TAKOMA PARK, Md. ― Beyond Nuclear (BN), a leading national anti-nuclear advocacy group, last week called on the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to make public the full list of U.S nuclear power plants that are known to be operating with potentially defective parts imported from France.
The flawed components could seriously compromise safety at the nuclear sites, the group warns. Affected reactors should be immediately shut down, BN says.
The NRC has refused to reveal the names of all affected U.S. nuclear power plants. So far only one nuclear plant — Connecticut’s Millstone — has been named in a Reuters news article. However, a Greenpeace France report suggests there are at least 19 reactors at 11 sites in the U.S. operating with potentially defective parts that, if not replaced, could lead to a meltdown.
Beyond Nuclear is filing an emergency enforcement 2.206 petition and a Freedom of Information Act Request to demand that the NRC release the full list of reactors with flawed parts; inform the affected reactor communities of the risks; and require the shutdown of reactors with potentially defective reactor components.
The potentially defective parts were manufactured at the Le Creusot-Areva forge in France. The parts include crucial components such as reactor pressure vessels, replacement reactor pressure vessel closure heads (replacement lids), replacement steam generators and replacement pressurizers, according to reports. The defects were first revealed by Areva in May 2016. In addition to uncovering the defective parts, the French safety authorities also suspected falsification of manufacturing reports.
“Every one of those potentially defective parts are safety-significant and could lead to meltdown if they fail,” said Kevin Kamps, Radioactive Waste Watchdog at Beyond Nuclear. “Everyone living around these reactors has a right to know that the NRC has chosen to gamble with their lives rather than enforce safety measures that include replacing these potentially defective parts.”
The affected nuclear plant sites – some with multiple reactors – revealed by Greenpeace include: Prairie Island in Minnesota; North Anna and Surry in Virginia; Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania; Arkansas One in Arkansas; Turkey Point and St Lucie in Florida; DC Cook in Michigan; Salem in New Jersey; Callaway in Missouri; and Millstone in Connecticut. The Crystal River reactor in Florida was also listed but is now permanently closed.
The 2.206 emergency enforcement petition filed by Beyond Nuclear would seek emergency shutdowns at all implicated reactors until the NRC can provide assurances that all potentially defective parts do not pose a major accident or meltdown risk during operations.
“It is unacceptable that the NRC refuses to divulge the names of U.S. reactors with potentially defective parts from the Le Creusot forge,” said Paul Gunter, Director of Reactor Oversight at Beyond Nuclear. “The failure of these parts could have catastrophic and long-lasting consequences with a high price not only in costs but in human health.”
“These revelations point up once again that it is time to close the country’s dangerous nuclear plants, especially since we do not have a regulator that can be relied upon to enforce even the most fundamental safety standards,” Gunter concluded.
Defective parts and safety falsifications have long been rampant in the U.S. nuclear power sector. Most recently, revelations came to light about widespread falsification of fire safety checks which had never been carried out.
In 2002, the Davis-Besse reactor in Ohio narrowly escaped a meltdown when boric acid eroded the reactor’s pressure vessel closure head, the closest near miss since the 1979 Three Mile Island meltdown. The NRC knew of the problem but allowed the reactor to keep operating.
The Palisades reactor in Michigan, which recently announced a 2018 closure date, has never replaced its badly degraded reactor lid in part because the replacement lid was also found to be defective but also because the NRC never enforced replacement.
A 1982 report commissioned by the NRC, calculated that catastrophic reactor failures could result in 3,900 early deaths from acute radiation poisoning at the Cook nuclear plant if both Cook units were involved. There would be 168,000 early injuries and an estimated 26,000 cancer deaths over time. Property damage could be as high as $192 billion ($477 billion in 2015 dollars adjusted for inflation.)
The potentially defective replacement reactor vessel lids at Cook, combined with the plant’s known faulty and age-degraded containment, could initiate the reactor disasters and exacerbate the hazardous radioactivity release studied in the NRC report
Beyond Nuclear is urging all reactor communities to contact their elected officials at all levels of government to pressure the NRC to be forthcoming and to fix the problem.