Thursday, July 31, 2008

Denial of Petition for Rulemaking

SUMMARY: The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is denying a petition for rulemaking submitted by Eric Epstein (PRM–54–5). The petition requests that the NRC amend its regulations that govern renewal of operating licenses for nuclear power plants. Specifically, the petitioner requests that the NRC conduct a comprehensive review of U.S. nuclear power plant licensees’ emergency planning during the license renewal proceedings. The NRC is denying the petition because the petition presents issues that the Commission carefully considered when it first adopted the license renewal rule and denied petitions for rulemaking submitted by Andrew J. Spano, County Executive, Westchester County, New York (PRM–54–02), and Mayor Joseph Scarpelli of Brick Township, New Jersey (PRM–54–03). The Commission’s position is that the NRC’s emergency planning system is part of a comprehensive regulatory process that is intended to provide continuing assurance that emergency planning for every nuclear plant is adequate. Thus, the Commission has already extensively considered and addressed the types of issues raised in the petition. Also, the petition fails to present any significant new information or arguments that would warrant the requested amendment.
Federal Register (pdf)

A Phila. law firm gone nuclear

Philadelphia-based Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, L.L.P., one of the nation's largest and most influential law firms, has become a major player in the resurgent movement to build the next generation of nuclear reactors.

After a decades-long hiatus, surging interest among utilities in construction of commercial nuclear power plants has produced a windfall of work for Morgan, which has quietly built the nation's largest practice dealing with nuclear reactors.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission says it expects to receive applications for 34 new reactors through 2010, and Morgan lawyers are representing some two-thirds of the utility companies involved in those projects.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Receipt of Petition for Rulemaking

SUMMARY: The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has received and requests public comment on a petition for rulemaking filed by Mr. Eric Joseph Epstein. The petition, docketed on January 3, 2000, has been assigned Docket No. PRM-50-70. The petitioner requests that NRC amend its financial assurance requirements for decommissioning nuclear power reactors to: (1) Require uniform reporting and recordkeeping for all ``proportional owners'' of nuclear generating stations (defined by the petitioner as partial owners of nuclear generating stations who are not licensees); (2) modify and strengthen current nuclear decommissioning accounting requirements for proportional owners; and (3) require proportional owners to conduct a prudency review to determine a balanced formula for decommissioning funding that includes not only ratepayers and taxpayers but shareholders and board members of rural electric cooperatives as well. The petitioner believes that the proposed amendments would eliminate the funding gap for decommissioning between nuclear power licensees and proportional owners of nuclear generating stations.
Federal Register Environmental Documents

Concern over French nuclear leaks

A French nuclear monitoring body has expressed concern at the number of leaks from French nuclear power stations in recent weeks. The director of Criirad, an independent body, said the organisation was worried by the numbers of people contaminated by four separate incidents. In the most recent leaks, about 100 staff at Tricastin, in southern France, were exposed to low doses of radiation. It came two weeks after a leak forced the temporary closure of a reactor. There has also been a 10-fold increase in the number of incidents reported by people working in the French nuclear power industry, Criirad director Corinne Castanier said.
BBC News

Friday, July 25, 2008

ASLB judges wrap up Vt. Yankee hearings

Judges from the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board renewed their questioning of staff from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Entergy Nuclear Thursday on just how effective its computer model was in determining the effects of aging in the plant's piping. The three judges also had sharp words for the NRC staff about who was really in charge of its re-licensing review, at one point uttering the infamous words, "Where is the beef?" Alex Karlin, chairman of the three-judge panel, even compared the NRC's review process to a matruska doll, a set of nested Russian toys, where you open one doll, and find inside a successively smaller and smaller but identical doll, only to find nothing at the center.
Rutland Herald

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Report doesn't urge guards at nuclear plants' entrances

Federal regulators, who have done much to beef up security at commercial nuclear power plants in the last seven years, are stopping short of requiring armed guards at the front door.

That decision should be left to plant owners, according to a 548-page U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission document that recommends several new security enhancements and would make permanent policies implemented in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.

Among the new requirements are policies intended to protect against cyber, or computer, assaults, and aircraft attacks.

Those recommendations await the approval of the commissioners of the NRC.

The refusal to require guards at plant entrances disappointed the Harrisburg-area watchdog group Three Mile Island Alert, which filed the petition asking for the requirement nearly seven years ago.

"This regulator doesn't have the courage to stand up to the industry and issue a directive," said Scott Portzline, a security consultant to TMI-Alert, and main author of the petition.

The Patriot News

NRC Proposes $6,500 Fine Against PA Company For Violations Of NRC Requirements

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is proposing a $6,500 fine against Precision Calibration and Testing Corporation in York, Pa., for willful violations of NRC requirements.

NRC identified the violations during inspections and investigations conducted from March of 2007 through February of this year. Those violations include failure to report the company’s bankruptcy to the NRC as required; failure to implement security requirements in a timely manner; and failure to provide complete and accurate information to the NRC.

While the details of these violations are being withheld because they are related to security of the facility, NRC concluded that the violations were willful. The problems associated with the violations, which did not pose a threat to public health and safety, have been appropriately addressed.

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Three Mile Island Alert Rejects NRC’s Proposed Security Rules as Defective

Three Mile Island Alert is denouncing the Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff for its recommendation to its four Commissioners to vote against entrance guards at the nation’s nuclear plants. There has never been a requirement for guards posted at the entrances. After nearly seven years of stalling, and the objectionable repeated mis-handling of TMIA’s petition for rulemaking to require entrance guards, the staff is advising against such a rule. The NRC explained that they did not want to be overly prescriptive. “This regulator doesn’t have the courage to stand up to the industry and issue a directive,” said Scott Portzline, security consultant to TMI Alert. “The NRC’s soft regulatory style of allowing licensees to analyze security needs is too lenient for national security standards. Although there are some very worthy improvements, the NRC is deliberately rewording the proposed security regulations so that licensees have plenty of ‘wiggle room’ when implementing its self-designed security plan. The NRC has watered down the proposed rule even further. We should not have to tell our neighbors to lock their front door.”
TMI Alert

VY problem blamed on 'faulty design'

A break in a support member holding a water supply pipe in one of Vermont Yankee's two cooling towers was due to a faulty design, said a spokesman for the nuclear power plant in Vernon.

"We identified the failed pipe support bracket at the newly installed connections between the pipe supports and the recently replaced columns," said Rob Williams, spokesman for Vermont Yankee. "This was clearly a design problem."

Town Crier

Total nuke dump cost to top $90 billion

Turns out, it's going to cost taxpayers $32 billion more than first thought to open and operate the nation's first nuclear waste dump.

The Bush administration's latest calculation - made public Tuesday - is that the facility will cost over $90 billion. It's the first official estimate since 2001, when the figure was $58 billion.

Ward Sproat, the Energy Department official in charge of managing the controversial Yucca Mountain repository project in Nevada, disclosed the new number to reporters after a congressional hearing Tuesday.

The estimate includes $9 billion already spent and covers about 100 years of operation until the dump, 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas, is sealed up forever.

The Seattle Times

Monday, July 14, 2008

Results of local exhumation case may reach across U.S.

As forensic pathologists study the remains of Pauline Sulava after her untimely death more than 40 years ago, some wonder if the exhumation will yield enough evidence for survivors to file a claim with the government to collect $150,000 or more.

According to government officials, the Sulava case is the first known exhumation of a former nuclear worker to prove a work-related illness to collect from the federal compensation program for former workers of atomic weapons employers.

Other survivors could follow suit across the country.

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (login required) Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: Video

NRC Publishes Annual Security Inspection Report To Congress

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has made available to the public an unclassified version of an annual report to Congress outlining the previous year’s security inspection program. The report covers the security inspection program, including force-on-force exercises, for commercial power reactors and certain fuel cycle facilities for calendar year 2007.

According to the report, required under the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the NRC conducted 199 security inspections at commercial power reactors, of which 22 were force-on-force inspections. These force-on-force inspections use a well-trained mock adversary force to test a facility’s ability to respond to the level of threat the facility is required to defend against. The 199 security inspections yielded 122 findings from these reviews, of which 117 were of very low security significance and five were of low to moderate security significance. The results of the security inspections conducted at Category I fuel cycle facilities are discussed in the Safeguards Information version of this report.

Under the security inspection program, licensees are expected to promptly fix or put compensatory measures in place if any potentially significant deficiencies are identified in the protective strategy of a plant.

“The NRC is committed to protecting the public health and safety, promoting the common defense and security, and protecting the environment. Conducting force-on-force exercises and implementing the security inspection program are just two of a number of regulatory oversight activities the NRC performs to ensure the secure use and management of radioactive materials by the commercial nuclear industry,” said NRC Chairman Dale E. Klein.

The report can be found on the NRC Web site at:
U.S. National Regulatory Commission

NRC Reaches Settlement With Chevron Environmental Management Company In Discrimination Case

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has reached a settlement with Chevron Environmental Management Co. (CEMC) over the apparent termination of a contract radiation safety employee who raised safety concerns during the decommissioning of the former Molycorp Inc. facility in Washington, Pa.

A Confirmatory Order, issued July 8, outlines the agreement, which was reached through the NRC’s alternative dispute resolution process. CEMC has agreed to implement a number of actions at the site, including training supervisors about employees’ rights to raise safety concerns; communicating the company’s policy and management expectations about employees’ rights to raise concerns, and surveying employees about their willingness to raise safety concerns.

The NRC’s Office of Investigations determined that the individual was fired after raising nuclear safety concerns regarding the transportation of potentially contaminated soil samples over public roads and the monitoring of potentially radioactive airborne dust caused by work at the site. The NRC notified CEMC of the investigation results on Feb. 28, and CEMC and the NRC decided to use the NRC’s alternative dispute resolution process. As part of the agreement, the NRC will not pursue further enforcement action related to this issue.

The Molycorp facility operated from 1964 to 1970, producing an iron alloy from ore that contained natural thorium and uranium. Mildly radioactive thorium slag was used as ground fill throughout the 17-acre site.

CEMC is the successor organization to Molycorp and is cleaning up the site, now known as the Washington, Pa., Decommissioning Site. The license was transferred to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania March 31, when Pennsylvania became an NRC Agreement State and took over the regulation of radioactive material within the state.

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Nuclear Agency Weighs Attack Threat at Plants

Dragged by a federal appeals court into a rare public discussion of the risks that terrorists could attack a nuclear plant, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission heard arguments on Tuesday from a California group that the commission’s staff had overlooked one category of potentially serious attacks.

The commission, determined to dispose of the issue promptly, heard the arguments directly instead of delegating them to administrative law judges, the first time since 1989 that the sitting commissioners have heard such oral arguments.

But the three-hour session was not a revealing one, largely because the lawyer for the commission staff said there were major issues that could not be described in open session without compromising national security.

The commission’s ruling could be important because the spent fuel storage system proposed for the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, near Avila Beach, Calif., is being adopted at scores of other reactor sites around the country because of the Energy Department’s failure to establish a national burial site for used fuel. At issue was whether storage casks that the Pacific Gas and Electric Company wants to build at the Diablo Canyon plant could be hit with incendiary missiles, piercing the steel and concrete shell and lighting the metal cladding of the fuel. If that happened, plant opponents contend, the fire could turn radioactive cesium into a gas, which would float widely with the wind and then resolidify.

The New York Times

Beyond Nuclear Bulletin

July 3, 2008 Top Stories NRC Found Lax in Oversight of Fire Safety Regulations at Reactors Background: A new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that reviewed the performance of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in regulating federally-mandated fire protection standards at U.S. nuclear reactors was released this week. The report confirmed that the NRC has for three decades consistently mishandled fire protection violations at the country’s nuclear power plants. Federal requirements mandate reactor operators to install and maintain qualified fire barriers to protect electrical circuits. However, the report found that the NRC has done little to enforce these safety mandates, needed to ensure the reactor does not melt down as the result of a fire. The report revealed that rather than fix bogus fire barriers as agreed in the mid-1990s, many nuclear utilities instead quietly substituted – without NRC approval –largely untested plans to send station personnel out into the burning and radioactive reactor building to manually operate shutdown equipment without the assurance that they could succeed. The GAO investigation came in large part as a result of the investigative work on this issue by Beyond Nuclear’s Paul Gunter. See more on the Nuclear Reactors page on our Web site. Our View: The GAO report is a welcome reprimand of NRC negligence but omits the fact that even after the NRC found that the industry had falsely reported fixes to fire barriers in defiance of agency agreements and orders, the agency looked the other way. It is apparent from this report that the industry did not fully and truthfully disclose fire protection violations at reactors and is much better at maintaining firewalls to federal law than complying with public safety requirements. Of equal concern, the NRC is a willing collaborator in turning a blind eye to federal law and leaving public safety in jeopardy. Finally, to send plant workers into a burning reactor building to manually turn off switches is tantamount to demanding a suicide mission. What You Can Do: The NRC is a congressionally-mandated agency that must be called on the carpet to answer for this latest in an on-going pattern of capitulation to the nuclear industry. Michigan representatives John Dingell and Bart Stupak were expected to lead a House investigative hearing into the NRC’s track record in April but the hearing has mysteriously vanished. Please contact your congressperson and urge them to help schedule this vital hearing so that the NRC can be asked to answer for its lapdog track record. The Capitol Switchboard number is: (202) 224-3121. If you live in Michigan, please contact the offices of Dingell and Stupak directly. (Click on their names for contact information.) Of Note The French Nuclear Medusa: The French government, under the leadership of its president, Nicolas Sarkozy (“the world’s most aggressive nuclear salesman” according to the New York Times) has announced it will construct a second EPR reactor in France. The decision runs contrary to earlier declarations made by √Člectricit√© de France that it would first construct just one reactor in France in order to gain experience and expertise in preparation for future reactors. Construction at the current reactor site in Flamanville was recently halted after inspections by the French nuclear security agency revealed flaws in the concrete base and poor quality control. Construction has now resumed. Beyond Nuclear in the News • Kevin Kamps appeared on Mark Haim’s KOPN Columbia, MO radio show, Evening Edition. A podcast of the show will shortly be available here: • Paul Gunter commented in a Beyond Nuclear press release on the findings of a new GAO report that revealed that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has consistently ignored flagrant violations of fire safety laws at U.S. reactors (and see Top Stories above.) • Kevin Kamps was interviewed by the Epoch Times on the planned Canadian Deep Undergound Dump for radioactive waste (or DUD as we prefer to call it), slated for Bruce on Lake Huron and by Japanese public television on the Department of Energy’s nuclear weapons expansion project known as Complex Transformation (or Bombplex as we prefer to call it.) Beyond Nuclear on the Road • Linda Gunter challenged former Ambassador Robert Gallucci’s “ideal fantasy” of international nuclear fuel banking with uranium mining and enrichment conducted in the U.S.; reactor fuel leased to other countries; and the waste returned to the U.S. – a scenario he laid out during his opening remarks at the recent Peace and Security Initiative’s one-day conference held June 30th in Washington, DC. Gunter pointed out, among other observations, that the bulk of U.S. uranium mining has been conducted on Navajo land, a tribe that has voted to ban new uranium mining operations and, whose wishes it was high time we respected. • Kevin Kamps tabled at the recent Michigan Energy Fair organized by the Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association. • Linda Gunter will travel next week to France to meet with European anti-nuclear activists and to participate in a European rally for a nuclear-free world in Paris on July 12th. • Beyond Nuclear will be tabling at the Peace Action national conference in Washington, DC, July 18-20. • Paul Gunter will be traveling to San Francisco to accept the Jane Bagley Lehman award for his three decades of work opposing nuclear power. He will receive the award from the Tides Foundation and participate in the concurrent three-day Momentum Leadership conference, July 21-23.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Toxic legacy: Scientists ponder task of labelling nuclear waste

How will "DANGER!" be written 5,000 years from now? How will it be written in 50,000 years?

Finding an answer to these questions may not seem like a Code Red emergency to most people.

But for a growing cadre of scientists, figuring out how to alert our distant descendants to perilous nuclear waste entombed hundreds of metres (feet) below ground has become a fascinating task.

After more than six decades, high-level nuclear detritus is piling up above ground, and governments are starting to spend billions on underground facilities intended to survive tens of thousands and hopefully hundreds of thousands of years.

That means there is an emerging interest in choosing the right signs and language to warn people of a stockpile that could be deadly, as well as a potential source of military nuclear proliferation -- or even a source of fuel, if future technology can recycle it.

Energy Daily

Nuclear Agency Weighs Attack Threat at Plants

Dragged by a federal appeals court into a rare public discussion of the risks that terrorists could attack a nuclear plant, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission heard arguments on Tuesday from a California group that the commission’s staff had overlooked one category of potentially serious attacks. ... The commission’s ruling could be important because the spent fuel storage system proposed for the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, near Avila Beach, Calif., is being adopted at scores of other reactor sites around the country because of the Energy Department’s failure to establish a national burial site for used fuel. At issue was whether storage casks that the Pacific Gas and Electric Company wants to build at the Diablo Canyon plant could be hit with incendiary missiles, piercing the steel and concrete shell and lighting the metal cladding of the fuel. If that happened, plant opponents contend, the fire could turn radioactive cesium into a gas, which would float widely with the wind and then resolidify.
New York Times

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Loan Helps Philadelphia Dentist Purchase Digital X-Ray System That Cuts Energy Use, Waste

The Small Business Pollution Prevention Assistance Account (PPAA) loan program will help South Philadelphia Orthodontic Associates save money and improve the environment by upgrading to a digital x-ray system.
The practice received $38,250 from the state loan program to install a new digital radiographic x-ray system. The system will help the business save money by reducing water consumption and waste disposal costs as well as reducing labor/maintenance costs and dental supplies. In addition, the business projects a reduction in its hazardous waste stream, wastewater and a 96 percent reduction in the amount of radiation emitted. Combined, these savings are projected to save the company approximately $7,845 annually. The company has projected that the payback will be approximately 6.5 years. Department of Environmental Protection