NRC TO HOLD MEETING ON APRIL 2 IN MIDDLETOWN, PA., TO DISCUSS ANNUAL ASSESSMENT OF THREE MILE ISLAND 1 NUCLEAR PLANT Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff will conduct a public meeting on Thursday, April 2, regarding the agency’s annual assessment of safety performance for the Three Mile Island 1 nuclear power plant. The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. at Londonderry Town Hall in Middletown, Pa. The building is located at 738 S. Geyers Church Road. Prior to its conclusion, NRC staff will be available to answer questions from the public on the plant’s performance, as well as the agency’s oversight of the facility.U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Saturday, March 28, 2009
Accident Dose Assessments
Nuclear engineer and long-time industry executive, Arnie Gundersen gives a talk on his calculations of the amount of radiation released during the accident at Three Mile Island. Mr. Gundersen's calculations differ from those of the NRC's and official industry estimates.
TMI & Health Effects
Dr. Steven Wing's talk is about the long-term health effects to human, animal, and plant life in the aftermath of the accident at Three Mile Island.
Arnie Gundersen was a senior executive in the nuclear industry with over twenty years experience. Mr. Gundersen holds Bachelors and Masters degrees in Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. In 1990 he came forward as a whistleblower and was fired that same year. Over the next several years, his case got a great deal of attention, and he testified before Congress during hearings on ways to protect whistleblowers. Mr. Gundersen is now a prominent nuclear safety expert witness.
Steven Wing teaches epidemiology at the University of Northo Carolina-Chapel Hill and conducts research on occupational and environmental health. Since 1988 he has collaborated on epidemiological studies of radiation exposures to workers at U.S. nuclear weapons plants. His 1997 and 2003 articles published in Environmental Health Perspectives describe impacts of radiation from the 1979 nuclear accident at Three Mile Island on cancer rates near the plant. His recent studies examine impacts of industrial animal production and environmental injustice.
These talks were recorded live at the Pennsylvania State Capitol on March 26, 2009.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
The irony is that 30 years after the most infamous U.S. accident since the splitting of the atom, there is talk of a nuclear-power revival, driven by greenhouse-gas concerns. A separate reality is that three decades after the iconic partial-meltdown at Three Mile Island, the nuclear plant's surviving Unit 1 reactor is almost assured of soon receiving government permission to continue operating through 2034. Is that a good thing? Yes, says Ralph DeSantis, spokesman for TMI's current owner, Exelon. "We pride ourselves on being a good neighbor." No, says Eric Epstein of Three Mile Island Alert, a longtime critic of TMI. Epstein is most concerned about highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel that is stored in a swimming-pool-like structure on the island because the federal government has been unable to deliver on its promise to develop a central waste-storage site for the country's reactors. "We never signed up to host a high-level nuclear radioactive waste site," complains Epstein. TMI is in southern Dauphin County, about 20 miles from downtown Lancaster.LancasterOnline.com
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff will conduct an informational open house on Tuesday, March 31, regarding the agency’s annual assessment of safety performance for the Beaver Valley nuclear power plant. The open house, which will take place from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Shippingport Community and Municipal Center, 164 State Road 3016 in Shippingport (Beaver County), Pa., will provide members of the public with an opportunity to learn first-hand from NRC staff members about performance at the plant during 2008. Unlike the standard meeting format, the setting will allow citizens to discuss plant-related topics on a one-on-one basis with NRC inspectors assigned to the plant and their NRC Region I supervisor.U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Governor Rendell, a top advocate for weaning America off of oil dependency and reducing greenhouse gases, says nuclear power factors into that calculus:
“I think there should be expansion. I think it’s much easier, obviously, to do expansion on existing sites, because people are used to having a reactor in the midst. But I think there has to be some expansion and eventually there’s going to have to replacement of a lot of the reactors that were built years ago.”
Friday, March 20, 2009
Given the department’s origins, it is not surprising that nuclear programs have won out over other energy technologies. Of the $135.4 billion spent on energy research and development from 1948 to 2005 (in constant 2004 dollars), more than half, or $74 billion, went to nuclear energy, while fossil-fuel programs received a quarter, or $34.1 billion. The leftovers went for alternatives, with renewables getting $13 billion, or 10 percent, and energy efficiency $12 billion, according to a Congressional Research Service report written in 2006. That historical pattern of spending continues to this day. This year nuclear energy research is receiving $1.7 billion, including for a weapons-related fusion program being touted for its supposed energy potential. Nuclear weapons programs are getting $6.4 billion, with an additional $6.5 billion allocated to environmental cleanup. Millions more are spent on efforts to reduce the risk of weapons proliferation, and recovering nuclear and radioactive materials from around the world. Against this background, alternative energy solutions are but an afterthought: in the current fiscal year, for example, all of $1.1 billion is apportioned for programs falling under this category, not including the stimulus money. The stimulus package, intended to be spent over two years, places huge demands on Secretary of Energy Steven Chu. But if Chu wishes to avoid getting dragged down by the nuclear undertow, the Energy Department must be relieved of duties that aren’t related to energy. The good news is that some in Washington already recognise this need.New York Times (full article)
Thursday, March 19, 2009
"There are significant cultural problems that will be very difficult to change — the biggest is resources. They are not spending enough," said panel member Arnold Gundersen of Burlington. "They are penny-wise and pound-foolish." [...] Raymond Shadis, senior technical adviser for the New England Coalition, said the review was a pale substitute for an independent safety assessment, or ISA, which the coalition has sought for years. "The panel findings are just not enforceable. Could that be why NEC fought so hard for an NRC-conducted ISA and not this adolescent version of nuclear trivia?" Shadis said.Rutland Herald
Friday, March 13, 2009
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff has issued its safety evaluation report (SER) with Open Items for the proposed renewal of the operating license for the Three Mile Island Nuclear Station, Unit 1 (TMI-1), located in Middletown, Pa. The report documents the interim results of the NRC staff’s review of the license renewal application and site audits of TMI-1’s aging management programs to address the safety of plant operations during the period of extended operations. Overall, the results show that the applicant has identified actions that have been or will be taken to manage the effects of aging in the appropriate safety systems, structures and components of the plant and that their functions will be maintained during the period of extended operation.
Exelon Generation Group, LLC, owner and operator (formerly AmerGen Energy Company, LLC.), submitted an application to the NRC on Jan. 8, 2008 to extend the TMI-1 license by 20 years. Under NRC regulations, the original operating license for a nuclear power plant has a term of 40 years. The license may be renewed for up to an additional 20 years if NRC requirements are met. Therefore, if approved, the current operating license for TMI-1, which expires on April 19, 2014, would be extended until 2034.
In a letter dated March 13, Brian Holian, director of the Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation’s Division of License Renewal, provided Exelon with the SER. The SER will be available on the NRC’s Web site at http://www.nrc.gov/reactors/operating/licensing/renewal/applications.html. Issuance of a SER is a typical milestone in a license renewal review.
The NRC staff will present its final conclusions on the license renewal application in an update to this SER which is estimated to be issued in July 2009.
The SER and the license renewal application have also been provided to the NRC’s Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards (ACRS), an independent body of experts that advises the NRC on reactor safety matters. An ACRS subcommittee is expected to discuss the SER during a meeting on April 1. The meeting, which will take place at NRC Headquarters in Rockville, Md., will be open to the public. Details of this meeting will be announced on the agency’s Web site at http://www.nrc.gov/public-involve/public-meetings/index.cfm. The full ACRS will later issue a report discussing the results of its review.
A copy of the letter and the Safety Evaluation Report will be available in the NRC’s Agencywide Documents Access and Management Systems (ADAMS) under accession number ML090710604. ADAMS is accessible via the agency’s Web site at: http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/adams.html. Help in using ADAMS is available by contacting the NRC’s Public Document Room at 1-800-397-4209 or 301-415-4737, or by e-mail at PDR.Resource@NRC.GOV.
Documents related to TMI-1 are also located at the following locations: the Middletown Public Library, 20 North Catherine Street in Middletown; the Penn State Harrisburg Library, 351 Olmsted Drive in Middletown; and the Londonderry Township Municipal Building, 783 South Geyers Church Road in Middletown.Additional information concerning license renewal in general and the TMI-1 application in particular can be found at: http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/fact-sheets/license-renewal-bg.html and http://www.nrc.gov/reactors/operating/licensing/renewal.html respectively.
A careful look at the run-up to and aftermath of the accident on March 28, 1979 at TMI should put to rest whatever enthusiasm for the technology still exists, Mr. Epstein said. Even before the meltdown, he said, it became clear TMI’s backers had downplayed its ultimate costs. “The trend is here, the trend is clear and the trend is unequivocal,” Mr. Epstein said, asserting that nuclear-generating facilities are always over budget and always behind schedule. Electricity provider Metropolitan Edison began building TMI Unit 1 in 1968, publicly anticipating a cost of $183 million. Its construction concluded two years behind schedule and cost an eventual $400 million before coming online in 1974. TMI Unit 2, in Londonderry Township near Harrisburg, began operation in late December 1978, a mere three months before the accident necessitated its shutdown. Metropolitan Edison estimated it would cost $206 million; its building expenses eventually totaled $700 million as it was completed five years behind schedule. During the brief time it functioned, most of the electricity it generated didn’t go to surrounding communities. Much of it was conveyed to western Pennsylvania and New Jersey. One thousand people once worked at TMI Unit 2, while no one works at what is now only a remnant of a generation plant that, according to Mr. Epstein, won’t get cleaned up completely until the next century. He placed total cleanup costs at $805 million, noting that electricity ratepayers are taking on most of the expense. What implication does Mr. Epstein believe this should have for American energy policy? “Our position is this,” he said of TMIA, “We don’t believe you should be building nuclear power plants until you clean up the mess you already created.”The Bulletin
Today, Del Tredici continues to discuss the nuclear industry through art, photography and lectures. His photographs will be displayed at Penn State Harrisburg from March 16 through April 30, part of a series of events at the college commemorating the 30th anniversary of the nation’s worst nuclear accident. Del Tredici will visit the area and give a lecture on March 23. The 30-photo exhibit can be viewed for free on the first floor of the library. Also part of the monthlong remembrance of the TMI accident, is a forum entitled “Nuclear Renaissance or Relapse,” to be held March 30.Press and Journal
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Based on the assumptions set forth above, we have estimated the following approximate percentage increases in the overall rates of residential customers, comparing rates that are in effect today and rates that would be expected to be in effect for each company after the rate caps have expired: PPL - 37% Met Ed -54% PECO - 8% Penelec - 50% Allegheny (West Penn) - 63%Sonny Popowsky's letter to Governor Rendell (pdf)
A federal regulator has authorized the owner of Millstone Power Station in Waterford to adopt a new method for measuring radiation exposure to workers. The decision by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission also applies to Dominion's fleet of reactors around the country. The approach, established by the Health Physics Society, uses gauges known as dosimeters to measure the dose of radiation a worker has been exposed to in seven different areas of the body, said Neil Sheehan, an NRC spokesman. The measurements are taken in plant locations where higher exposure is likely, he said. A second, traditional method, known as the “deep dose equivalent” measurement, involves using only one dosimeter to measure radiation across the whole body. That standard is used in areas on reactor sites that are not prone to high radiation, he said. In contrast, the HPS method pinpoints exposure to targeted areas of the body. If an employee was working below the reactor vessel during a fuel outage, the more pronounced exposure would be to the head and shoulders, for example, Sheehan said. The HPS approach is more consistent with state of the art procedures for measuring radiation exposure, said Sheehan, and as such, is more accurate. The NRC is considering the adopting the HPS method as a standard that any reactor owner could use. About one-third of the 104 operating commercial power reactors in the U.S. are now using the HPS approach, Sheehan said.The Day