37 Aging Nuclear Power Plants in the Great Lakes Basin

March 10, 2010


By Tanya Cabala

The Great Lakes region is host to nearly 40 nuclear power reactors, several in the decommissioning stage, 9 of them situated around Lake Michigan (An Advocate?s Field Guide to Protecting Lake Michigan, Alliance for the Great Lakes). Many of the reactors are nearing the end of their original licenses, but instead of being decommissioned, they are being re-licensed to run for several more decades. Nuclear power plants were originally licensed to operate for 40 years, but there has been a nationwide movement by government regulators and the nuclear power industry to extend the licenses well beyond that time period, even though the reactors are beginning to show signs of aging, raising considerable concerns about safety. 39 of the nation?s 103 nuclear reactors have already received 20-year extensions, while 12 others are in the process, including the Palisades Nuclear Power Plant in Covert Township, Michigan. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has approved all applications to date. Last year, an extended license for the Cook Nuclear Power Plant in Bridgman, Michigan was approved. A pending 20-year re-licensing application for the Palisades Nuclear Power Plant is also expected to be approved this year. Where?s the public outcry?

High-level radioactive wastes from the operation of Palisades since it began operation in 1971 are currently being stored in 29 massive concrete storage casks on the Lake Michigan shoreline. The plant will generate approximately 290 more tons of high-level radioactive wastes in 20 additional years with no national repository likely to be established to receive the wastes. The plan for transporting the wastes generated during the first license will involve barging up to 125 or more giant rail-sized containers of the wastes from Palisades to the Port of Muskegon, up along the Lake Michigan shoreline. Where?s the public outcry?

Extended and new nuclear power generation is now being promoted as a ?clean? alternative to the use of fossil fuels. Nuclear reactors, including Palisades, are not clean, nor are they ?green.? They emit harmful radioactivity into the environment on a daily basis and generate long-lasting radioactive wastes. Further, nuclear power relies heavily on the use of fossil fuels in the mining, milling, processing, transportation, management, and storage of its fuel and waste products. Where?s the public outcry?

A number of grassroots organizations have long been dedicated to monitoring and calling for attention to the nuclear power issue in the Great Lakes, but unfortunately, overall, it remains a low priority. Is it because the issue is poorly understood by the public, as well as the environmental community? Is it because the problem and potential solutions are too complex and too long-term? Is it because the issue is not perceived as urgent? Or is it because there is a lack of financial support for the environmental community to address the issue? Where?s the public outcry?

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11 Responses to “37 Aging Nuclear Power Plants in the Great Lakes Basin”

  1. […] 37 Aging Nuclear Power Plants in the Great Lakes Basin « The … […]

  2. bjspring said

    Thanks for the link to Going Green.

  3. meena said

    thank you for the comments and the work you do to get the message out

  4. bg said

    What a difference a year makes from the writing of this blog.

  5. Gerry Niedermaier said

    Tanya, do you know if all the plants store their nuclear waste on-site?

    Gerry Niedermaier

  6. Barbara Spring said

    Tanya replies: I believe all U.S. nuclear power plants store their spent fuel rods in pools. Without a national repository, there began to be concerns about how plants would offload rods in an emergency to the pools when they began to fill up. Now some plants have on-site “temporary” storage such as at Palisades where they have a number of 130 ton concrete passive ventilation casks sitting on concrete pads on the lakeshore. These casks are really defacto permanent storage, as it is unlikely that the wastes they hold they would be unloaded and transported to a national repository. Other wastes that are less contained would be first in line for that.

  7. Barbara Spring said

    Sand erodes so the Palisades casks are too close to Lake Michigan for comfort.

  8. […] to age, bringing growing environmental concerns. The Great Lakes’ shores alone are encircled by 37 aging nuclear power plants. Others operate near major metropolitan areas like New York […]

  9. TuRtle said

    Thank you for posting this information. I had NO idea that many dangerous Nuclear Power plants were around the Great lakes. We live in Kansas and the thought of going to a large body of water is appealing. I guess we will hit the Atlantic or Gulf again. Ashame really because I lived a few years around Chicago and really loved the great lakes.

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