Nukewatch Quarterly Winter 2016-2017
Entergy announced Dec. 8 that it will permanently shut down its Palisades atomic reactor on Lake Michigan by October 1, 2018, 13 years before its license expires. The long-troubled, 45-year-old single reactor joins a growing list of dangerous and expensive industry dinosaurs that can’t compete.
The Palisades unit reportedly has the most embrittled reactor pressure vessel of any in the US, so nearly two more years of operation raises the frightening prospect of a catastrophic release of radioactivity due to a “pressurized thermal shock fracture” of the vessel.
The good news is that, after permanent shutdown and removal of irradiated nuclear fuel from the reactor core, a meltdown can no longer happen, and high-level radioactive waste will no longer be made. Of course area residents and environmental watchdogs will have to make sure that dismantlement of the facilities, cleanup of the area, and management of the high-level radioactive waste on-site are done with as little risk to the workers and the surrounding community as possible.
In addition, a just transition must be put in place for the 600 workers at Palisades, and for the host community. There is a tremendous radioactive mess at Palisades that needs to be cleaned up, and high-level radioactive waste that must be safeguarded and isolated from the environment for 1 million years. Entergy’s workers and the public must be protected throughout, and the site’s complete cleanup must include radioactively contaminated groundwater, soil, and Lake Michigan sediments.
Palisades’ catastrophically vulnerable waste storage pool must be emptied, and the high-level waste transferred to Hardened On-Site Storage. Further, this storage pool must be maintained, albeit emptied of waste, even after decommissioning, so that in an emergency, if a dry cask has to be emptied, and its highly radioactive waste fuel transferred to a new dry cask, there is a place to do it.
—Beyond Nuclear, Dec. 8; Energy Busines Review, Dec. 9, 2016