Tuesday, June 30, 2009
There is, believe it or not, a publication by the name of Uranium Intelligence Weekly, and Stephanie Cooke is its editor. This esoteric subject is right up her alley, as Cooke covered the nuclear industry for almost 30 years. Cooke, who grew up in Sudbury, has just written a book, “In Mortal Hands: A Cautionary History of the Nuclear Age’’ (Bloomsbury), in which she pierces the secretive society of the players and history of nuclear energy. Cooke now lives in Washington, D.C.The Boston Globe
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
In 1982, the U.S. government formally accepted the dirty job of finding a place to dispose of highly radioactive nuclear waste, including spent reactor fuel, which will remain radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years. Five years later, Congress directed the U.S. Department of Energy to begin seriously investigating a single site--Yucca Mountain, NV--as a permanent geological repository. But earlier this year, with 60,000 metric tons of spent fuel clogging storage facilities at power plants, the Obama administration announced that it would cut Yucca's funding and seek alternatives. Allison Macfarlane, a geologist at George Mason University and the editor of Uncertainty Underground: Yucca Mountain and the Nation's High-Level Nuclear Waste, is a leading technical expert on nuclear-waste disposal who recently sat on a National Research Council committee evaluating the Department of Energy's nuclear-power R&D programs. She spoke with David Talbot, Technology Review's chief correspondent, about the future of nuclear waste--and what it means for the future of nuclear power.MIT Technology Review
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission will notify the owners of 26 nuclear plants Friday that they are not saving enough money to dismantle the reactors once they're no longer operating. In a memo obtained by The Associated Press on Thursday, the agency told congressional offices it would make a formal announcement of its findings on Friday. It said it would work with the plants on a case-by-case basis to develop remedial savings plans. "Normally, there are only four to five plants that fall into this category," NRC senior congressional affairs officer Eugene Dacus wrote in the memo. "The NRC believes that the economy may account for the unusually high number this year."The Boston Globe
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
The economic downturn has caused funds set aside for the safe closure of the Three Mile Island and Peach Bottom nuclear plants to drop dramatically in the last two years. Since 2007, estimates of dismantling costs at the nation's 104 nuclear plants have risen by more than $4.6 billion while the investment funds that are supposed to pay for the closures — or decommissioning as it's called — have dropped $4.4 billion, according to an investigation by the Associated Press. According to decommissioning fund statements filed by Exelon Corp., owners of the two plants, the balance in the closure fund for Three Mile Island's Unit 1 dropped $69 million from 2007 to 2009. For Peach Bottom, decommissioning funds dropped $64 million over the last two years for Unit 2 and nearly $70 million for the Unit 3 reactor.LancasterOnline.com
Companies that own nearly half the nation's 104 nuclear reactors aren't setting aside enough money as required by law to dismantle the plants and remove radioactive materials when they stop operating, and many may sit idle for decades at the risk of safety and security problems, according to an Associated Press investigation. Here are the 2009 minimum estimated costs for closing each of the nation's 104 operating nuclear power plants; the 2007 decommissioning fund balances; and the 2009 decommissioning fund balances:Associated Press
The companies that own almost half the nation'sare not setting aside enough money to dismantle them, and many may sit idle for decades and pose safety and security risks as a result, an Associated Press investigation has found.
The shortfalls are caused not by fluctuating appetites for nuclear power but by the stock market and other investments, which have suffered huge losses over the past year and damaged the plants' savings, and by the soaring costs of decommissioning.
At 19 nuclear plants, owners have won approval to idle reactors for as long as 60 years, presumably enough time to allow investments to recover and eventually pay for dismantling the plants and removing radioactive material.
But mothballing reactors or shutting them down inadequately could pose dangerous health, environmental or security problems. In the worst cases, generally considered unlikely, risks include radioactive waste leaking from idled plants into groundwater, airborne releases or a terrorist attack.
A former head of security at Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station said that a terrorist group would likely use online satellite images if it were planning to attack a nuclear-powered plant.
"It's the best preparation you can have," John Jasinski said. "Any special forces unit that goes on any kind of mission, the first thing they look at are satellite images. That's what terrorist organizations want to see."
A ruling by top federal regulators has kept alive a challenge mounted by regional watchdog group Pilgrim Watch to a 20-year license extension for the Pilgrim nuclear power plant.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission directed both Pilgrim Watch and the Plymouth plant's owner,
Entergy, to supply arguments by June 25 on whether federal regulators should hear more evidence on the potentially catastrophic consequences of a nuclear accident.
The commission, a five-member body appointed by the president to oversee regulation of the nuclear materials industry, ruled on June 4 that Pilgrim Watch has raised enough questions on the methods the agency currently uses to measure the spread of radioactivity from a serious nuclear accident to justify a closer look.
Pilgrim Watch contended that regulators' analysis of the impact of a severe accident "was deficient because the input data for evacuation times, economic consequences, and meteorological patterns are incorrect, with further analysis required," NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan said.
Monday, June 15, 2009
Entergy Nuclear has asked state regulators to approve a plan that would change the regulatory boundary surrounding Vermont Yankee nuclear plant, which would move the spot where radiation doses are measured further away from the reactor. Entergy, which has been buying properties bordering the Vernon reactor for the past couple of years, demolishing the homes and in some cases, donating them or the materials to the local Habitat for Humanity, said it wants the "fence-line boundary" and the "site boundary" to be the same for regulatory clarity. The nuclear company has asked the Vermont Public Service Board for permission to make the change, which would affect the location of the air monitors the Department of Health has installed surrounding the plant for public protection.Times Argus
Friday, June 12, 2009
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
Visitors at Three Mile Island are asked not to photograph guard towers, vehicle barriers and other security measures. Yet these items are easily seen on the Internet through such sites as Microsoft's maps.live.com, now bing.com/maps.
Scott Portzline, a consultant for the watchdog group Three Mile Island Alert, thinks this is a security problem.
He has monitored sites such as Google Earth, which bring satellite images to home computers, for several years. Recently, he said, the level of detail has increased.
"You can see the guard shack, the gun turrets, a guard walking on the roof," he said. "I can see 16-inch wheels on the vehicles. I can count fence posts."
Monday, June 8, 2009
A tritium leak was found during routine monitoring of Exelon Corp.'s nuclear power plant, but contaminated water was contained to the property and did not pose a public health threat, company officials said Monday.
Testing at the Dresden plant, near the town of Morris about 60 miles southwest of Chicago, found tritium levels of 3.2 million picocuries per liter of water in a monitoring well, storm drains and concrete vault. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's limit for drinking water is 20,000 picocuries per liter.
But there was no public safety threat because the contaminated water did not appear to have left the plant, officials said in a written statement.
Sunday, June 7, 2009
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission refused to take action on a high-stakes petition from the Massachusetts attorney general's office that could launch a new environmental review of the effects of the continued operation of the Pilgrim and Vermont Yankee nuclear plants. The NRC decided to let the matter be decided by the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals, which will hear Massachusetts appeal of an earlier decision by the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board. At issue is whether the effects of a fire in the spent fuel pool had been adequately studied and taken into consideration during the NRC's review of Entergy Nuclear's plans to keep both nuclear plants operating beyond 2012.Rutland Herald
Saturday, June 6, 2009
Thursday, June 4, 2009
A security consultant with a citizen watchdog group claims that a list containing sensitive nuclear facilities' information that was inadvertently leaked to the Internet could provide terrorists with the tools needed to formulate a plan to attack a commercial nuclear plant.
Damien LaVera, a spokesman for the National Nuclear Security Administration, said the document had been reviewed by a number of U.S. agencies and that its disclosure did not jeopardize national security.
He said the document is part of an agreement on nuclear material inspection under the IAEA's nuclear nonproliferation effort.
"While we would have preferred it not be released, the Departments of Energy, Defense, and Commerce and the NRC all thoroughly reviewed it to ensure that no information of direct national security significance would be compromised," LaVera said in a statement.
"This is just another crack in security," said Scott Portzline of TMI Alert, group of activists concerned about the state and national regulation of the nuclear-power industry.
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
The publication of the document was revealed Monday in an online newsletter devoted to issues of federal secrecy. That set off a debate among nuclear experts about what dangers, if any, the disclosures posed. It also prompted a flurry of investigations in Washington into why the document had been made public.
On Tuesday evening, after inquiries from The New York Times, the document was withdrawn from a Government Printing Office Web site.
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
The Washington Post
A statewide SWAT team exercise at a firing range on the secured grounds of a nuclear power plant in Southern Maryland was halted this month after stray bullets shattered glass and struck a command center near the plant's reactors, officials said yesterday.
Reactor safety at the Calvert Cliffs plant in Lusby was never compromised, according to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Constellation Energy Group, which operates the facility. But Constellation closed the range, a popular training site for local law enforcement agencies, pending investigations by plant security and the Calvert County Sheriff's Office, which hosted the exercise.
At least five bullets escaped the firing range and traveled more than a half-mile before striking buildings and a vehicle near the reactors, according to the NRC, Constellation and the sheriff's office.
An energy advocacy group on Wednesday asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to determine whether inspections at the two nuclear reactors in Shippingport are adequate in light of April’s discovery of a hole in the steel lining of a reactor containment building. It’s unlikely that the group’s petition will delay or halt FirstEnergy’s request to extend the operating licenses of Beaver Valley Unit 1 and Unit 2 for 20 years. The relicensing process began in August 2007 and is expected to come to a final vote in late September. Last month, FirstEnergy announced that a small hole, about the size of a paper clip, had been found in the lining of the containment building of Unit 1, which had been shut down since April 20 for scheduled refueling and maintenance.Times Online
Staff from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will conduct a pair of public meetings on Tuesday, June 2 in King of Prussia (Montgomery County), Pa., to provide information on a proposed agency rule that would change emergency preparedness requirements for operating nuclear power plants, for any that might be licensed and built in the future, and for research and test reactors.U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission