Tuesday, June 30, 2009

July 6: NRC Safety Meeting at Susquehanna Nuclear

NRC TO DISCUSS ‘SAFETY CONSCIOUS WORK ENVIRONMENT’ AT SUSQUEHANNA NUCLEAR POWER PLANT AT PUBLIC MEETING ON JULY 6 NRC staff will meet with PPL representatives on Monday, July 6, to discuss the Susquehanna nuclear power plant’s “safety conscious work environment” as a follow-up to earlier concerns at the plant. A safety conscious work environment is one in which safety issues are promptly identified and effectively resolved and in which employees feel free to raise safety concerns without fear of retaliation. The meeting will begin at 4 p.m. at the Susquehanna Energy Information Center, at 634 Salem Blvd. in Berwick, Pa. Prior to the meeting’s adjournment, NRC staff will answer questions from the public. Also, the meeting will be preceded by an hour-long, informal information session for the public on the subject scheduled to start at 3 p.m. at the same location. U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Radioactive subject matter

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

Allison Macfarlane: A nuclear expert on life after Yucca.

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

NRC to send shortfall letters to 26 atomic plants

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

Nuclear funds hit with losses

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.

Costs for closing nuclear plants

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

AP IMPACT: Funds to shut nuclear plants fall short

The companies that own almost half the nation's nuclear reactors are 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.

Associated Press

Powerful TMI satellite images raise concern

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."

York Daily Record

Challenge to Pilgrim license is kept active

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 seeks to redraw safety borders

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

Forthcoming Meeting with Exelon Generation Company

Date: Thursday, June 25 Time: 1:00 PM to 3:30 PM Location: U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission One White Flint North 11555 Rockville Pike, Room 0-6B4 Rockville, Maryland 20852 Purpose: Licensing Counterparts Meeting with Exelon Generating Company This meeting is open to the public. Download PDF

Relaxation of Order for Compensatory Measures Related to Fitness-For-Duty Enhancements

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission: Relaxation of Order for Compensatory Measures Related to Fitness-For-Duty Enhancements Applicable to Nuclear Facility Security Personnel Download PDF

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Web sites provide a glimpse of TMI security

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

Exelon: No public threat from tritium leak

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.

The Associated Press

Sunday, June 7, 2009

NRC won't act on Mass. AG's petition

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

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Gov't posts sensitive list of U.S. nuclear sites

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.

York Daily Record

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

U.S. Accidentally Releases List of Nuclear Sites

The federal government mistakenly made public a 266-page report, its pages marked “highly confidential,” that gives detailed information about hundreds of the nation’s civilian nuclear sites and programs, including maps showing the precise locations of stockpiles of fuel for nuclear weapons.

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.

New York Times

Meeting with Exelon Nuclear, June 16

Forthcoming Meeting With Exelon Nuclear to Discuss Management of Boraflex Degradation At Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station, Units 2 and 3, and the Associated License Amendment Request Under Review to Revise The Technical Specifications for the Spent Fuel. Download PDF

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

U.S. NRC Emergency Preparedness & Response News

This issue of Emergency Preparedness & Response News is devoted to the upcoming public meetings to discuss the proposed rule for enhancements to emergency preparedness (EP) regulations and proposed changes to related guidance. Download PDF

Shots From Range Hit Near Md. Nuclear Plant

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.

The Washington Post

Energy advocacy group raises concerns with inspections at Shippingport nuclear power plant

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

NRC, FEMA hold meeting on proposal to amend emergency preparedness requirements

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

Public Interest Group Appeals South Carolina Public Service Commission Decision Approving Nuclear Reactors to State Supreme Court

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE May 22, 2009, 2:25 PM CONTACT: Friends of the Earth Tom Clements, 803-834-3084 Bob Guild, Esq, for comment on legal aspects, 803-252-1419, cell 803-917-5138 Nick Berning, 202-222-0748 Public Interest Group Appeals South Carolina Public Service Commission Decision Approving Nuclear Reactors to State Supreme Court Friends of the Earth Asserts Decision in Error and Not in the Public Interest COLUMBIA, S.C. - May 22 - The environmental organization Friends of the Earth has today filed an appeal with the South Carolina Supreme Court challenging the legality of a South Carolina Public Service Commission decision approving an application by South Carolina Electric & Gas to build two new nuclear reactors. The filing is believed to be a first national challenge to the type of state law which unjustly forces consumers to pay for nuclear projects in advance, no matter if they fail. Friends of the Earth, which made the filing this morning with the Supreme Court in Columbia, S.C., contends that the Public Service Commission order of February 27 that approved the reactor project and the March 25 denial of a Friends of the Earth appeal were in error for a number of reasons. Friends of the Earth also names South Carolina Electric and Gas and the state's Office of Regulatory Staff in the appeal. "We strongly believe that the decision allowing this nuclear reactor project to go forward is fraught with legal errors and does not serve the public interest. Clener, safer and cheaper energy options were ignored," said Tom Clements, Southeastern Nuclear Campaign Coordinator with Friends of the Earth. "The Public Service Commission made an incorrect decision which gives the utility a blank check for its expensive and dangerous nuclear project and we are thus seeking a legal remedy in the interest of South Carolina consumers that will lead to a cleaner energy future for the state." The Friends of the Earth filing, which will be followed by a more substantive brief, is based on a number of issues, including that the Public Service Commission erred in allowing the project to proceed under the state's Baseload Review Act (the Construction Work in Progress law passed in 2007). That act, which allows electricity rates to be levied for reactors far in advance of their demonstrated use, is unconstitutional as it deprives electricity consumers of property without due process of law. The filing is the first legal challenge to the Baseload Review Act and a decision made under it and is also believed to be the first national challenge to a Construction Work in Progress law. Further, Friends of the Earth charges that the Public Service Commission was incorrect in not properly analyzing recent developments in the economy and financial markets and that the reactor project was allowed to go forward without an energy efficiency and demand side management plan to reduce the need for new capacity. The Commission also erred in approving the application without placing conditions on the utility's recovery of costs. Well-known environmental lawyer Bob Guild is serving as attorney for Friends of the Earth, as he did in the organization's initial intervention against the license application, filed May 30, 2008. On December 1, a three-week hearing was held on the application before the Public Service Commission. South Carolina Electric and Gas is planning construction of two Westinghouse AP1000 reactors at its V.C. Summer site in Jenkinsville, S.C., 25 miles north of Columbia. The reactors are of a design that has never been built before. Site clearing has begun in spite of the fact that the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission is two years from a decision approving the reactor design and authorizing the construction permit. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is currently reviewing "Revision 17" of the design and many key issues remain. In a required filing with the Public Service Commission on May 15, SCE&G admitted that large cost uncertainties hang over the project and presented one scenario whereby the cost for the overall project had increased by more than $1 billion. And, the company admitted in its filing with the Public Service Commission that the construction schedule has slipped three months since the project was approved in February. The South Carolina Public Service Authority (Santee Cooper) holds 45 percent interest in the project but is not subject to Public Service Commission regulation. SCE&G has failed to reveal if it has secured private financing for this risky project. NOTES: Friends of the Earth filing with Supreme Court available on request from attorney Bob GuildTo contact the S.C. Supreme Court to review filings - ask for Betty Sheely, who handles filings of "original jurisdiction" (not originating in lower courts), 1231 Gervais Street, Columbia, SC, 803-734-1080, http://www.judicial.state.sc.us/supreme/ PSC docket (2008-196-E) in the SCE&G reactor application case, including links to the order approving the reactor application and a host of Friends of the Earth filings: http://dms.psc.state.sc.us/dockets/dockets.cfc?Method=DocketDetail&Docke... SCE&G filing of May 15, in which the cost is shown to be uncertain: http://dms.psc.sc.gov/pdf/matters/53E587E3-0DCA-2AE3-BC77BF46C8C8EEE4.pdf Baseload Review Act (CHAPTER 33, Article 4 of Title 58 - UTILITY FACILITY SITING AND ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION) -- http://www.scstatehouse.gov/code/t58c033.htm Nuclear Regulatory Commission website on new reactors: http://www.nrc.gov/reactors/new-reactors.html ### Friends of the Earth is the U.S. voice of the world's largest grassroots environmental network, with member groups in 77 countries. Since 1969, Friends of the Earth has fought to create a more healthy, just world.

Sen Carper Commends Choice of Greg Jaczko to Head NRC

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 13, 2009 CONTACT: Bette Phelan (202) 224-2441 SEN. CARPER COMMENDS CHOICE OF GREG JACZKO TO HEAD NRC WASHINGTON (May 13, 2009) - Today's appointment of Gregory B. Jaczko as the new chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) won support from Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety. Sen. Carper said: "Commissioner Jaczko shares my commitment to the highest standards of safety and security at our nation's nuclear power plants, and understands the need for transparency in all NRC decision making. If we are going to meet our nation's energy and climate goals, safe nuclear power must be part of our energy mix and the NRC will play a crucial role in making this nuclear renaissance happen. "Now, more than ever, a capable and conscientious NRC is critically important. The 104 nuclear reactors in operation today require strong oversight and must remain the Commission's top priority. The Commission must also begin to prepare for the future and closely examine applications for new reactors that are under consideration. Dr. Jaczko's experience on the Commission provides him with the background necessary to guide the NRC as Chairman during this important time for nuclear power. "I look forward to continuing to work with Dr. Jaczko and the other commissioners as the nation moves toward a new generation of nuclear reactors, while still maintaining the highest level of safety at our existing facilities." The NRC was established by the Energy Reorganization Act of 1974 to license and regulate the civilian use of nuclear materials to protect public health and safety and the environment. The NRC is responsible for consistent oversight of the nation's 104 power plants and approving licenses for any new facilities that may be built.