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Beznau Swiss Cheese Greenpeace
The news that almost 1000 holes are in the reactor pressure vessel of Beznau 1 came on October 7, 2015. Having the oldest operating commercial nuclear reactor in the world was reason enough for concern without learning that the reactor pressure vessel, the most important part of the nuclear reactor, was full of holes like a piece of Swiss Emmental cheese, notes Greenpeace. This nuclear reactor may still be restarted, which clearly places the population in danger. One sixth of the Swiss population lives nearby in Zurich. http://www.greenpeace.org/switzerland/fr/publications/blog/energies/blog/54410/

Beznau, opened in 1969, is located only 38 km (24 miles) from Zurich and its bankers.
Beznau to Zurich

Beznau 2, which starting operating in 1971, has “only” 77 defects in its reactor pressure vessel, so was approved to go back online. Prairie Island Nuclear Power Station in the US State of Minnesota is of the same generation as Beznau 2. Beznau and Prairie Island appear to be among the most potentially impacted by Areva-Creusot Forge (formerly Schneider Forge) parts suspected as defective. We don’t know if Beznau 2’s new breakers are defective Swiss-Swedish ABB breakers like poor Prairie Island and many other US nuclear power stations have.

Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Station is beside Prairie Island American Indian Reservation. An accident there is genocide at the hands of the US government due to NRC regulatory failure. An accident at Beznau will be Swiss suicide. If you kill yourself due to stupidity it’s still suicide.

Below, Dr. Wanner, head of ENSI, speaks of defects in the reactor pressure vessel. Corrosion of the containment has existed since the 1990s. Why are the Swiss nuclear utilities not making money? Cheap wind and solar imported from Germany, along with solar, hydro, and biofuels in Switzerland. Plus people are allowed energy choice and can opt out of using nuclear. Then there are upkeep costs for the old reactors.

According to the Director General of Swiss regulator ENSI:
Last year, all facilities satisfied the statutory safety requirements and were operated safely. Among other methods, we have verified this by conducting more than 500 pre-announced and unannounced inspections and by evaluating various pieces of evidence that we requested from the operators.

However, one incident in particular stood out last year and is still of concern to us: ultrasound investigations ordered by us revealed irregularities in the steel of the reactor pressure vessel of Unit 1 of the Beznau nuclear power plant.

It is for the operator Axpo to demonstrate to us what the findings mean and what impact they have on the safety of the reactor pressure vessel.

We will not approve a restart of Beznau 1 until we are satisfied that the findings do not represent a safety impairment and that the statutory requirements are met. It will not be possible to say whether this is the case until all of the analyses are complete, all of the facts are on the table, and we have reviewed these facts in cooperation with an international team of experts. This process is unlikely to be completed before the end of 2016.

The year 2015 intensified a trend that emerged a few years ago, further raising its profile among politicians and the general public: the deteriorating financial situation of Swiss electricity producers might affect the remaining service life of Swiss nuclear power plants.

For many years, Switzerland’s nuclear power plants were a highly profitable venture: every year, the operating companies’ shareholders – largely cantons – derived large sums of money from the electricity sector. Safety and economics were not mutually exclusive. On the contrary, it was in the operators’ interest to invest proactively in safety so that they could operate their facilities profitably for as long as possible. This made our task as a supervisory authority a relatively easy one. The necessary improvement measures were normally implemented without a great deal of discussion.

For example, even before the reactor accident in Fukushima, Axpo decided to invest some CHF 700 million in safety at the Beznau nuclear power plant. It did so in the knowledge that the facility had an unlimited operating licence and in the expectation that it could therefore continue operating for 60 years, allowing it to amortize this costly investment. In recent years, however, the situation has changed dramatically.

Today, the companies can barely make money from electricity. It can no longer be ruled out, therefore, that in the future the operators will invest only as much in their nuclear power plants as is absolutely necessary to satisfy the minimum statutory requirements. However, continued operation of the nuclear power plants, as envisaged in the Energy Strategy 2050, presupposes ongoing investments in safety over and above the minimum standards.

As a supervisory authority, we cannot tolerate cutbacks in safety for financial reasons. In 2015, we completed a review of our supervisory culture, a project that had been under way for over three years and that is of great importance to me. Although responsibility for the safety of nuclear facilities lies with the operators, we are well aware that the way in which we perform our duties as a supervisory authority influences both the safety culture of operators and the safety of facilities. The reactor accident in Fukushima offered a clear illustration of this connection. For us, it was also an opportunity to scrutinise our own supervisory culture. The project we have now completed yielded a whole host of measures that must now be imple-mented into everyday operations. The project’s end does not mark the completion of the review of our supervisory culture; rather, this will continue on an ongoing basis in the future.

Safety is a question not only of engineering but also of the people involved in it. For that reason, I would like to conclude by thanking all ENSI staff, who throughout 2015 have shown prudence, commitment and a sense of responsibility in their efforts to maintain and improve safety.

Dr. Hans Wanner Director General June 2016
Preface of “Regulatory Oversight Report 2015 concerning nuclear safety in Swiss nuclear installations“, June 2016 https://web.archive.org/save/_embed/https://www.ensi.ch/fr/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2016/06/ENSI_aufsichtsbericht_2015_web-1.pdf (Emphasis our own. The original document is German with summaries in French, and English. Swiss Italian and Romansh speakers are excluded.)

If Schneider told the Swiss that the Beznau reactor pressure vessels would last beyond 40 years, then maybe the Swiss utilities should sue Schneider electric? Or French government owned Areva-Creusot Forge who almost certainly inherited Schneider’s liabilities?

One problem not mentioned by Dr. Wanner is that the utilities may pay money for quality parts and receive substandard parts.

The containment has been visibly corroding since the 1990s:

Beznau 2 only had 77 defects instead of almost 1000, so they let it go back online!
Lors du contrôle, l’exploitant de la centrale nucléaire de Beznau 2 avait constaté au total 77 indications dans les trois plus importants anneaux forgés de la cuve du réacteur. Parmi celles-ci, 34 indications individuelles se trouvent au niveau de l’anneau forgé C, exposé aux plus grandes charges.
https://web.archive.org/web/20160315213347/http://www.ensi.ch/fr/2016/01/07/lifsn-accorde-a-beznau-2-lautorisation-de-redemarrer/ (Info online at ENSI is mostly German, but with some French, Italian and English.)

In 2012 Beznau 2 had a problem with a breaker – maybe the same defective ABB ones that the US NRC is content to leave in place? At Beznau 2 they replaced the defective one immediately and all breakers were replaced the following year: “Le dysfonctionnement a été corrigé par le montage d’un coupe-circuit de réserve de construction identique. Conformément au plan de gestion du vieillissement, il est prévu de remplacer tous les disjoncteurs de cette gamme de fabrication dans la tranche 2 lors de la révision annuelle de 2013.http://static.ensi.ch/1363782517/vorkommnis_kkb2-2012-11-21_stand-2013-03-13_web_sta.pdf Or, were these old
breakers? It’s new ones (ABB, Schneider) in the US which are defective.

About Dr. Hans Wanner: https://web.archive.org/web/20160401134430/http://www.ensi.ch/en/ensi-is-the-national-regulatory-body-with-responsibility-for-the-nuclear-safety-and-security-of-swiss-nuclear-facilities/ensi-executive-board/dr-hans-wanner/

The review panel does not look good. Probably the same team as approved the continued running of Belgium’s defective reactors: Tim Williams, formerly of Rolls Royce plc (UK); Guy Roussel, Federaal Agentschap voor Nucléaire Contrôle FANC/Bel V (Belgium); Mark Kirk, US Nuclear Regulatory Commission NRC (USA); Hans Vandriessche, Vinçotte (Belgium); Hans-Jakob Schindler, Mat-Tec AG Winterthur (Switzerland); Randy Nanstad, Oak Ridge National Laboratory ORNL (USA); Isabelle Delvallée-Nunio, Institut de Radioprotection et de Sûreté Nucléaire IRSN (France); Eberhard Roos, formerly of the Stuttgart University Materials Testing Institute/MPA (Germany) https://web.archive.org/web/20160706034400/https://www.ensi.ch/en/2015/12/02/ensi-reviewing-axpos-project-plan-for-the-safety-case-of-the-beznau-1-reactor-pressure-vessel/ Rolls makes nuclear navy subs and is trying to get small modular reactors spread about. Oak Ridge Nuclear Lab and the US NRC’s pro-nuclear bias is beyond legendary. They wrote the book on it.

The corresponding construction permit was issued on 2 November 1965 and, after only four years, on 12 May 1969 commissioning was authorized. On 24 December 1969 Beznau 1 started commercial operation… In the meantime the procedure for the construction of the identical reactor Beznau 2 had begun. The location and a first construction permit were approved on 17 November 1967, followed on 21 September 1970 by the final one. The commissioning started on 16 July 1971 and the reactor finally entered the commercial operation phase on 15 March 1972https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beznau_Nuclear_Power_Plant (ENSI says that it went into commercial operation in 1971. Who even remembers by now it was so long ago?)

Swiss authorities allow up to 100 mSv exposure in the event of a nuclear accident. This would give an estimated 15% excess cancer rate. Since Swiss insurance must be purchased, the high cost of cancer and cancer treatment will fall mostly upon the insurance companies. Contrary to what is often taught, not all countries on the European continent have socialized medicine. When we posted “Switzerland a nuclear exit only in name…”, 100 mSv was estimated to cause 1 cancer per 100 people (BEIR VII). However, based on a more recent government funded study of nuclear workers, risk may be estimated as around 15 times worse than even BEIR VII thought, maybe even higher. This means that there will be around 15 excess cancers per 100 mSv per one hundred people. This is cancers caused by this 100 mSv of exposure alone. It excludes any other exposures and any other causes of cancer. Around half will die, on average at around retirement – what BEIR calls life-shortening cancers (average life expectancy of 14 to 15 yrs). https://miningawareness.wordpress.com/2014/12/09/switzerland-a-nuclear-exit-only-in-name-authorities-assure-can-limit-cancer-to-1-in-100-if-earthquake-at-nuclear-power-stations/ https://miningawareness.wordpress.com/2015/12/19/another-look-at-the-recent-low-dose-radiation-exposure-study-inworks/