Saturday, August 22, 2009

NRC looks at nuke plant shutdown fund shortfalls

Industry critics say reactor owners were not saving enough money even before the financial meltdown, and that federal regulators need to hold the industry to a higher standard to help insure the public's safety.

Plant owners say there are many ways to address the shortfall, including idling the plants or having the government extend licenses to operate them.

Industry officials say that most, if not all, owners of reactors will seek license renewals to extend operations by up to 20 years. Industry officials say the additional time will help them recoup their fund losses.

Plant operators are required to set aside funds during a reactor's operating life to insure the site will be properly cleaned up once the reactor is permanently shut down.

Associated Press

PPL sees customer service slip in yearly survey

More callers to PPL Electric Utilities got stuck on hold for prolonged periods or got busy signals in 2008 than in 2007, according to an annual report released today by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. The Allentown energy company saw its customer service ratings slip in several areas in the 2008 Customer Service Performance Report, which measured the performance of the state's major electric and natural gas companies, including PPL, which has about 1.2 million residential customers in the state.
The Morning Call

Entergy: Yankee shortfall less short

Entergy Nuclear has claimed the $87 million gap between what it has saved for the decommissioning of Vermont Yankee and what it needs to do the job has shrunk to $58 million. In a filing with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the owner of the Vernon reactor said it would provide federal regulators with an unspecified "financial assurance mechanism" later this year to prove it was good for the money. Entergy said the value of the decommissioning fund, which had fallen to $372 million in December, had climbed back to $402 million in July. The NRC says Entergy Nuclear should have $513 million by 2012. Robert Williams, spokesman for Entergy Nuclear, said the financial mechanism was unspecified at this time, but he said it would ultimately conform to NRC requirements.
Rutland Herald

An Iodine Chaser

Tina Nenoff is part of a scientific team at the Sandia National Laboratory in Albuquerque, N.M., seeking a "waste form" in which iodine-129 can be immobilized. In its elemental state, I-129 is one of the most problematic of isotopes; it will change directly from solid to gas without going through a liquid phase. Because it likes to be a gas and is easily soluble in water, it is highly mobile in the environment. It also has a fairly low melting point, which rules out the borosilicate glass used to vitrify other high-level waste; temperatures high enough to melt glass will evaporate iodine right out of the mixture.

Nuclear board denies groups’ complaints

The Atomic Licensing and Safety Board of the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission concluded that Wilkes-Barre native Gene Stilp and the organization he founded, Taxpayers and Ratepayers United, had the right to be involved in the case, but lacked admissible complaints. Eric Epstein, who runs the nuclear watchdog group Three Mile Island Alert out of Dauphin County, also was denied involvement.

Epstein, however, was undeterred. “It’s a long haul. … When you’re in a kangaroo court, you learn how to hop,” he said. “The NRC ignored its own precedent, so we’re pretty confident that we’ll prevail when we appeal.”

Epstein pointed out that he had been granted standing by a different panel of judges last year regarding PPL’s existing dual reactor at an adjacent site. “I’m not buying it. I’m the same person, living and working the same distance from the plant as I was last year when I got standing in the relicensing case,” he said. “You can’t have it one way in one case and another way in another case.”

Times Leader

NRC: Dry cask test was eliminated

The concrete-and-steel "dry casks" used at the Vermont Yankee plant to store spent nuclear fuel were not tested as completely as they should have been, according to federal regulators. But the decision by Holtec International, the New Jersey company that built the casks, to omit one set of tests does not pose a safety risk, Nuclear Regulatory Commission officials said Wednesday. That's because there were other kinds of inspections done on those casks, and the waste stored in the casks is not as hot as allowed, meaning they are safe even though they were not tested with pressurized helium as required under a federal licensing agreement. About 109 of the casks that were not completely tested are in use nationwide, including five at Vermont Yankee, regulators say.
Times Argus

Palisades repairs second tritium leak

A second radioactive leak at the Palisades nuclear plant has been fixed.

``I'm happy to say we have found the source of the leak,'' said Mark Savage, the public-affairs and communications director for Palisades, ``and have repaired that.''

The new leak was at a turn in a pipe and was because of the failure of a weld, Savage said. The pipes and welds are stainless steel.

``We think it was during original construction,`` Savage said.

In June, Savage told the Van Buren County Board of Commissioners that tritium levels were rising in monitoring wells.

Kalamazoo Gazette

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Speakers at PPL hearing say plan to cut energy consumption isn't enough

A plan proposed by PPL to reduce the energy consumption of its customers should include more options and not rely so heavily on compact fluorescent light bulbs. That was the prevailing sentiment Thursday at a public hearing that drew 30 people to downtown Bethlehem to discuss the four-year, $246 million plan, which will affect 1.4 million PPL customers. About 10 people testified regarding the proposal, which the state Public Utility Commission is scheduled to vote on by the end of October. [...] The company has proposed curtailing power consumption by 1.3 billion kilowatt hours by mid-2013. That's the equivalent of all PPL's residential customers killing their power use for a month, according to the company. At issue is a PPL plan to charge customers $246 million over four years to implement energy conservation programs mandated by the state. The typical residential customer would pay an extra $24 a year beginning in December to pay for the programs.
The Morning Call