Media statement: U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) Holtec/Palisades Zombie Atomic Reactor Restart Public Meeting in Benton Harbor, Michigan

Yard signs created by Michigan Safe Energy Future's Kalamazoo Chapter and Shutdown Palisades Campaign.

{Yard sign design by Michigan Safe Energy Future-Kalamazoo Chapter and Shutdown Palisades Campaign; photo by Kevin Kamps}


For immediate release, Wednesday, April 17, 2024 Contact: Kevin Kamps, radioactive waste watchdog, Beyond Nuclear, (240) 462-3216; [email protected]

Media Statement by Kevin Kamps, Radioactive Waste Specialist,

Beyond Nuclear

re: U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) Holtec/Palisades Zombie Atomic Reactor Restart Public Meeting in Benton Harbor, Michigan

[See NRC’s press release about the Wed., 4/17/24 meeting in Benton Harbor here, and follow their links to additional information; NRC’s slideshow for the meeting is posted here.]

BENTON HARBOR, MICHIGAN and WASHINGTON, D.C.– Below is a media statement by Kevin Kamps, radioactive waste specialist at Beyond Nuclear, and a watchdog on the Palisades atomic reactor for the past 32 years:

“In 2012, the Japanese Parliament published the first independent investigation in its history, about the Fukushima Daiichi triple atomic reactor meltdown that began on March 11, 2011. It concluded that the root cause, the reason the three reactors were so catastrophically vulnerable to the one-two punch of natural disasters that hit them, was collusion — between safety regulatory agency, industry, and government officials. But we have such collusion in spades at Palisades. Thus, we are in great peril due to the proposed, unprecedented zombie reactor restart scheme.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is mandated to protect public health, safety, and the environment. But NRC is completely captured by, and complicit with, the industry it is supposed to regulate. NRC allowed Palisades’ previous owner, Entergy, to operate the reactor from 2007 to 2022, without requiring replacement of the severely age-degraded steam generators and reactor vessel closure head, which the original owner, Consumers Energy, had admitted in 2006 needed to be done. This NRC laissez-faire attitude is all the more shocking, given the near-miss steam generator failures at San Onofre, California in 2012, that led to the permanent shutdown of two reactors the next year. Likewise, NRC inaction comes in the aftermath of the nearest-miss to a reactor core meltdown since the 50% core meltdown at Three Mile Island Unit 2 in Pennsylvania in 1979: the massive corrosion hole in the reactor vessel closure head at Davis-Besse, Ohio in 2002.

Holtec gave lip service to repairing problem tubes, or even entirely replacing the steam generators, at an estimated cost of $510 million, in its secret July 5, 2022 application to the U.S. Department of Energy for $2 billion in Civil Nuclear Credits for the Palisades restart scheme. This month, Holtec’s spokesman Nick Culp stated steam generator replacement is now off the table. At the same time, Holtec has only, at best, mentioned relatively minor mitigation on the severely degraded reactor vessel closure head, also rejecting replacement that Consumers Energy deemed needed two decades ago. NRC appears poised to now allow Holtec to run Palisades into the ground, despite the extreme risk represented by such clear pathways to reactor core meltdown.

But those aren’t the only ones. By NRC’s own admission, Palisades has the worst neutron-embrittled reactor pressure vessel (RPV) in the country. Due to major errors made in Palisades’ mid-1960s design, and 1967 to 1971 construction, as well as neutron-embrittlement from 1971 to 2022, pressurized thermal shock (PTS) could fracture the vessel through-wall, leading to an inevitable meltdown. The last line of defense against large-scale release of catastrophic amounts of hazardous radioactivity into the Lake Michigan shoreline environment would be the containment structures, which failed times three at Fukushima Daiichi on live television in mid-March, 2011. Like with Consumers Energy until 2007, Entergy till 2022, and now Holtec, NRC is willing to allow the owner/operator to simply ‘monitor’ the embrittlement situation, while not requiring real world physical data that is readily available to be analyzed in order to confirm rosy NRC hypotheses and optimistic industry computer models. Associated Press investigative journalist Jeff Donn reported in his four-part, post-Fukushima series ‘Aging Nukes’ that RPV embrittlement/PTS is the top example of NRC regulatory retreat.

Palisades has also had the worst operating experience in the American nuclear power industry with Control Rod Drive Mechanism (CRDM) seal leaks, yet another pathway to reactor core meltdown. In a 2010 report, David Lochbaum, now retired former director of nuclear power safety at Union of Concerned Scientists, documented CRDM seal leaks at Palisades beginning in 1972. In a 2022 Palisades events report, Lochbaum documented ongoing CRDM seal leaks after 2010. In fact, Palisades’ latest CRDM seal leak, on May 20, 2022, forced Entergy to permanently close Palisades 11 days earlier than scheduled. The latest CRDM BAND-AID fix would have very likely taken longer than 11 days to perform, and the costs could not be justified, let alone the inevitable Palisades workers’ health risks due to exposures to high radiation doses. Holtec spokesman Nick Culp was quoted recently stating that such CRDM troubles are commonplace and to be expected. This was a lie. Standing out like a sore thumb in the nuclear power sector, Palisades has never determined the root cause of the CRDM seal leaks, nor taken comprehensive corrective action to prevent the problem in the first place.

These and other safety risks have grown worse since Palisades’ permanent shutdown nearly 23 months ago. A reflection of its inexperience and incompetence at operating reactors, Holtec has done no active maintenance on safety-significant systems, structures, and components since taking ownership of Palisades on June 28, 2022. Corrosion has accelerated on the steam generators, because Holtec has not put them in “wet layup,” a chemically preservative state. Holtec has not operated pumps and valves, putting their future reliability into doubt. The company has also not rotated the turbine-generator shaft, so it is bending under its own immense weight. This could result in a violent mechanical explosion, as happened at DTE’s Fermi Unit 2 atomic reactor in Monroe County, Michigan on Christmas Day, 1993, resulting in two million gallons of radioactive wastewater being dumped into Lake Erie. At Palisades, the turbine-generator’s rotation is very foolishly oriented toward the control room, yet another rookie error, at a reactor designed in the mid-1960s. 500-pound chunks of shrapnel could kill control room operators, or take out safety systems, also leading to a meltdown.

Given so many pathways to meltdown, what would be the consequences? In 1982, NRC commissioned a study, carried out by Sandia National Laboratory, most commonly called CRAC-II (short for Calculation of Reactor Accident Consequences), but also known as the Sandia Siting Study, or NUREG/CR-2239. CRAC-II estimated that a reactor core meltdown at Palisades would cause 1,000 acute radiation poisoning deaths, 7,000 radiation injuries, 10,000 latent cancer fatalities, and $52.6 billion in property damage. The figures were so shocking, NRC tried to bury the report. But U.S. Representative Ed Markey (D-MA, now a U.S. Senator) outed the report in congressional hearings. Jeff Donn at AP reported that populations have soared since 1982 around U.S. atomic reactors like Palisades, so casualties would now be worse, as more people are in harm’s way. And adjusting for inflation alone, property damages would now exceed $163 billion, expressed in Year 2023 dollar figures.

The collusion between NRC, Holtec, and the likes of Governor Whitmer, Energy Secretary Granholm, the Michigan state legislature, Michigan’s U.S. congressional delegation, multiple departments at the University of Michigan, and the ‘company towns’ — as well as the ‘company three-county region’ — has created an unprecedented, extremely high-risk, insanely expensive ‘game’ of radioactive Russian roulette on the Lake Michigan shore in Covert Township.

Compounding the collusion, NRC chairman, Christopher T. Hanson, hails from Palisades’ local area, and is clearly biased in favor of all things Palisades. Given such a strong pro-nuclear bias, why has NRC chairman Hanson not recused himself from Palisades restart scheme decision making?

Holtec has requested $8.3 billion in public bailouts for the restart scheme, which risks a Fukushima-scale nuclear catastrophe on the very edge of the Great Lakes, 21% of the world’s surface fresh water, drinking water supply for more than 40 million people in eight U.S. states, two Canadian provinces, and a large number of Indigenous Nations. The Palisades zombie reactor restart scheme must be stopped dead in its tracks!”

NOTE TO EDITORS AND REPORTERS: Kevin Kamps at Beyond Nuclear has prepared three recent backgrounders: “A People’s History of the Palisades Atomic Reactor” (13 pages); “Nuclear Nightmares: Palisades’ ‘Zombie’ Reactor Restart and SMR New Build Schemes” (3 pages); and “Holtec: Criminality, Corruption, Incompetence, and Inexperience” (2 pages).

Kamps has also prepared: a breakdown of the $15.7 billion, and counting, in bailouts at Palisades and Big Rock Point ($8.3 billion for zombie reactor restart, and $7.4 billion for SMR new builds); a major exposé based on Freedom of Information Act revelations regarding Holtec’s ‘nuclear white elephant’ secret plans to build SMRs at all its decommissioning sites, as well as to re-nuclearize Palisades, using many billions of dollars of federal and state taxpayer, as well as ratepayer, bailouts; and a compilation of web posts and breaking news entitled “Newest Nuke Nightmares at Palisades, 2022 to Present.”



Beyond Nuclear is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit membership organization. Beyond Nuclear aims to educate and activate the public about the connections between nuclear power and nuclear weapons and the need to abolish both to safeguard our future. Beyond Nuclear advocates for an energy future that is sustainable, benign and democratic. The Beyond Nuclear team works with diverse partners and allies to provide the public, government officials, and the media with the critical information necessary to move humanity toward a world beyond nuclear. Beyond Nuclear: 7304 Carroll Avenue, #182, Takoma Park, MD 20912. [email protected].


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