nuclear energy

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

DTE and Consumers Energy electric customers may notice a slight dip in their monthly bills.

Since 1982, utilities have tacked on a 15 to 20 cent fee on monthly electric bills.

It was supposed to pay for a federal program to dispose of spent fuel from nuclear power plants. Only one problem: The program never actually disposed of any waste.

Last fall, a federal court ordered an end to the fee.

Michigan Public Service Commissioner Greg White was part of the lawsuit.

James Yeo / Creative Commons

Officials at the Fermi 2 nuclear plant near Monroe are investigating the cause of a small fire that happened around 2 p.m. this afternoon.  

Fermi is already shut down to refuel. That’s normal.

Plant workers were testing four huge back-up diesel generators used only in emergencies. Those tests are normal, too. DTE spokesman Guy Cerullo says they've been testing them for a few days.

At Palisades, spent fuel cools for at least six years before being considered for dry storage. There are 17 dry casks storing waste at Palisades.
Mark Savage / Entergy

Federal law regulates nuclear power plants in almost every way. But state law dictates the use of force to keep people off the property.

State Rep. Al Pscholka introduced the bill. He says it was not inspired by any actual security breaches.

FirstEnergy

OAK HARBOR, Ohio (AP) - Operators of a northern Ohio nuclear plant that sits along Lake Erie say workers there found a gap within the concrete of a protective wall.

Officials at the Davis-Besse nuclear plant near Toledo describe the gap as an air pocket and say they don't believe it affected the structural integrity of the shield wall.

The gap was discovered Thursday while the plant was shut down to replace two steam generators.

The Palisades Nuclear Plant sits on the shores of Lake Michigan in southwest Michigan.

COVERT TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - Operators of southwestern Michigan's Palisades Nuclear Power Plant say it's now offline for refueling and maintenance.

New Orleans-based Entergy Corp. says operators took the plant out of service at 11 a.m. EST Sunday. It's located on the shore of lake Michigan in Van Buren County's Covert Township, about 55 miles southwest of Grand Rapids.

Plant spokeswoman Lindsay Rose says workers will replace 64 fuel assemblies in the reactor as well doing maintenance, tests and inspections.

Joseph Xu / Michigan Engineering Communications & Marketing

Engineering researchers at the University of Michigan are trying to figure out how radiation damages the different materials used to make nuclear power plants.

There are roughly 100  nuclear power plants in the U.S., and most of them are getting old. Researchers want to figure out how long the reactors can hold up in such harsh environments over time.

user: Free Grunge Textures / Flickr

The University of Michigan is almost finished decommissioning its nuclear reactor. The process began ten years ago. But there are new plans in the works to renovate the building.

According to MLive, the University wants to create research labs, testing areas, offices and academic support spaces in the building. The 17,400-square-foot building would get a 5,200-square-foot addition and would be renamed as the Nuclear Engineering Laboratories. It's on North Campus on Bonisteel Dr. 

The University of Michigan Board of Regents will vote on the proposed plans at 3 pm on Thursday. 

DETROIT (AP) - Objections to a proposal to build a nuclear waste storage site near Lake Huron's Ontario shoreline are the subject of a town hall meeting Monday evening in Detroit.

The Detroit News says the meeting is scheduled for 6:30-8 p.m. at Wayne State University's Keith Center Lecture Hall.

The meeting's organizers include Democratic state Sen. Hoon-Yung Hopgood of Taylor. He sponsored a resolution that the Michigan Senate passed in May questioning the proposal.

Ohio Sea Grant / Creative Commons

A new study deems the Palisades Nuclear Plant one of a dozen in the country most at risk of closing before its operating license expires in 2031.

“I’m not making predictions here and I really do want to stress that,” the study’s author Mark Cooper told reporters on a press conference call Wednesday afternoon.

The SIRWT tank on top of Palisades Nuclear Power Plant
Mark Savage / Entergy

Federal nuclear regulators say it’ll be several weeks before they can determine if Entergy, the company that owns the Palisades Nuclear Plant, violated any regulations during an incident in May when 80 gallons of slightly radioactive water leaked into Lake Michigan.

Related: Read this for a brief summary of all the problems at Palisades

The leak happened in May. Regulators say there was no threat to public safety, and the leak is now fixed.

When workers fixed the leaky tank they discovered the sand bed that was supposed to be supporting the tank was never installed. Palisades was built in 1968.

“If the causes (of there being no sand bed) were so long ago and it’s not indicative of recent performance then it’s assessed a little bit differently,” Jack Giessner said during a public forum held online Tuesday afternoon. Giessner is branch chief at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

“It still may have some follow up needed but in general, it’s not like we’re going to try to interview people from 1968,” Giessner said.

Mark Savage / Entergy

Federal regulators will host a public meeting this week to recap the latest shutdown of the Palisades Nuclear Plant. The plant restarted about a month ago after fixing a water leak.

COVERT TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - Operators have restarted the Palisades Nuclear Power Plant in southwestern Michigan after finishing repairs to a water tank that leaked slightly radioactive water into Lake Michigan.

New Orleans-based Entergy Corp. idled the plant May 5 after operators found a tank leaking faster than regulations allow. Company spokeswoman Lindsay Rose says it returned to service about 2:10 p.m. Monday.

The plant is in Van Buren County's Covert Township, about 80 miles east-northeast of Chicago,

Mark Savage / Entergy

It’s been more than a month since the Palisades Nuclear Plant near South Haven shut down after an unexpected release of slightly radioactive water into Lake Michigan.

Nuclear watchdog groups are upset there was yet another leak into the plant’s control room last week.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Even though Palisades is temporarily shut down, the nuclear power plant last night held a public open house it had scheduled more than a month ago.

In a small conference center in South Haven Tuesday night, anti-nuclear activists mingled with federal nuclear regulators, residents, and plant workers. Palisades Site Vice President Tony Vitale says that's a good thing. He says the open house is designed for people in the community to come talk to some of the plant workers firsthand.

“We’re not hiding anything. We want to run, and will run, and I will demand we run a transparent operation,” Vitale said.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

In West Michigan, crews are continuing to try and figure out what caused the release of slightly radioactive water from the Palisades Nuclear Power Plant in southwest Michigan.

The plant was shut down a little over a week ago because of the leak, and crews say they have discovered a new crack in a water tank that's been leaking on and off for at least two years.

Michigan Radio's West Michigan reporter Lindsey Smith joined us today to talk about

Listen to the full interview above.

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing announced he will not run for re-election. What does this means for the city moving forward while currently under emergency management?

And we took a look at what's behind Michigan's high infant mortality rate.

And author, theologian, preacher, and social activist Jim Wallis joined us to talk about his book and The Common Good for America.

But first in the show, we got an update on the Palisades Nuclear Power Plant, where crews are trying to figure out what caused the release of slightly radioactive water.

The plant was shut down a little over a week ago because of the leak, and crews say they have discovered a new crack in a water tank that has been leaking on and off for at least two years. Michigan Radio reporter Lindsey Smith discussed the issue with us.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Congressman Fred Upton (MI-06) will head to southwest Michigan this afternoon, to check out the condition of the Palisades Nuclear Power Plant.

The unplanned release of slightly radioactive water into Lake Michigan earlier this month “outraged” the Republican congressman, who chairs the U.S. House’s Energy and Commerce Committee.

“Every option must be on the table to ensure that the continuing leak will not occur again,” Upton said in a statement last week, suggesting that a full replacement of the leaky water tank may be in order.

Officials from the nuclear plant maintain that the leak will not harm the public or any of the plant’s 650 workers.

A commissioner from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will be accompanying Upton on his tour today.

The congressman is expected to speak publicly after the visit.

Michigan Radio's Lindsey Smith will be there and she'll bring us more later today.

- Melanie Kruvelis, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Nuclear Regulatory Commission

During an online public meeting Tuesday night, federal nuclear regulators reiterated their belief that the Palisades nuclear power plant in Covert, Michigan, near South Haven is safe.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission hosted the meeting to talk with the public about the strength of the vessel that contains the nuclear reactor and fuel. Radiation, high pressure and temperatures over long periods of time make the metal vessels in all pressurized water reactors more vulnerable at nuclear plants.

Palisades is the oldest nuclear power plant in the state, and it’s got one of the most brittle reactor vessels in the country. Older nuclear plants like Palisades have some copper in the mostly steel vessel; later designs have stronger steel, regulators said.

Mark Kirk is a Senior Materials Engineer in the Office of Nuclear Regulatory Research at the NRC.

“It’s unquestionably true that Palisades, one of the welds in Palisades, is one of the most embrittled in all of the plants operating in the US,” Kirk said. “Even so, Palisades continues to operate in compliance with the relevant NRC rules.”

By 2017 the plant’s vessel will become too brittle to legally operate.

Palisades reactor from ouside
Mark Savage / Entergy Nuclear Operations

Nuclear regulators will discuss the risk of “pressurized thermal shock,” one of the biggest fears anti-nuclear groups have about the Palisades nuclear power plant during an online meeting Tuesday.

Over time the radiation, extreme pressure and heat from the nuclear reactor wear on the metal vessel that contains it. That’s called embrittlement.

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan Public Service Commission and Michigan Energy Office officials plan to hold the first of seven forums this week on the state's energy future.

Among those scheduled to speak Thursday in Lansing include representatives of the Michigan Manufacturers Association, Michigan Environmental Council and Citizens Against Rate Excess.

The four-hour public forum called "Readying Michigan to Make Good Energy Decisions" starts at 1 p.m. at the Library of Michigan.

Palisades Nuclear Power Plant.
Entergy Corporation

Michigan Radio has been following the problems at the Palisades Nuclear Power Plant for the last several years.

Our West Michigan reporter, Lindsey Smith, has been on top of all the leaks, shutdowns, public meetings and visits from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Last February, after five shutdowns in one year, the NRC downgraded Palisades' safety rating. It was rated as one of the four worst in the country.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Company officials who run the Palisades nuclear plant in southwest Michigan say they are improving the safety culture among workers that led to “significant” safety concerns last year. But at a meeting in South Haven Tuesday night, Palisades Site Vice President Tony Vitale said the plant has a “long way to go” to reach “operating excellence.”

Mark Savage / Entergy

Top federal nuclear regulators will be in South Haven early next month to discuss the Palisades nuclear power plant’s recent safety rating upgrade with the community.

Bruce Power / Ontario Power Generation

The Bruce Nuclear Power Plant sits on the Ontario side of Lake Huron. It’s across the lake from Michigan’s Thumb region.  Ontario Power Generation owns the plant. 

The company wants to store the lower level nuclear waste from all of their plants underground, near the Bruce plant.

They’re proposing to dig almost a half mile underground to build the facility. It would be a little more than half a mile away from the shore of Lake Huron.

NRC

DTE Energy's Fermi 2 nuclear power plant was shutdown yesterday morning after workers discovered excess hydrogen in a generator cooling system.

From the Detroit News:

DTE spokesman Guy Cerullo said Thursday that workers will be checking equipment to find the root of the problem. The company would not provide a timetable for the power plant to be back online.

"Customers won't see any difference," Cerullo said. "We are always are able to get additional power from other plants."

No one at the plant or in surrounding areas was in any danger, Cerullo said.

The Fermi 2 nuclear power plant is near Monroe, Michigan and it sits on Lake Erie.

There are 38 nuclear power plants operating in the eight Great Lakes states. Four are in Michigan. Five nuclear power plants are operating in Ontario.

The Big Rock Point Nuclear Power Plant in Charlevoix, Michigan. The plant was decommissioned in 1997.
NRC

A new federal study will look at cancer risk around nuclear facilities.

The National Academy of Sciences study will look at cancer types in infants and the general population near six nuclear power plants and one nuclear-fuel plant for the Navy.

The sites being studied are in California, Connecticut, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey and Tennessee.

Researchers will look at the area around the decommissioned Big Rock Point Nuclear Power Plant in Charlevoix, Michigan.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Operators of the Palisades nuclear power plant did not do anything wrong during a water leak that shut the plant down in August. At least nothing that resulted in any “significant findings” according to a report recently released by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

NRC.gov

The federal agency that regulates nuclear power plants released more information on Monday about a leak over the summer at the Palisades plant near South Haven. The plant has one of the worst safety ratings in the US after a number of problems last year.

There have been at least three water leaks at Palisades in the past several months.

Mark Savage / Entergy

Documents released this week show a Nuclear Regulatory Commission inspector based at Palisades discovered the leak during a routine inspection on September 20th.  

Palisades is under more scrutiny this year after a series of problems earned it one of the worst safety ratings in the country. This is at least the third water leak (depending on exactly how you tally them) at the nuclear plant this year. You can find more details about the first leak from a large water tank above the control room here, and the second water leak from the actual reactor here.

Palisades Nuclear Power Plant.
Entergy Corporation

Michigan Radio has been following the problems at the Palisades Nuclear Power Plant for the last several years.

Our West Michigan reporter, Lindsey Smith, has been on top of all the leaks, shutdowns and visits from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

There's been so much news of late, it can get a little confusing.

To clear up what's been happening at Michigan's oldest operating nuclear power plant, we created this timeline.

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