Nuclear Shutdown News April 2017
Michael Steinberg Black Rain Press
Nuclear Shutdown News chronicles the decline and fall of the nuclear industry in the US and abroad, and highlights the efforts of this who are working to create a nuclear free world. Here is our April 2017 report:
1. 40 + Nuke Club
On April 18 Patch Media reported "Nuclear Regulatory Commission Finds Oyster Creek Safety Valve Malfunctioned For Nearly Two Years."
The emergency safety valve in question was "inoperable between October 11, 2014 and September 19, 2016" in the New Jersey nuke plant's reactor, patch.com reported.
Oyster Creek is owned and operated by Chicago based Exelon which "failed to follow procedures" the NRC stated.
The purpose of nuclear plant emergency relief valves is "to allow coolant to be injected into the reactor core," patch.com added. That "keeps nuclear fuel in a reactor cool during shutdown."
Without this coolant nuclear fuel will heat up, eventually catch fire, and, in a worst case scenario, begin to melt down.
The Oyster Creek nuke is one of the oldest still operating commercial reactors in the US. It began operating in 1969, making it nearly 50 years old.
As previously reported in Nuclear Shutdown News, nuclear reactor in the US, as well in other countries such as Britain and France, were designed to operate for only 40 years. Operating them longer can make them vulnerable to recurrent maintenance and safety problems, unplanned radioactive releases, and generally puts the public increasingly at risk.
Exelon, the nation's largest owner of nuclear plants, bought up Oyster Creek and a number of other aging nuke plants at fire sale prices around the turn of the century to squeeze as much profit out of them as possible. Now that they are becoming losers in the market place, shutdowns are growing. Exelon plans to close Oyster Creek permanently at the end of 2019.
A survey of US nuclear plants by Nuclear Shutdown News found that dozens of the nation's 99 remaining reactors at 20-some locations are in the 40+ Club. Some are already scheduled to shut down in the future, like Oyster Creek. Others are cranking on, but time is not on their side.
Source: Patch Media, patch.com.
2. Westinghouse Going South
On April 9 the San Diego Union Tribune reported that Westinghouse Corporation, "long considered the leader in nuclear plant development" in the US, had filed for bankruptcy.
Beyond Nuclear, one of the nation's foremost no nuke groups, commented "Time to recognize the nuclear show is over." And environmental group Friends of the Earth chimed in "It's really the death rattle of the nuclear industry."
Westinghouse has been the prime developer in the construction of two new nuclear plants, Vogtle in Georgia and Sumner in South Carolina, each planning to have two reactors. Both projects are already well behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget. and the "bankruptcy filing has put both projects further into jeopardy," the Union Tribune reported.
On April 21 Utility Dive reported "Westinghouse could run out of cash in bankruptcy, utilities tell court."
This report cited information from BloomingtonNews that stated, "Westinghouse burned through 0 million in the first two months of the year."
In 2006 Toshiba became a majority owner of Westinghouse, but now its future too is becoming complicated by Westinghouse's troubles, which in turn are related to the failing new nukes projects.
Another problem, Utility Dive reported, is the "situation put .3 billion in loan guarantees in jeopardy, loans issued under the Obama administration for Vogtle."
This + billion in guaranteed loans of US taxpayer money is the legacy of GW Bush's "Nuclear Renaissance," which promised to build lots of new US nuclear plants, another outdated idea that has gone deep south.
Sources: San Diego Union Tribune, sandiegouniontribune.com; Beyond Nuclear, beyond nuclear.org; Friends Of the Earth, foe.org; Utility Dive, utility dive.com; Bloomberg News, bloomberg.com.