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Greenpeace Action: Don’t Place Europe in Danger! March 18, 2014

(Video has some French, German, and English)

Nuclear: It is Time to Stop

(While the French language original, by Greenpeace.fr, is entitled Nuclear Europe: It is Time to Stop, the situation in the USA is similar. And, so we have added additional Greenpeace and other info about the USA at the bottom. Also, Switzerland is included, even though it is not EU).

English translation based on Greenpeace.fr report:
This 18th of March, 60 activists, from all over Europe, but also from Turkey, and Australia, occupied the dome and roof of the reactor pool number 1 at the Fessenheim Nuclear Power Plant in France. Fessenheim is the oldest nuclear power plant in France and one of the oldest Europeans reactors: it will be 37 years old in two weeks.

This action had as objective to denounce the risk that Nuclear France has on all of Europe and the necessary imperative of a true energy transition in France. The activists were not there to demonstrate failures in the security protection of nuclear power stations but to denounce this new era of nuclear risk associated with the aging of nuclear reactors, from the risks of accidents to financial risks.

For decades the European population has lived with nuclear power plants. Most of them were built without consultation of the population. Today, these nuclear power plants are old. Too old. Constructed to last 30 years, certain ones have already been in service for more than 40 years. Some countries would like to even prolong their exploitation to 60 years. This policy of extending the life of nuclear reactors makes us enter into a new era of risk, more dangerous than ever.

To better understand the European situation, go to the site: Out-of-Age.eu

Fessenheim Demo, March 2014, c) Greenpeace / Daniel Mueller
(c) Greenpeace / Daniel Mueller
On the eve of the EU summit on the 20th of March, summit which should decide the future of energy in Europe, France and Germany should demand for Europe a binding target for the Member States of 45% renewable energy between now and 2030. Meanwhile, to stop the nuclear risk that worsens with aging plants, a maximum operating time of 40 years should be fixed for nuclear reactors in France and Europe.

Aging nuclear plants in France, coal plants in Germany and Eastern Europe should be abandoned in favor of a massive development of renewable energy across Europe

Politicians and Governments are deciding to place you in danger, you should not accept it! (Note that French original has an action to take)
(The above is our translation based on part of the Greenpeace France article, “Energie / Climat | le 19 mars 2014, Nucléaire européen : il est temps d’arrêter” http://energie-climat.greenpeace.fr/nucleaire-europeen-il-est-temps-darreter? )

Regarding Europe and the USA:

In Europe excluding Russia, 46 out of 151 operational reactors are older than their original design lifetimes or within three years of reaching that date. However, only a few of those reactors will be closed down in the near future – most have had, or are set to have, their lifetimes extended for a further 20 years or more. In the United States, meanwhile, more than two-thirds of the ageing reactor fleet have received extended licences to take them to 60 years of operation. As a result, we are entering a new era of nuclear risk.” (bold added) From Intro to: “Lifetime extension of ageing nuclear power plants: Entering a new era of risk”, A report commissioned by Greenpeace. Editor: Jan Haverkamp. Published in March 2014 by Greenpeace Switzerland. Entire report is here: http://out-of-age.eu/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Lifetime-extension-of-ageing-nuclear-power-plants-Entering-a-new-era-of-risk2.pdf
See also: http://out-of-age.eu/executive-summary

Earthquake Risk:
Rhinegraben fessenheim
Fessenheim’s location in the Rhine Rift Valley near the fault that caused the 1356 Basel earthquake has led to safety concerns.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fessenheim_Nuclear_Power_Plant
[Our note: ancient Swiss nuclear reactors, such as Beznau, also near Basel, can be impacted by this and other faults. Probably German reactors may be impacted, as well. Beznau is located on the Aare River, near where it flows into the Rhine River. The Rhine flows here east to west and then south to north, so there is the risk of polluting much of Europe’s Rhine River].

Greenpeace March 5, 2014 Action at Beznau, Switzerland

Video (German) of Greenpeace Action at Swiss Beznau, the Oldest Still Operating Nuclear Reactor in the World. The video mentions corrosion of containment. Actually, Beznau and Muhleberg had problems with corrosion fairly early on in their lives. For more info see here and do a search for corrosion: http://static.ensi.ch/1376900783/cns_6th_national_report_of_switzerland_web_v2.pdf It is important to at least read the parts of this document dealing with corrosion to learn about issues of material resistance. Also, in 2005 it was noted, in Switzerland, that “Several steel containment structures show corrosion resulting from reactor pool or other temporary leakages. The corrosion appears mostly in inaccessible areas between concrete structures and the steel containment. The results obtained by special ASP inspections show that wall thickness still meets the design criteria in all NPPs. Future efforts in ageing surveillance are directed to monitor the state of corrosion and to reduce and stop the leakages or to mitigate corrosion by other means.” (bold added) http://www.asn.fr/fichiers/nupeer/1/1_2A_SUS.PDF These documents show us the importance of both proper initial construction (or lack thereof), along with the problem of the aging of reactors. Note problem with areas inaccessible to repair. For similar US concerns, see bottom of this post

Greenpeace Action, 5 March 2014, at Beznau and elsewhere:
On 5 March 2014 at the dawn, Greenpeace activists broke into the grounds of aging nuclear plants in six European countries, including Switzerland, urging governments to close down the reactors on safety grounds. Some 100 protesters dressed in orange jumpsuits scaled the boundary fence and hoisted large banners with images of cracking reactors and announcing “The End” of nuclear power at the 45-year-old Beznau nuclear plant.
‘The majority (of the nuclear power plants in Europe) is threatening to overshoot their technical design life-time,’ said Greenpeace nuclear energy spokesman Jan Haverkamp according to AFP, pointing to the March 2011 disaster at Japan’s Fukushima plant, which started operating in 1971.
‘The increasing age of the reactors also increases the risks for a nuclear incident and significant economic and environmental damage,’ Mr. Haverkamp said according to AFP.
40 activists were arrested by cantonal police before noon and the others on the eve of twilight and reportedly 58 were reported to the Public Prosecutor for trespassing. The nuclear operator Axpo submitted the appropriate criminal complaint for trespassing the reactor plant, built in 1969 with unlimited operating license and in 1971 with unlimited operating license since 2004
.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beznau_Nuclear_Power_Plant

New Build-Old Build Problems:
Materials have lifespans, which are actual shortened by nuclear radiation, as we have discussed elsewhere. We cite additional information below. Lest you think that new build is a solution, besides the cost, besides the fact that nuclear is too dangerous period, there is the fact that poorly constructed new nuclear build could be as or more dangerous than old build. Frighteningly and strangely, new nuclear builds in the US, France, and Finland, have been characterized by well-documented and similar problems with concrete, rebar, and welding. One has a tendency to think that a new car is safer on the highway, however, car recalls remind us that this isn’t necessarily the case. So, don’t be fooled by the concept of nuclear new build.

From pp. 37-38: “Lifetime extension of ageing nuclear power plants: Entering a new era of risk“, A report commissioned by Greenpeace. Editor: Jan Haverkamp. Published in March 2014 by Greenpeace Switzerland.

3.1 Physical ageing

A comprehensive range of physical ageing mechanisms is described in the IAEA safety guide on ageing management:

Degradation of mechanical components can be caused by radiation embrittlement (affecting the RPV beltline region), general corrosion, stress corrosion cracking, weld-related cracking, and mechanical wear and fretting (affecting rotating components). Electrical and instrumentation and control components can be affected by insulation embrittlement and degradation (cables, motor windings, transformers), partial discharges (transformers, inductors, medium and high voltage equipment), oxidation, appearance of monocrystals and metallic diffusion.

Civil structures, especially concrete elements, can suffer damage due to aggressive chemical attacks and corrosion of the embedded steel, cracks and distortion due to increased stress levels from settling, and loss of material due to freeze–thaw processes. Pre-stressed containment tendons can lose their pre-stress due to relaxation, shrinkage, creep and elevated temperature.

Numerous further ageing mechanisms exist and often examination and analysis of fatigue cannot determine the precise cause of the damage. Choice of materials, design and manufacturing process all influence the occurrence and acceleration of ageing mechanisms. Due to lack of operational experience in the earlier years of construction of nuclear power plants, the choice of materials and production processes was not always optimal. The following sections present an overview of specific physical ageing effects, without claiming to be comprehensive.

3.1.1 Ageing effects on the reactor pressure vessel

The RPV and its internals are the most stressed components in a nuclear power plant. During operation the RPV has to withstand:

• neutron radiation that causes increasing embrittlement of the steel and weld seams;
• material fatigue due to frequent load cycles resulting from changing operational conditions;
• mechanical and thermal stresses from operating conditions, including fast reactor shutdowns (scrams) and other events throughout the operational lifetime; and
• different corrosion mechanisms caused by adverse conditions such as chemical impacts or vibrations.

Embrittlement under neutron radiation is of special importance for old reactors. At the time of their construction, knowledge of neutron-induced embrittlement was limited, so sometimes unsuitable materials were used.

Replacement of the RPV (like the replacement of the containment) is impossible for economic and practical reasons.

Consequently, if ageing mechanisms prevent further safe operation of these components, the reactor will have to be shut down. The risk of loss of RPV integrity increases under accident conditions, as the IAEA explains:

‘If an embrittled RPV were to have a flaw of critical size and certain severe system transients were to occur, the flaw could propagate very rapidly through the vessel, possibly resulting in a through-wall crack and challenging the integrity of the RPV.’

The IAEA identifies such severe transients as:

‘Pressurized thermal shocks (PTS), characterized by rapid cooling of the downcomer and internal RPV surface, followed sometimes by repressurization of the RPV (PWR and WWER reactor types)

Cold overpressure (high pressure at low temperature) for example at the end of shutdown situations.’

So the unidentified degradation of RPVs, such as cracks and flaws, therefore has the potential to escalate an incident into an uncontrollable accident, even though it does not cause problems during normal operation. During power operation the RPV is not accessible for inspections or intervention measures. As a result defects may remain undetected for longer periods of time.

Nevertheless, flaws and cracks have been identified in some older reactors in Europe, although they have been deemed acceptable for further operation.

Extensive research programmes are being conducted in order to gauge the resistance and stability of RPVs. At present there are conflicting scientific opinions concerning the current significance and further progression of ageing. Huge uncertainties are involved in estimating and predicting the progression of ageing and the long-term behaviour of materials, especially under accident conditions.

The original design safety margins of RPVs decrease continuously as there is no scope to eliminate the defects that arise. Operators conduct ageing management programmes, using inspection results and flaw evaluation to assess the status of the RPV” Entire report is here: http://out-of-age.eu/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Lifetime-extension-of-ageing-nuclear-power-plants-Entering-a-new-era-of-risk2.pdf

From US Gov:
Unlimited Release
Printed July 2011

Nuclear Containment Steel Liner Corrosion Workshop: Final Summary and Recommendation Report

Jason P. Petti Structural and Thermal Analyses, Org. 06233 Sandia National Laboratories P.O. Box 5800 Albuquerque, New Mexico 87185
Dan Naus Oak Ridge National Laboratory P.O. Box 2008 Oak Ridge, TN 37831
Alberto Sagüés University of South Florida 4202 E. Fowler Avenue Tampa, FL 33620
Richard E. Weyers Virginia Tech University 208 Patton Hall Blacksburg, VA 24061
Bryan A. Erler Erler Engineering Ltd. 2314 Lincoln Park Chicago, IL 60614
Neal S. Berke Tourney Consulting Group, LLC 3401 Midlink Drive Kalamazoo, MI 49048


This report documents the proceedings of an expert panel workshop conducted to evaluate the mechanisms of corrosion for the steel liner in nuclear containment buildings. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) sponsored this work which was conducted by Sandia National Laboratories. A workshop was conducted at the NRC Headquarters in Rockville, Maryland on September 2 and 3, 2010. Due to the safety function performed by the liner, the expert panel was assembled in order to address the full range of issues that may contribute to liner corrosion. This report is focused on corrosion that initiates from the outer surface of the liner, the surface that is in contact with the concrete containment building wall. Liner corrosion initiating on the outer diameter (OD) surface has been identified at several nuclear power plants, always associated with foreign material left embedded in the concrete. The potential contributing factors to liner corrosion were broken into five areas for discussion during the workshop. Those include nuclear power plant design and operation, corrosion of steel in contact with concrete, concrete aging and degradation, concrete/steel non-destructive examination (NDE), and concrete repair and corrosion mitigation. This report also includes the expert panel member’s recommendations for future research. Entire report here: http://pbadupws.nrc.gov/docs/ML1121/ML112150012.pdf (emphasis added)