Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Emergency Preparedness & Response News

Emergency Preparedness & Response News is a quarterly newsletter that will be published by NSIR/DPR to highlight recent and upcoming events of interest to the radiological emergency preparedness community. The inaugural issue is available for download, as pdf.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Pilgrim re-licensing should consider town’s cancer occurrence

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s finding that “Plymouth most exceeded the state’s expectations for all forms of cancer” is very troubling.

Of particular concern is the high number of Leukemia and Multiple Myeloma, given the connection between such diseases and continued exposure to radiation.

Not mentioned is another troubling statistic, continued higher than expected rates of thyroid cancer, also linked to radiation exposure.

The Patriot Ledger

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Epstein Appeals NRC's Denial of Petition on Emergency Planning

(Harisburg) - Today Eric Joseph Epstein appealed the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s ("NRC") Denial of A Petition for Rulemaking Submitted by Eric Epstein, Requiring Periodic Comprehensive NRC Review of Emergency Planning Around U.S. Nuclear Power Plants During The License Renewal Process on July 25, 2008 . Mr. Epstein said, The NRC’s decision to Deny the Petition for Rulemaking was arbitrary and capricious,made without public input, and ignored new and significant information, including data produced by the staff. The staff’s recommendations and Commissioner comments Re: PAR NUREG-0654, clearly indicate the need to update and review emergency planning for nuclear plants seeking license extensions. Mr. Epstein asked 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 based on new information he produced. The Commission's position was 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. Epstein sated, "The Petition for Rulemaking does not oppose the relicensing nuclear generating stations. The Petitioner is asking the Court to compel the NRC to publish the Petition for Rulemaking and allow an open discussion based on the new information presented and subsequently revealed after the filing of the Petition. Commissioner Jaczko dissented from the NRC’s Denial of of Eric Epstein’s Petition for Rulemaking:
I disagree with the decision to deny this petition for rulemaking. Instead, I believe the review of a license renewal application authorizing, if granted, an additional twenty-years of operation, provides the opportune time at which the agency should reevaluate emergency preparedness issues. Currently, the only time the NRC issues a comprehensive affirmative finding that both onsite and offsite emergency plans are in place around a nuclear power plant, and that they can be implemented, is at the time it grants an initial operating license. Although there are regular assessments of these plans through exercises and reviews, we do not periodically reassess that initial reasonable assurance of adequate protection of the public--even if it was made decades ago--unless and until we find a serious deficiency in a biennial exercise. I believe considering emergency preparedness during the license renewal process would provide an opportunity to improve public confidence in the licensees and in all levels of government.

NRC, Army Corps of Engineers Update Environmental Review Cooperation

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Army Corps of Engineers have revised their interagency agreement regarding environmental reviews for proposed nuclear power plants as well as significant actions at existing plants. The agencies will coordinate early in these reviews to ensure they share all the information necessary for carrying out their respective regulatory duties.

The NRC’s licensing process ensures public health and safety, as well as the environment, are maintained during commercial use of nuclear materials, including nuclear power plants. The NRC takes the lead in meeting the National Environmental Policy Act’s (NEPA) requirements during that process. The Corps protects U.S. waters and wetlands through the provisions of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 and the Clean Water Act, and administers permits for such purposes.

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Monday, September 22, 2008

Berkshire bails out falling Constellation

There's nothing like a good financial panic to lure Warren Buffett off the sidelines. The billionaire investor and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway sprang into action Thursday with a $4.7 billion plan to acquire Constellation Energy (CEG, Fortune 500), the Baltimore-based energy wholesaler and utility operator whose shares have plunged this week as the company ran short on cash. Under the deal, Constellation - which runs the Baltimore Gas & Electric utility and operates 83 electric generators around the country - will be folded into Berkshire's MidAmerican Energy unit.
CNN Money

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Too cheap to meter

Good Day: Next Tuesday marks the 54th anniversary of one of the most widely quoted speeches in atomic history. On September 16, 1954, AEC Chairman Lewis Strauss delivered the attached speech before the Founders' Day Dinner of the National Association of Science Writers in New York City. On page two, Chairman Strauss uttered the infamous words, "It is not too much to expect that our children will enjoy in their homes electrical energy too cheap to meter." The billions of dollars of subsidies for new nuclear power reactors in the 2005 Energy bill may explain why this speech is found in the science fiction part of the NRC's library. Sadly, that placement makes it hard to find given the over-crowding in this section. And the document in the non-fiction section of the NRC's library is currently checked out. Thanks, Dave Lochbaum UCS AEC Chairman Lewis Strauss speech (pdf)

Monday, September 15, 2008

Alexander sponsors bill to help sick nuclear workers' families

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., today introduced legislation that he said would help the families of sick nuclear workers in cases where a worker dies before his or her claim for compensation is processed.

"We should not allow an inefficent bureaucracy to run out the clock through a claims process that takes so long that our Cold War heroes are dying before their claims are processed, leaving their families with no compensation," Alexander said in a statement distributed to the news media.

Alexander said the legislative amendment, co-sponsored by seven other senators, would reform the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act. It would address cases where workers or their eligible survivors die during the claims process, which can take years, and leave other family members without a right to collect compensation.


Thursday, September 11, 2008

NRC Permanently Bars Contractor From Many Activities, Restricts Other NRC-Licensed Functions

NRC officials said Joseph S. Shepherd, a contractor for Source Production and Equipment Company (SPEC), which supplies industrial gamma radiography equipment, repeatedly and deliberately provided inaccurate information regarding modifications to, and inspections of, a shipping container for radioactive material. Specifically, Shepherd told the NRC in 2005 that he had authorized modifications to the container, invalidating its status as an NRC-approved package. Shepherd repeatedly told both SPEC and the NRC the container had been properly inspected, but NRC investigators determined the inspections were incomplete or not performed by a qualified inspector.
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

TMI Relicensing: Letter to NRC (Piccola/DePasquale)

August 18, 2008 Chairman Dale E. Klein Commissioner Gregory B. Jaczko Commissioner Peter B. Lyons United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission 11555 Rockville Pike Rockville, MD 20852-2738 Re: Findings and Responses of the NRC Office of the Inspector General Report on the License Renewal Program Dear Chairman Klein and Commissioners Jaczko and Lyons: As you know, the federal relicensing system that has historically ensured nuclear plants are safe to operate for an extended period beyond their original license of 40 years has come under sharp criticism. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) Office of Inspector General (OIG) Audit of the NRC’s Renewal Program (OIG-07-A-15) found certain safety evaluations lacked critical documentation. Essentially, the Division of Licensing Renewal (DLR) lacks a complete report quality assurance process to ensure documentation of the staff’s aging management program review methodology and substantive support for staff conclusions. (1) Currently, Pennsylvania has three nuclear stations involved in the relicensing process: Beaver Valley Nuclear Generating Station (Shippingport), the Susquehanna Steam Electric Station (Berwick), and the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station (Londonderry Township). According to the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, “...it is theoretically possible that NRC does an adequate job in reviewing the issues associated with the continued safety of aging nuclear plants, but its own documentation of the review process suggests strongly to the contrary.” (2) We too have some concern about the OIG’s findings which were outlined in its September 2007 report. In the 13 relicensing cases it examined, the office found littleevidence that NRC staff had confirmed the integrity of aging safety systems they approved. For example, 98 percent of 458 passages in audit, inspection and safety evaluation reports failed to adequately document or support NRC conclusions. Problems fell into two categories: ‘red’ cases, where no specific support was found, and ‘yellow’ cases, where support was often provided by the companies whose plants were being relicensed. In those latter cases, the report found that NRC safety evaluation language was often ‘identical or nearly identical’ to the information that the companies had provided in the license renewal application. (3) The Letter raises questions as to whether the NRC actually verified the materials submitted by the licensees, and whether errors may have escaped detection and correction. In addition, there is a concern that even when the NRC was able to verify information, this practice may set the stage for future errors. Under NRC regulations (specifically 10 CFR 50.59) licensees can make future changes without prior NRC review and approval to anything that NRC hasn't relied upon in past regulatory decisions. We are aware that similar concerns have been expressed by representatives from California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York. And, we are encouraged by your efforts to repair the problems outlined in the Assistant Inspector for General Audits’ Memorandum to Luis A. Reyes, Executive Director of Operations, U.S. NRC on January 7, 2008. As elected officials near Three Mile Island, we are interested in the overall safety review of this facility and any site specific issues that have been identified with it. Thank you for your prompt consideration in this most important matter. We look forward to hearing from you. Sincerely, JEFFREY E. PICCOLA (15th Senatorial District) EUGENE A. DePASQUALE (95th Legislative District) ___ 1 OIG-07-A-15, September, 2007, p.11. 2 Letter to the Commissioners of the NRC from the Executive Offices on Energy and Environmental Affairs and the Office of Public Safety and Security, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, February 15, 2008. 3 This regulation is available online at: HYPERLINK "http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/cfr/part050/part050-0059.html"

UCS comments on NRC security information openness and transparency

After 9/11, the NRC not only re-drew the line but also re-crafted its rules of engagement with the American public on security policy making. Essentially, the NRC’s post 9/11 rules of engagement preclude the public from meaningful input, and severely limit the public’s access to output from the NRC’s security policy decision-making. It is not only possible but essential to responsibly discuss nuclear plant security policy in public. That fact has been demonstrated repeatedly since 9/11 by open Congressional hearings, many broadcast far and wide by C-SPAN. UCS’s experts have testified at open, public Congressional hearings as have representatives of other public interest groups. Yet the NRC has resisted repeated attempted by UCS to engage the agency in responsible, productive dialogues like those conducted with the Congress. Like Congress has done, the NRC must engage public stakeholders about nuclear plant security policy issues in enough detail so that the public can make informed judgments on the adequacy of NRC’s post-9/11 security measures. We are convinced that this can be achieved without disclosing information that would aid terrorists in carrying out attacks against nuclear facilities.
Letter from Union of Concerned Scientists to U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (pdf)

NRC broke rules in plant inquiry, report says

When a whistle-blower told the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2007 that guards at the Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station were sleeping on the job, the agency told the plant's owner to investigate even though the accusation involved company managers.

Having the plant's owner, Exelon, and its security provider, Wackenhut Corp., investigate themselves was a mistake, according to a report by the NRC's Office of Inspector General. By asking the companies to handle it themselves, the agency's Region 1 office in King of Prussia violated its own rules, the report states.

The Patriot News

Three Mile Island’s Flawed Poll

Dear Editor: TMI-Alert, Inc. sharply disagrees with the results of a recent poll paid for and released by Exelon on September 8, 2008. At issue are the questions that were not asked. The poll also failed to note that a majority of the folks who actually testified before the NRC were against extending the license of TMI-1. When the community held a non-binding referendum on May 18, 1982, over 67% of the voters in Cumberland, Dauphin and Lebanon County opposed the restart of Three Mile Island. TMI and the NRC ignored the results. How many people would support nuclear power if you asked the following fact-based questions? 1) Did you know taxpayers and rate payers have spent $1 billion to remove the damaged fuel from TMI-2 since the reactor meltdown in 1979? The plant still needs to be cleaned up and decommissioned. Did you know Three Mile Island Unit-2 pays no taxes? Should TMI-2 be cleaned up before Exelon builds more nuclear reactors? 2) Did you know that Exelon has at least 11 full-time registered lobbyists working in Harrisburg as of July, 2008? (Pa. Department of State) Do you trust nuclear lobbyists to make energy policy for Pennsylvania? 3) Currently Exelon is recovering $5.5 billion in nuclear taxes on electric bills referred to as “Competitive Transition Costs” for overruns associated with construction of the Limerick nuclear power plant. Should Exelon refund the $5.5 billion to rate payers before building another nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania? 4) Three Mile Island has failed to include child care facilities in their Radiological Emergency Plans for the past 22 years. The NRC, FEMA, PEMA, and Governor Rendell refuse to adopt dedicated plans, designated transportation routes, or provide vehicles for these children. Should Exelon implement safety plans for kids before building another nuclear power plant? 5) TMI generates 30 metric tons of high level radioactive waste annually and there are over 1,000 tons of toxic garbage on site. Should Exelon remove nuclear garbage stored next to the Susquehanna River before we build more plants? 6) Did you know the enrichment of uranium releases massive amounts of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) which are more damaging as a global warmer than carbon dioxide? Nuclear fuel production in America creates at least 800,000 pounds of CFCs annually, or 80% of all CFC’s released into the atmosphere by the USA. CFCs remain the primary agent for stratospheric ozone depletion. Do you still think nuclear power is "clean" and "green"? 7) There were 804 employees working at TMI prior to the purchase of the plant by Exelon. Now the number is 600, and the company has recently suffered from workers sleeping on the job. Should Exelon hire more workers before building another nuclear power plant? 8) Did you know TMI does not have to conserve water during periods of drought? Should new nuclear power plants be exempt from water conservation practices? Sincerely, Eric Joseph Epstein, Chairman Three Mile Island Alert, Inc. 4100 Hillsdale Road Harrisburg, PA 17112 (717)-541-11o1 ericesptein@comcast.net

Thursday, September 4, 2008

VPIRG challenges Vt. Yankee ads

Advertisements in print and on the air tout Vermont Yankee as "safe, clean, reliable." The nuclear power plant is none of those, argues the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, which Tuesday asked state Attorney General William Sorrell to investigate whether the ads amount to false advertising. "Each aspect of this claim is misleading as it is unsubstantiated and conflicts with relevant science and reports," VPIRG Executive Director Paul Burns said in a letter to Sorrell. Vermont Yankee stands by its advertisements, spokesman Rob Williams said. The ads are targeted at Vermont residents in advance of next year's decisions by the Legislature and Public Service Board about whether the plant may continue operating after 2012.
The Burlington Free Press

Feds delay decision on license renewal

Federal regulators will delay a decision on renewing Indian Point's operating license an additional four months - until late summer 2010 - to give them more time to evaluate safety and environmental issues at the nuclear plant. "We have said from the beginning that we are committed to a thorough and rigorous review of the Indian Point license renewal application. That has not changed," said Brian Holian, director of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Division of License Renewal. "The fact that we will, when necessary, take additional time to address outstanding issues underscores our determination to give this application our full measure of attention." Advertisement Staffers at the agency want more time to review additional information provided by the plant's owner, Entergy Nuclear; to respond to a record number of contentions opponents filed against the application; and to address generic issues presented by the agency's Office of Inspector General in a recent report on the NRC's license renewal program.
The Journal News