Limerick Steps On The Gas, Driving Recklessly Toward The Cliff

Limerick Steps On The Gas, Driving Recklessly Toward The Cliff

The Mercury ( of Form

Limerick Plant Heading Over Catastrophic Nuclear Cliff

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Instead of relicensing Limerick Nuclear Plant, the NRC should have revoked its licenses to slow Limerick’s speed as it drives toward a potentially catastrophic nuclear cliff. But from the start, NRC bent its own rules and regulations so it could license Limerick, enabling PECO/Exelon to profit from Limerick’s nuclear energy at the public’s expense.

Limerick’s relicensing has been one of the most heavily contested in the nation. Limerick’s history has included a judicial ruling in favor of public safety concerns, local and national petitions, and individual objections leveled against Limerick, but all have fallen on NRC’s deaf ears. Although NRC claims it “considers” public concerns, in reality NRC just tosses aside evidence of deficiencies and threats to public safety and the environment.

NRC and Exelon don’t really have an incentive to stop Limerick from threatening the public because even if Limerick melts down, the Price Anderson Act caps Exelon’s liability to a miniscule fraction of the estimated trillion dollar cost for a Limerick catastrophe. Taxpayers will end up paying the lion’s share of the costs if Limerick melts down.

Taxpayers will also end up paying for storing Limerick’s massive amount of high-level radioactive waste, unfairly burdening future generations of taxpayers forever. Closing Limerick would end the production of this deadly waste.

Reports show that Limerick’s equipment is aging faster than hypothetical models calculated. Yet, NRC allows Limerick to continue speeding toward potential catastrophe, bending and eliminating inconvenient regulations that the public believes are the “rules of the road”. For instance:

∙ Despite Limerick’s already accelerated reactor aging, NRC irresponsibly approved a Limerick “power uprate”, the packing of its reactors with extra fuel rods, which means the reactors run hotter and as a result, degrade faster. This accelerates Limerick’s speed toward the nuclear cliff.

· The first of Limerick’s reactor components arrived on-site starting in 1972. They were defective upon delivery: earlier that year the same reactor design had caused a nuclear accident at another nuclear plant, exposing the design defect.

· Many of Limerick’s deteriorating systems, structures and components will be half-a-century old by the time its original licenses expire in 2024 and 2029. Limerick could go over the nuclear cliff before then.

When an NRC safety inspection report revealed accelerated corrosion in Limerick’s suppression pools, NRC staff recommended immediate recoating, but Exelon preferred not to. So in deference to Exelon, NRC irresponsibly allowed a delay of 10 years for recoating. This saved Exelon money in the short-term, but increased public safety risks.

NRC’s initial post-Fukushima recommendation to install vents with filters on both of Limerick’s defective reactors was meant to minimize public radiation exposure in a Limerick accident or meltdown. Filtered vents should have been imperative for Limerick from the start. NRC eliminated the requirement for filters from its recommendations to save Exelon money, even though vents without filters become a fire hose of radiation into the sky during a meltdown, exposing the public to massively increased radiation doses. Over eight million people live within 50 miles of Limerick, the second most densely populated evacuation zone in the nation. There have never been workable evacuation plans.

NRC even allowed Exelon to remove a critical safety test of its aging equipment from Limerick’s license renewal application, in spite of the fact that NRC told Exelon how dangerous it would be. Amazingly NRC relicensed Limerick untested.

It is worrisome that Exelon and its nuclear industry lobbyists control the NRC. The NRC should be in control of Exelon, not the other way around. However, it’s not too late for NRC to close Limerick, fulfilling its stated mission “to protect people and the environment.”

NRC could and should revoke Limerick’s licenses now, before Limerick runs off the nuclear cliff, taking the greater Philadelphia Region and beyond with it.

Betty and Charlie Shank


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