Thursday, November 27, 2008

Supreme Court to hear arguments in Riverkeeper v. Entergy case

Environmental organization Riverkeeper, Inc. will argue its case over the need for cooling towers at Indian Point and other power plants before the US Supreme Court on December 2.

The case will determine whether or not the Environmental Protection Agency is authorized to compare costs with benefits in determining the “best technology available” for the cooling water intake structures of existing power plants including the Indian Point nuclear plants.

Mid-Hudson News

Demise of Yucca project predicted

President-elect Barack Obama and Sen. Harry Reid have had several discussions about the Yucca Mountain Project since the election, with Reid saying this week the nuclear waste burial plan will "bleed real hard" before being halted. Reid said the most recent conversation, covering the waste repository program and other issues, took place Tuesday. He declined to give details, but hinted that the plan to bury 77,000 tons of highly radioactive material in Nevada could die a slow and painful death. "Yucca Mountain is history, OK?" Reid said in an interview Wednesday. "Just watch, we'll see what happens real soon, just watch. You will see it bleed real hard in the next year."

NRC cites visibility for probe failure

A special inspection team from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission failed to find five degraded support columns in the only safety-related cell in Vermont Yankee's cooling towers because inspectors didn't have a clear view of the interior of the cell, according to an NRC spokesman. The columns, estimated to be 40 feet tall, were either bowed or cracked and were in the interior of the cooling towers, where inspectors' views were obscured by louvers that cover the structural timbers but accommodate the trickling and cooling of the water. "There was no way the special inspection team could see these with fill and louvers in place," according to NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan.
Rutland Herald

Nuclear decommissioning fund suffers big loss

The fund set aside to pay for dismantling the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant when it shuts down was already about $400 million short of what would be needed to do the job, according to an estimate by a subsidiary of the plant's owner.

Then it lost nearly $76 million more amid the turmoil in the financial markets during the past 13 months, with more than $33 million of that loss coming last month, according to the state Department of Public Service.

The Boston Globe

Day-care sites near TMI say they lack plan for evacuation

Corradi has experienced mass evacuation. But other day-care centers within 10 miles of TMI are struggling to prepare emergency plans, says a survey of 38 licensed centers by the EFMR Monitoring Group, a nonprofit organization that monitors radiation around TMI. The monitoring group sent questionnaires to 73 state-licensed centers in Cumberland, Dauphin, Lancaster and York counties in December, asking how much support they have received from federal, state and local authorities to develop plans for a nuclear emergency. Half of the centers, caring for nearly 1,500 children, responded. Among the findings: * 87 percent don't know who would provide transportation for their children. * 58 percent don't know to which relocation center they should take children. * Two-thirds have not been provided transportation by the state, the county or a municipality. Even those with evacuation plans admitted they were relying on assumptions about where they would go and how they would get there. The survey shows that the state is not in compliance with federal regulations for a nuclear emergency, said Eric Epstein, founder of the monitoring group. "What we found is a lack of coordination for transportation amplified by a lack of vehicles," Epstein said. "There simply are not enough vehicles to take the kids there." Epstein and Larry Christian of New Cumberland claim that Pennsylvania has been out of compliance with federal Radiological Emergency Response Plans for decades.
The Patriot News

NRC Sends Special Inspection Team to Beaver Valley Nuclear Plant

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has sent a team of specialists to review the circumstances surrounding the identification of air trapped in a safety system at the Beaver Valley Unit 1 nuclear power plant in Shippingport, Pa. The team began its work at the site today. There are two nuclear reactors at Beaver Valley, both operated by FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company (FENOC).

On Sept. 23, FENOC detected air (called a “void”) in the suction lines for both trains of the low-head safety-injection system (LHSI) at Beaver Valley Unit 1. (The low-head safety-injection system is one of the systems that supply water to the reactor in the event of an accident at the plant. It is also used to circulate cooling water following an accident.) At the time, FENOC determined that the system would have operated as designed. On Oct. 4 and 5, the company effectively eliminated the void by venting both loops of the system and filled the system with water. The company also verified the same conditions did not exist at Beaver Valley Unit 2.

There was no immediate danger to public health and safety or the environment from this condition.

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Nuclear Plant Proposals Challenged by Southeast, National Groups

An attempted revival of U.S. nuclear power is plagued by design problems that have severely delayed federal approval of the reactor most chosen by utilities hoping to build new plants. A coordinated legal action announced today by watchdog groups across the Southeast and in Washington challenges the licensing process by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) as unlawful. The NRC has canceled a 2007 pledge to review and recertify the standard design by 2011, and has missed several deadlines for committing to a new timetable. The groups say plant designs must be completed and genuinely certified before the agency or others can assess safety and financial risks of the multi-billion dollar projects.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Leaking radioactive waste pool at Indian Point drained

Officials at the Indian Point nuclear power plant in Buchanan can cross a big chore off their to-do list. A leaking waste-containment pool, containing 500,000 gallons of radioactive water and spent fuel rods, has been drained and cleaned.

The bulk of the work was completed at the end of October, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The last step is for work crews to coat the pool and do some other maintenance-related work, thus solving a problem that surfaced several years ago.

In August 2005, a dangerous dose of strontium-90, a carcinogenic isotope, was detected in storm drains and groundwater around the riverside power plant. The contamination was eventually traced back to a leaking spent fuel pool for reactor Unit 1, which was shut down in the 1970s.

Times Herald-Record

NRG Energy Rejects $6.1 Billion Offer From Exelon

NRG Energy Inc., the second-largest power producer in Texas, rejected an unsolicited $6.1 billion takeover offer from Exelon Corp., the largest U.S. utility owner. The offer "significantly undervalues NRG and is not in the best interests of NRG's shareholders," Princeton, New Jersey- based NRG said in a statement today. "The Board thoroughly reviewed Exelon's proposal and reached its decision after careful consideration with its independent financial and legal advisers."

TVA fund for cleanup takes a hit

TVA and other utilities have socked away money to shut down and clean up nuclear power plants once they're too old to function, but those trust funds are generally thick with stocks and other investments that have taken an economic beating. TVA's stash has seesawed over the years, losing or gaining more than $100 million at times, with a 9.7 percent drop to $983 million in March from six months earlier.
The Tennessean

Friday, November 7, 2008

Markey: Pilgrim Plant Fire Raises Issue of Lax Fire Safety Regulation by NRC

Following a fire at the Pilgrim Nuclear Station in Plymouth, Massachusetts, Representative Edward J. Markey (D-MA), a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce committee, today expressed concerns to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) about fire safety and the lack of compliance with critical fire protection regulations at many nuclear power plants. Rep. Markey said, "Thankfully no one was hurt and as far as we know there was no release of radioactivity during this week's fire incident at the Pilgrim plant, but the incident raises once again longstanding concerns about the NRC's lax enforcement of fire safety rules at our nation's nuclear plants. Fire poses a particularly potent risk to nuclear reactors, and shoddy fire protection procedures at nuclear plants are simply inexcusable."
Office of Congressman Ed Markey

Monday, November 3, 2008

NRC Assigns New Resident Inspector to Limerick Nuclear Plant

Nuclear Regulatory Commission officials in the Region I Office in King of Prussia, Pa., have selected Nicole Sieller as the Resident Inspector for the Limerick nuclear power plant in Limerick, Pa. She joins Senior Resident Inspector Gene DiPaolo at the two-unit site, which is operated by Exelon Nuclear.
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Air Force: Nuke missile silo fire went undetected

A fire caused $1 million worth of damage at an unmanned underground nuclear launch site last spring, but the Air Force didn't find out about it until five days later, an Air Force official said Thursday.

The May 23 fire burned itself out after an hour or two, and multiple safety systems prevented any threat of an accidental launch of the Minuteman III missile, Maj. Laurie Arellano said. She said she was not allowed to say whether the missile was armed with a nuclear warhead at the time of the fire.

Arellano said the Air Force didn't know a fire had occurred until May 28, when a repair crew went to the launch site—about 40 miles east of Cheyenne, Wyo., and 100 miles northeast of Denver—because a trouble signal indicated a wiring problem.

She said the flames never entered the launch tube where the missile stood and there was no danger of a radiation release.

Associated Press

Entergy plan calls for 60 years before Yankee decommissioning

Even if Vermont Yankee nuclear plant shuts down in 2012 when its original federal license expires, Entergy Nuclear wouldn't start cleaning up and dismantling the reactor for close to 60 years, according to a plan filed with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Entergy Nuclear has agreed to add $60 million to its shrinking decommissioning fund for the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant — but not until 2026. In its filing with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Entergy Nuclear said it planned on decommissioning the reactor in 2067, and completing the job by 2072, at a total cost of $875 million.
Rutland Herald