysis Report.”
Boron absorbs neutrons, preventing them from interacting between irradiated fuel rods stored in Palisades’ pool. Without sufficient neutron absorption and submerged underwater, highly radioactive waste fuel rods at Palisades could undergo and sustain an inadvertent, accidental chain reaction, which could lead to a serious radiological release to the environment, endangering human health.
"In order to make electricity, a nuclear reactor is designed to have a self sustaining nuclear chain reaction and also has a cooling mechanism to absorb the heat generated from the chain reaction. In contrast, a nuclear spent fuel pool is specifically designed to not create a chain reaction, and therefore, spent fuel pools cannot remove the heat if a chain reaction was to occur. The NRC nuke speak basically says that the spent fuel pool came dangerously close to overheating, boiling the water in the pool dry, overheating the zircalloy fuel clad, and causing a fire that cannot be extinguished once it begins. Palisades received this violation because it failed to adequately protect public health and safety," said Arnie Gundersen, Chief Engineer at Fairewinds Associates, Inc. Gundersen once served as a Senior Vice President of a nuclear engineering division that built irradiated nuclear fuel storage pool racks.
Upon learning of the Notice of Violation, environmental watchdogs immediately called for safety upgrades at both the indoor pool and the outdoor dry casks used to store highly radioactive irradiated nuclear fuel at the Palisades atomic reactor in Covert near South Haven on the Lake Michigan shoreline.
“There is enough fissile uranium-235 and plutonium-239 in the high-level radioactive wastes crammed into the Palisades pool that without proper protections, a dangerous nuclear chain reaction could be sparked,” said Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear. “A nuclear chain reaction in the Palisades pool could be a deadly risk to plant workers and emergency responders, and could lead to an even worse radioactive disaster, given the hundreds of tons of irradiated nuclear fuel crammed into Palisades’ pool,” he added.
An accidental nuclear chain reaction at a uranium fuel fabrication factory in Tokai-Mura, Japan in 1999 resulted in the deaths of two workers from radiation poisoning, and the exposure of hundreds of area residents to harmful radiation doses in excess of “permissible” regulatory limits.
Palisades came precariously close to a serious waste pool accident in October 2005, when a stuck crane resulted in a fully loaded, 107 ton irradiated nuclear fuel cask dangling over the pool for 43 hours. Palisades workers inappropriately attempted to override the crane’s emergency brake, risking a heavy load drop that could have breached the pool and drained the cooling water. In 2001, NRC reported that a drained pool’s waste could catch fire within hours, leading to a catastrophic radioactive inferno causing 25,000 cancer deaths downwind out to distances as far away as 500 miles.
“Not only is the pool a clear and present danger, but the dozens of outdoor silos of concrete and steel holding overflow high-level radioactive waste present their own dire risks,” said Michael Keegan of Don’t Waste Michigan. “A cask with defective welds has sat, fully loaded, just 100 yards or so from the waters of Lake Michigan since 1994,” he added.
"The product is forever poison, the byproduct of electricity is fleeting,” Keegan said. “Once again the risk of nuclear power is borne by the public, as Entergy runs Palisades into the ground by neglecting safety and deferring essential upkeep," he added.
“Both dry cask storage pads at Palisades are in violation of NRC earthquake safety regulations,” said Terry Lodge, a Toledo attorney that represented the environmental coalition which unsuccessfully sought to block Palisades’ 20 year license extension. “Our expert witness, Dr. Ross Landsman, acting as NRC dry cask storage inspector for the Midwest region, warned his superiors beginning in 1993 that an earthquake at Palisades could result in air-cooled high-level radioactive waste being submerged underwater in Lake Michigan, where not only would its cooling be disrupted, but an accidental nuclear chain reaction could also be sparked,” Lodge added.
"I have to wonder if Entergy is accounting for public safety in its internal spending priorities,” Lodge concluded.
“With the cancellation of the proposed dumpsite for high-level radioactive wastes at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, Palisades’ on-site storage of irradiated nuclear fuel can be viewed as de facto permanent,” Kamps said. “Given the many decades or even centuries that the wastes will remain on the Lake Michigan shoreline, the safety, security, health and environmental risks must be carefully managed, with no margin for error. Palisades needs to be shut down and its radioactive waste generation stopped for good,” Kamps concluded.
Human error a problem at Palisades nuclear plant, but facility is run safely, NRC saysBy Alex Nixon | Kalamazoo Gazette May 16, 2010, 5:11AM
Jill McLane Baker | Kalamazoo GazetteSafety concerns raised: The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission says the Palisades nuclear power plant is operated safely, but human error has led to incidents at the plant and additional oversight by the regulatory agency. COVERT TOWNSHIP — Human error continued to hinder operations in 2009 at the Palisades nuclear power plant, according to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
The commission found last year that workers failed to notice a problem in the pool where spent fuel rods are stored. The finding kept Palisades for the second year in a row on an NRC list of plants that require additional regulatory oversight.
A plant spokesman disputed the NRC’s finding, saying the pool is safe. He said the 700-worker plant takes training and human error issues very seriously.
Palisades has “strong training programs that focus on human performance,” said spokesman Mark Savage.
But the problem, reported by the NRC in its annual safety assessment of the nuclear plant, follows several notable lapses at the plant in recent years, including:
A 2008 NRC safety assessment found Palisades failed “to recognize and assess the impact of radiological hazards in the workplace.” The NRC found Palisades failed to determine how much radiation employees were exposed to after radiation monitors worn by the workers warned of an exposure.
Also in 2008, five workers were trapped for 90 minutes inside a high-temperature area when a hatch malfunctioned. The NRC found the plant did not take proper precautions to prevent such entrapments.
In 2007, the plant came under scrutiny after its head of security resigned amid revelations he had fabricated some of his credentials.
In 2005, a crane stopped working, leaving 110 tons of nuclear waste partially suspended in the air for 55 hours. The NRC found a worker did not follow procedures to assess damage to the crane’s brake system.
Despite the incidents, NRC officials said the plant is operated safely and plant officials have addressed issues of human error raised in the past.
But they still have concerns about the ability of plant workers to identify issues before they become serious problems, said Viktoria Mitlyng, an NRC spokeswoman, who met with Kalamazoo Gazette editors last week to discuss the NRC’s latest annual safety assessment of the plant.
A problem in spent-fuel poolThose same concerns were raised last year when an NRC inspection found a problem with racks in a pool where spent fuel rods are stored, Mitlyng said.
The racks are coated with a material that prevents the fuel rods from continuing to produce nuclear reactions. But the racks had become deformed, which could have led to reactions, Mitlyng said.
“The utility did not identify the problem,” Mitlyng said. “We found the problem during an inspection.”
Plant official disagreesSavage disagreed with Mitlyng’s characterization that plant workers were unaware of the degradation of the racks.
“At no time has our spent-fuel pool been out of specification,” Savage said. “All of this was self-identified and we’re working with the NRC to resolve it.”
Savage said the spent-fuel pool, which was designed with about 270 spaces for racks, now holds about 900 racks. To deal with the additional fuel in the pool, Savage said Palisades raised the concentration of a chemical in the pool, which prevents nuclear reactions from taking place.
“It raised our ability to keep that pool safe at all times, even with the degradation of the material (on the racks), which we had seen several years ago,” he said.
The NRC labeled the lapse as “low-to-moderate safety significance.” Mitlyng said it posed no immediate danger to the plant or surrounding community.
Palisades will undergo a re-inspection later this year to determine if the problem has been resolved and procedures are in place to catch similar problems in the future, Mitlyng said.
The plant’s 2009 safety assessment also found problems with human performance regarding “error-prevention techniques.” But, according to this year’s assessment, Palisades officials implemented actions to address the NRC’s concerns.
Safety an ongoing focus at plantImproving performance is an ongoing focus at Palisades that’s reinforced through reviews and briefings on a daily basis, Savage said.
Palisades, which produces about 20 percent of the electricity sold by Consumers Energy, was purchased by New Orleans-based Entergy Corp. from Consumers for $380 million in April 2007.
The 430-acre plant is located about five miles south of South Haven, along Lake Michigan. Its operating license was renewed by the NRC in 2007 and is valid until 2032, Mitlyng said.
Since Fukushima, nuclear power plants in the Great Lakes region have had one problem after another.
Palisades keeps up its shaking and cracking.
It is an embrittled plant. It should be shut down
In 2011 alone, Palisades had five "un-planned shutdowns." One of the accidents amounted to a particularly close call with catastrophe. On Sept. 25, 2011, the near electrocution of a Palisades electrician caused loss of electricity to half the control room, which threw the plant into chaos, and came precariously close to injecting cooling water from the Emergency Core Cooling System into the hot, embrittled reactor pressure vessel (the worst embrittled in the U.S.). This could have fractured it like a hot glass under cold water, leading instantly to a Loss of Coolant Accident and potential meltdown. Even the NRC, infamous for its regulatory rollbacks, acknowledged the incident was of "substantial significance to safety."
On March 9th, board members of Don't Waste Michigan from across the state sent a letter to U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin, urging them to take action to address Palisades' potentially catastrophic embrittlement risks.
Two sump pump failures led to an emergency hot manual shut down.
The only way to "cool' the plant then was to have a major gas and effluent release into the atmosphere. Palisades continues to have major problems including staff and security. As anti-nuclear activists are caught up in the fight to stop a new nuclear reactor/FERMI 3 from being built on an endangered species wetland habitat. Davis-Besse has a thrity foot crack that was supposedly "patched" and the plant is still running with other cracks detected. Indian Point near NYC continues to threaten the lives of millions of people, Old nuclear reactors are undergoing a rubber stamp re-licensing by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
So, where do you stand? Will you join in the effort to decommission aging, dangerous nuclear reactors before they blow up and contaminate and ruin the planet? IF YOU CARE, please contact your elected representatives and demand that nuclear power plants be shut down and no new ones built. Ask for a better future for the children of tomorrow. Ask that all energy come from safe, renewable sources...wind, solar, geothermal.....stop believing the lies that nuclear power is green or safe. IT IS NOT SAFE. IT IS NOT GREEN. NUCLEAR POWER IS DEADLY. IT IS RISKING THE LIFE OF YOU AND EVERYONE ELSE AND IT IS LEAVING AN EVER-GROWING DUMP OF NUCLEAR WASTE THAT NO ONE KNOWS WHAT TO DO WITH.
WHICH NUCLEAR REACTOR IS NEXT???
MUST WE DESTROY OURSELVES AND
THIS BEAUTIFUL PLANET WE LIVE ON?
WHEN WILL THE DANGEROUS NUCLEAR
POWER PLANTS BE SHUT DOWN?
This info is available to all citizens in case of a Palisades Emergency.
The booklet attached is available in various locations in South Haven and has been available on the table at the Beach Haven meetings held by NRC in South Haven.
and for comparison here is what DC Cook puts out in Berrien County:
!!SHUT IT DOWN BEFORE IT MELTS DOWN!!