Monday, March 31, 2008

Governor Rendell Signs Measure Strengthening State Over of Most PA Facilities Using Radioactive Material

Under an agreement signed last week with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Pennsylvania today assumed regulatory authority over approximately 700 radioactive material users in the state, a change Governor Edward G. Rendell said will strengthen public safety by improving emergency response capabilities.
Dept. of Environmental Protection


The NRC published in the Federal Register today updated requirements to enhance the “fitness for duty” of operators, security officers and other personnel at nuclear power plants and certain nuclear materials facilities. The requirements will go into effect in 30 days, but the rule includes a phased approach for two elements of the new requirements.

“This is an important final rule that substantially updates requirements for key plant personnel in operating reactors and for construction workers for new reactors,” said NRC Chairman Dale Klein. “This rule addresses both worker fatigue, and drug and alcohol testing. It also brings the NRC requirements into alignment with other federal rules and guidelines.”

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Nuclear Plant's Plans Upset Neighbors

For years, the people living in the shadow of the Connecticut Yankee nuclear power plant consoled themselves with thoughts of when the building would be torn down, the soil deemed safe and the wooded, riverfront land returned to nature. That might not happen under a plan that Connecticut Yankee unveiled Wednesday to about 50 feisty plant neighbors from Haddam Neck, the small borough of Haddam that has been host to the plant for 40 years. Connecticut Yankee President Wayne Norton announced the company is getting ready to advertise about 500 acres of the property for sale. Connecticut Yankee will soon start soliciting confidential "expressions of interest" from qualified developers, Norton told residents.

Three Mile Island 29 Years Later: Nuclear Safety Problems Still Unresolved

The partial meltdown at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant began on March 28, 1979. Since the accident, not a single new nuclear power plant has been ordered in the United States. Indeed, 74 plants under construction at the time of the accident were cancelled. But in just the past year, the nuclear industry has stepped up its efforts to secure government funding for a new fleet of nuclear power plants. Unfortunately, over the last three decades, neither plant owners nor the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) have adequately addressed the basic flaws in U.S. nuclear safety that led to the Three Mile Island accident, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).
Union of Concerned Scientists

TMI: Notice of Intent To Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement

AmerGen Energy Company, LLC (AmerGen) has submitted an application for renewal of Facility Operating License No. DPR–50 for an additional 20 years of operation at the Three Mile Island Nuclear Station, Unit 1 (TMI–1). TMI–1 is located in Londonderry Township in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, on the northern end of Three Mile Island near the eastern shore of the Susquehanna River.
Federal Register (pdf)

NYT Artwork

New York Times

Thursday, March 27, 2008

NRC Indicates Security Problem At Three Mile Island

Inspectors spotted a security problem at Three Mile Island during a recent inspection, according to a Nuclear Regulatory Commission report released on Wednesday, but officials are only offering vague descriptions of just what the issue was. Diane Screnci of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said the agency examined the issue as part of a routine security inspection of Unit 1 that was completed last month. A preliminary report characterized the problem as being of moderate to serious significance. Screnci said she couldn't provide any details because federal rules prohibit the disclosure of nuclear plant security deficiencies.

Say no to nuclear power

Californians might have thought the subject of nuclear power was laid to rest in 1976, when the state banned construction of new plants. But 32 years is a long time, and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger can now be counted among a rising number of people who think that the threat of global warming provides a good reason to reconsider our distaste for radioactive waste.
Los Angeles Times

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Nuclear Relapse: Three Mile Island at 29

by Eric J. Epstein The nuclear industry has announced it can cure global warming and make America energy independent. The problem is the numbers don’t add up, and our cars don’t run on uranium pellets. Don’t be fooled again by the same people who brought you electricity “to cheap to meter.” Ask your friendly nuclear power plant to answer four questions: 1. Nuclear waste: Every nuclear reactor produces 30 metric tons of high-level radioactive waste per year. This is nuclear garbage without a forwarding address sitting in a swimming pool in your backyard. Three Mile Island is home to hundreds of tons of spent fuel, and a melted reactor that has not been decontaminated or decommissioned. An island in the middle of a river that empties into the Chesapeake Bay is not an ideal nuclear waste site. When is the nuclear industry going to solve the problem they told us not to worry about 40 years ago? Think about it: Would you buy a house from a developer who promised to install a sewer line 40 years after you began flushing? 2. Greenhouse gases: Nuclear fuel production in America creates chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). The enrichment of uranium in Kentucky releases large amounts of CFCs which are more damaging as a global warmer than carbon dioxide. CFCs remain the primary agent for stratospheric ozone depletion. The production and importation of chlorofluorocarbons was banned as part of a global treaty (the Montreal Protocol; 1987), and by the federal government (Clean Air Act amendments; 1990). CFCs were supposed to be phased out, but the chemical can still be used until supplies run out. From the moment uranium is mined, milled, enriched, fabricated and transported it releases large quantities of airborne pollutants. What is the nuclear industry’s plan to cut its greenhouse gas emissions? 3) Water and fish kills: Communities and ecosystems that depend on limited water resources are adversely affected by nuclear plants which draw millions of gallons a day and return the back wash at elevated temperatures. Every year millions of fish (game and consumable), fish eggs, shellfish and other organisms are sucked out of water sources and killed annually at Peach Bottom and Three Mile Island. During the 2002 drought, 34 counties were designated as “drought emergencies” and another 31 were placed on “drought watch. Last fall, 53 counties were placed on “drought watch.” In both instances, Dauphin, Lancaster, and York Counties (where Three Mile Island and Peach Bottom are located) were placed on the “list” due to precipitation deficits. Yet both plants were exempted from water conservation efforts. Should nuclear power plants continue to be exempt from drought restrictions? 4. Cost of fuel: The price for uranium ore rose every month in 2007 peaking at $120 a pound. Nuclear fuel, which currently sells for $74 a pound, is predicted to crest at $95 later this year. This was the same “low-cost” fuel that sold for $7 a pound in 2001. America imports 84% of its nuclear fuel from “dependable foreign allies” like Russia and Kazakhstan as well as Australia (when their mines aren’t flooded). Why is America transferring a foreign oil dependency for an expensive, foreign nuclear fuel dependency? Memory is a funny thing: It only works when activated. It’s your wallet. It’s your river. It’s your backyard. Sincerely, Eric Epstein, Chairman, TMI-Alert, Inc. Harrisburg, PA 17112 717-541-1101 Three Mile Island Alert , Inc., a safe-energy organization based in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and founded in 1977. TMIA monitors Peach Bottom Susquehanna, and Three Mile Island nuclear generating stations. Mr. Epstein is also a member of the American Nuclear Society.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Power Plug

The Maryland General Assembly has an opportunity to shave a possible $1.5 billion off the future bills of Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. customers. Lawmakers need to take it. Not only would that be a welcome reversal of recent trends, but it also might finally put to rest one of the most nagging concerns from the state's 1999 deregulation. At issue is how much BGE customers should be on the hook for the eventual decommissioning of reactors at the Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plant owned by Constellation Energy Group, the utility's parent. Under the negotiated agreement, ratepayers are responsible for as much as $5.2 billion in cleanup costs by 2034. That's a lot of money - and it's not entirely clear whether so much is really needed. Constellation officials have informed the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission that the shutdown is likely to cost $3.7 billion. Legislation backed by the Maryland Public Service Commission would essentially cap ratepayers' liability to that new estimate. And if approved, BGE customers would see the savings as early as 2016, when some project a surcharge will have to be added to monthly bills to augment the amount already set aside for decommissioning.
The Baltimore Sun

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Nuclear Regulatory Commission officials in King of Prussia, Pa., have assigned Gene DiPaolo as the new senior resident inspector at the Limerick nuclear power plant in Limerick, Pa. He joins NRC Resident Inspector Carey Bickett at the two unit site, which is operated by Exelon Nuclear.

DiPaolo began his NRC career in 1997 as a project engineer in the Region II office in Atlanta. He has worked as a resident inspector at the Browns Ferry nuclear plant in Alabama and at the McGuire plant in North Carolina. He also was the senior resident inspector at the Brunswick nuclear plant in North Carolina. Most recently, he has worked as a senior project engineer in the Region I office in King of Prussia, Pa.

Prior to joining the NRC, DiPaolo held a variety of positions at the Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory in upstate New York, including nuclear plant engineer at two different prototypes and a reactor systems engineer for Navy Los Angeles class attack submarines. He earned a bachelor’s degree in marine engineering and marine transportation from the U.S, Merchant Marine Academy in Kingsport, N.Y.

AGene DiPaolo has the experience and commitment to safety that will help the NRC ensure that Limerick conducts operations with the highest safety standards to protect people and the environment,” said NRC Region I Administrator Samuel J. Collins.

Each U.S. commercial nuclear plant has at least two NRC resident inspectors. They serve as the agency's eyes and ears at the facility, conducting inspections, monitoring major work projects and interacting with plant workers and the public.

The Limerick resident inspectors can be reached at 610/327-1344.

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

US Government Loan Guarantees For New Nuclear Plants Too Small

The U.S. government's $18.5-billion federal loan guarantees falls short of the $500 billion needed to build the country's next generation of nuclear powered reactors over the next decade, the commissioner of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said Monday.

The loan guarantees would only be enough to finance two to three nuclear reactors and could ultimately hinder companies from building all the new units they apply for, said the NRC's Gregory Jaczko.

"It's a far cry from what's needed," said Jaczko. "Congress is supportive, but have decided not to provide more federal loan guarantees - there's a disconnect there, so financing would have to happen without federal loan guarantees," he added.

The U.S. is on the verge of a nuclear power revival after 30 years of no new build and companies say the loan guarantees are crucial to get the first wave of new plants up and running.


Saturday, March 15, 2008

Samurai-Sword Maker's Reactor Monopoly May Cool Nuclear Revival

From a windswept corner of Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost island, Japan Steel Works Ltd. controls the fate of the global nuclear-energy renaissance. There stands the only plant in the world, a survivor of Allied bombing in World War II, capable of producing the central part of a nuclear reactor's containment vessel in a single piece, reducing the risk of a radiation leak. Utilities that won't need the equipment for years are making $100 million down payments now on components Japan Steel makes from 600-ton ingots. Each year the Tokyo-based company can turn out just four of the steel forgings that contain the radioactivity in a nuclear reactor. Even after it doubles capacity in the next two years, there won't be enough production to meet building plans.

'Disposable' nuclear reactors raise security fears

A US government-led plan to design small nuclear reactors for deployment in developing countries is continuing despite ongoing fears about security and proliferation risks.

The Bush administration has ear-marked $20 million in its 2009 budget toward the US Department of Energy's efforts to design nuclear power plants in the 250-to-500 megawatt range as part of its Global Nuclear Energy Program (GNEP).

The money marks the first substantial commitment to building the new plants since President Bush announced the program in February 2006. The latest nuclear plants designed for US domestic use have capacities about 1300 megawatts.

GNEP, which now includes 21 member countries, hopes to begin construction of its first reactor in a country currently without nuclear power in 2015, saying the plants will provide a clean, safe source of electricity.

New Scientist

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Foes of Indian Point Begin Legal Battle

Opponents of the Indian Point nuclear power plants, including New York State, got their day in court on Monday — sort of — to explain why they thought the two reactors should not be allowed to operate 20 more years. It signified the first time that a state had stepped forward to flatly oppose license renewals.
New York Times

Monday, March 10, 2008

A nuclear brain drain

A casual observer at a nuclear power plant these days might notice a peculiar phenomenon: lots of receding hairlines and graying temples at the controls. Within the next decade, most of the nation's highly skilled nuclear specialists -- engineers, plant operators, maintenance technicians, radiation chemists and fuel assembly designers -- will become pensioners.

The retirement wave comes at a crucial time, just as the nation's utilities are preparing to build the first new nuclear plants in several decades.

The News & Observer

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Suit seeks to halt PPL nuke plans

Alleging regulatory agencies failed to fully address environmental concerns, the head of a nuclear power watchdog group has filed a federal lawsuit that seeks to prevent PPL from increasing the generation capacity of the Susquehanna Steam Electric Station.

The suit, filed Wednesday by Eric Epstein of the Harrisburg-based group Three Mile Island Alert, seeks to halt all action by PPL until the company addresses “unresolved water use, water safety and interagency issues.”

Times Leader

Monday, March 3, 2008

Will U.S. become world's nuclear-waste dump?

The federal government is weighing a Utah company's request to import large amounts of low-level radioactive waste from Italy - a step critics say could lead the United States to become a nuclear garbage dump for the world. If approved, the company would ship up to 20,000 tons of metal piping, sludge, wood, contaminated clothing, and other mildly radioactive material from Italian nuclear-power plants to Tennessee, process most of it, then dispose of the remainder in Utah. It would be by far America's largest import of nuclear waste.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Florida outage may spark probe by federal energy agency

The federal government wants to know why the failure of a single switch in a substation west of Miami led to a power outage that rolled across the state Tuesday afternoon and cut off electricity for more than 2 million people.

An official at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said Wednesday that his agency was considering taking an active role in an examination of the blackout because a small-scale malfunction usually doesn't have such far-reaching effects.

"When you have any incident that knocks off 2.5 million people, it obviously grabs your attention," said Joe McClelland, director of the Washington-based agency's office of electric reliability.

The commission probably will decide by the end of the week whether it will assign its own investigators to work with the nonprofit Florida Reliability Coordinating Council to analyze the power failure, which started at a Florida Power & Light Co. substation and affected 1.2 million homes and businesses.

Depending on what the agencies find, the analysis could lead to a formal investigation and fines of up to $1 million per violation.