Wednesday, November 25, 2009

False alarms sound at Three Mile Island

Radiation monitors sounded last night and again this morning inside Three Mile Island's Unit 1 containment building - the site of a small contamination incident just days earlier - but Exelon officials said they were false alarms.

Although tests showed that no abnormal radiation levels existed, Gov. Rendell today again blasted Exelon Corp. for failing to immediately inform state emergency management officials.

Rendell said the company didn't notify the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency until about 9:30 a.m. today - nearly 13 hours after the first alarm.

"What Exelon folks, at least the Exelon folks at TMI are not understanding is that the people of Central Pennsylvania, even though this is 30 years old, understandably are very apprehensive and jumpy about all this and there is no appropriate reason for us not to be notified about this," Rendell told reporters referring to the partial meltdown that occurred in 1979 at the plant's Unit 2.

Rendell said that all TMI officials had to do was pick up a phone, call PEMA and say "hey this is a false alarm . . . and we will get back to you as soon as we know that."

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TMI leak raises anxiety

From the Press and Journal:
Eric Epstein, chairman of the watchdog group Three Mile Island Alert, went further when he labeled the calling delay a “communications fiasco.” “It appears that they have learned nothing [from the 1979 accident],” he said. TMI’s DeSantis said the level of radiation released was well below an “unusual event,” a designation requiring the notification of state and local officials within 15 minutes. However, he said, the company will review its handling of the information. “If there is a way that we can improve this we certainly will,” he said. TMI’s Unit 1 reactor has been shut down for refueling and maintenance since Oct. 26. Saturday’s incident occurred while workers were removing one of two steam generators that are being replaced. Inspectors for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission were at the site Saturday to monitor Exelon’s response to the release. Federal regulators will continue to investigate the cause of the release.
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Peach Bottom: Request for Additional Information Regarding Request for Exemption From 10 CFR 50, Appendix R, Section III.G, Fire Protection of Safe Sh

Letter from the NRC to Exelon:
By letter to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) dated March 6, 2009 (Agencywide Documents Access and Management System (ADAMS) Accession No. ML090680141), Exelon Generation Company, LLC, (Exelon) submitted a Request for Exemption for Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station (PBAPS), Unit Nos. 2 and 3. The submittal seeks exemption from the provisions of Title 10 of The Code of Federal Regulations, Part 50 (10 CFR 50), Appendix R, Section III.G, "Fire Protection of Safe Shutdown Capability." The exemption requests the use of operator manual actions (OMAs) in lieu of the circuit separation requirements specified in 10 CFR 50, Appendix R, Section III.G.2 (III.G.2). The NRC staff has reviewed the request submitted by the licensee and has identified a need for additional information as set forth in the Enclosure.
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Event Number: 45517 Facility: BEAVER VALLEY Region: 1 State: PA Unit: [ ] [2] [ ] RX Type: [1] W-3-LP,[2] W-3-LP NRC Notified By: DAN SCHWER HQ OPS Officer: VINCE KLCO Emergency Class: UNUSUAL EVENT 10 CFR Section: 50.72(a) (1) (i) - EMERGENCY DECLARED Notification Date: 11/24/2009 Notification Time: 03:40 [ET] Event Date: 11/24/2009 Event Time: 03:05 [EST] Last Update Date: 11/24/2009 Person (Organization): RAYMOND MCKINLEY (R1DO) SAM COLLINS (RA1) ERIC LEEDS (NRR) SAMSON LEE (NRR) BRIAN McDERMOTT (IRD) JOHN FROST (DHS) WILLIAM BORDAN (FEMA) "Beaver Valley Unit 2 declared an unusual event due to reactor coolant system unidentified leakage greater than 25 GPM into the pressurizer relief tank. Leakage occurred during shutdown of the residual heat removal system Train-A. The Train-A suction relief valve lifted due to pressure from the in-service Train-B residual heat [removal] system. The leakage has been stopped by isolating Train-A RHR from Train-B RHR. The duration of relief valve lifting was about 9 minutes. The pressurizer relief tank remained intact. All other systems functioned as designed and the plant is stable. Containment was closed at time of the event. No radioactive release occurred." The licensee terminated the unusual event at 0404 EST. The licensee notified the NRC Resident Inspector. * * * UPDATE BY DAVID HASER TO VINCE KLCO ON 11/24/2009 AT 0707* * * Licensee clarified that the event was due to identified leakage not unidentified leakage as stated in the paragraph above.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Nuclear Reactor Shows Its Age

From the New York Times:
Almost every plan for limiting carbon dioxide output includes keeping old nuclear plants running. But as those plants age, they turn up new problems. The latest is at a plant owned by Progress Energy in Crystal River, Fla., where a gap was found inside the thick concrete of a containment dome. The plant had been temporarily shut in late September so workers could replace the aging steam generators — which required them to cut a hole in the dome. (The steam generators at many aging nuclear reactors were intended to last the life of the plant, so no way for swapping them out was designed.)
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Pipe-cutting led to radiation incident at TMI

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
Amid renewed criticism from Gov. Ed Rendell for a five-hour delay in telling emergency officials of a weekend radiation incident, Exelon Corp. said its Three Mile Island nuclear plant was "back to normal" yesterday.

Ventilation fans probably caused the release of a small amount of radiation inside one building on Saturday afternoon, Exelon officials said.

They said the ventilation system has since been modified, and that the 150 workers stationed in the building had all returned to work.

"Things are back to normal," site vice president Bill Noll said yesterday. No contamination was found outside the containment building, and the event never posed a threat to the public, company and federal officials reiterated yesterday.

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Blown particles triggered incident

From the Patriot News:

Saturday's radiation leak inside the Three Mile Island containment building occurred when ventilation fans blew irradiated particles around in the reactor's pipes, a plant spokesman says.

The particles were detected by monitors, TMI spokesman Ralph DeSantis said Monday. The incident is under review, but the ventilation system has since been modified so the problem won't happen again, he said.

Workers involved in replacing the plant's steam generators were cutting through the pipes at the time, nuclear officials said.

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Monday, November 23, 2009

TMI radiation levels "normal"

EFMR downloaded data from its real-time gamma monitors around Three Mile Island on November 22, 2009. There were no unusual off-site readings for 21 Nov through 16:00.

Pipe-cutting led to radiation at Pa. nuke plant

From the Associated Press:
Radioactive dust unexpectedly blew out of a pipe being cut by workers during weekend maintenance at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant, and officials on Monday were trying to determine exactly how and why it happened.

The accident at the central Pennsylvania plant — the site of the nation's worst nuclear power plant disaster — exposed a dozen employees to radiation, but the public was in no danger, plant officials and government regulators said.

Plant officials likened workers' maximum exposure to the equivalent of two medical X-rays, while the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said the workers were exposed to a small fraction of the annual federal regulatory limit.

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Normal Outage Work at Three Mile Island Resumes

Londonderry Township, Pa. (Nov. 23, 2009) – Outage workers at Three Mile Island Unit 1 who were sent home Saturday evening returned to work Sunday and today and normal outage work has resumed. About 150 workers stationed in the containment building of TMI Unit 1, which was shut down nearly a month ago for a planned refueling outage and steam generator replacement, were sent home late Saturday afternoon when monitors detected small amounts of airborne radiological contamination inside the containment building “Things are back to normal,” Site Vice President Bill Noll said. “We are back performing outage activities as we had originally planned.” Outage work not associated with the containment building involving more than 3,000 other plant and temporary workers continued throughout the weekend. No contamination was found outside the containment building and the event never posed a threat to the health or safety of employees or the public. Tests of the containment workers over the weekend confirmed that no employee received radiation doses above what they might normally see doing work in the containment building. As of Sunday night, tests showed that 12 of the 150 workers received a detectable amount of radiation. The highest was 38.4 millirem, less than 1 percent of the annual federal occupational exposure limit. A millirem is a measure of radiation exposure. The federal occupational limit is 5,000 millirem per year for workers; Exelon has a more conservative standard of 2,000 millirem per year. The inside airborne contamination was caused by a change in air pressure inside the containment building that dislodged small irradiated particles in the reactor piping system. Some of the small particles became airborne inside the building and were detected by an array of monitors in place to detect such material. The air pressure change occurred when inside building ventilation fans were started to support outage activities. The site has modified the ventilation system to prevent future air pressure changes. The shutdown of Unit 1 on Oct. 26, planning for which began more than four years ago, involves refueling of the reactor – which currently has no fuel in it – and replacement of the unit’s two steam generators. The plant will remain shut down until that work is completed. Beginning Saturday afternoon Exelon Nuclear took a series of steps to voluntarily inform the NRC, state officials, other key stakeholders and the media as soon as technical information could be confirmed. Exelon Corporation is one of the nation’s largest electric utilities with approximately $19 billion in annual revenues. The company has one of the industry’s largest portfolios of electricity generation capacity, with a nationwide reach and strong positions in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic. Exelon distributes electricity to approximately 5.4 million customers in northern Illinois and southeastern Pennsylvania and natural gas to approximately 485,000 customers in the Philadelphia area. Exelon is headquartered in Chicago and trades on the NYSE under the ticker EXC. Alisa Harris-Daniels Environmental Policy Manager Exelon Generation (484) 753-4575 Mobile (717) 901-9854 Harrisburg (610) 765-6922 Kennett Square

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Doubts raised on nuclear industry viability


A scientist from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology predicts that supplies of are running out and countries relying on imports of uranium may face shortages by 2013, while a New York Times journalist suggests new nuclear power plants are an "abysmal" investment that will never pay for itself without government financial support.

Dr Michael Dittmar, a physicist with CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research), said in the fourth and final part of an essay on the world's nuclear industry published this week that civilian stockpiles of uranium could be depleted by as early as 2013.

According to Dittmar civilian and military stockpiles and re-enriched or reprocessed uranium sources contribute 25,000 of the 65,000 tons of uranium used globally each year. The rest is mined directly, but Dittmar claims nobody knows where the mining industry can find enough uranium to make up the shortfall, and disputes the Nuclear Energy Agency's estimates of reserves of Uranium.

Dittmar is unconvinced that fission breeder reactors can provide a solution, saying that their inefficiency, high construction costs and poor safety mean they are unlikely to become commercially viable alternatives. He considers even less likely to provide the needed energy.

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A Surplus of Energy That Might Even Last

From the New York Times:
AFTER years of widespread concern over how to refine enough gasoline, how to deliver enough megawatts of electricity and how to keep from drowning in carbon dioxide, the United States suddenly has fuel and energy in surplus, and the country is looking greener. Can it last? And would that be a good thing? The recession was hardly anybody’s idea of a good way to put the country on a sensible energy diet. But it may have done just that. Many coal plants whose emissions were spreading acid rain, mercury and the ingredients of global warming have not been running as much lately, and the price of coal was down by half in the last year — like the price of oil. Demand for electricity was down 1 percent last year and another 4 percent in the first half of 2009; ordinarily, electric use would be expected to grow 5 percent in three to four years. Industrial demand was down to levels not seen since the 1990s.
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Thursday, November 19, 2009

TMI: Preliminary Decommissioning Cost Estimate and Spent Fuel Management Plan

Letter from the NRC to Exelon:
By letter dated April 17, 2009 (Agencywide Documents Access and Management System (ADAMS) Accession No. ML091130429), Exelon Generation Company, LLC. submitted a preliminary decommissioning cost estimate and spent fuel management plan for Three Mile Island Nuclear Station, Unit 1 (TMI-1). These documents were submitted in accordance with Title 10 of the Code ofFederal Regulations (10 CFR) paragraph 50.75(f)(3) and 10 CFR 50.54(bb), respectively, and are required to be submitted five years prior to the projected end of operations/termination of the operating license at power reactor facilities. By letter dated October 22,2009 (ADAMS Accession No. ML092710401), the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued the Renewed Facility Operating License (DPR-50) for TMI-1. The renewed license authorized an additional 20 years of operation of the facility, with an expiration date of April 19, 2034.
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Peach Bottom: Request for Withholding Information From Public Disclousre

Letter from the NRC to Exelon:
By letter to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) dated October 1, 2009 (Agencywide Documents Access and Management System (ADAMS) Accession No. ML0927904683), Exelon Generation Company, LLC, (Exelon) submitted affidavits requesting that information submitted to the NRC be withheld from public disclosure pursuant to Title 10 of the Code of Federal Regulations (10 CFR), Part 2, Section 2.390(a)4.
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Exelon Nuclear to Replace Sirens Around Three Mile Island Generating Station

News Release Exelon Nuclear
Exelon Nuclear to Replace Sirens Around Three Mile Island Generating Station New sirens to include battery back-up power
LONDONDERRY TOWNSHIP, PA (Nov.19, 2009) Exelon Nuclear will begin a project next week to replace all 96 emergency sirens in the 10 miles around Three Mile Island Generating Station with sirens that include battery back up. The first phase of the project will have contractors visit and identify certain features of each existing siren. The initial phase of this project will take approximately 60 days. Installation of the new sirens will begin in 2011. The new and old sirens will run concurrently for a 4-month period to ensure they operate properly. Completion of the project and removal of the existing sirens is scheduled for 2012. “The sirens are an important part of our emergency plan, and they also benefit the five counties that are able to use the sirens for any emergency,” said Bill Noll, TMI Site Vice President. “The battery back-up will add an additional layer of confidence in our emergency preparedness system. While we are confident in our current siren system, the model we currently use is nearing the end of its service life and it is time to replace all of the sirens with the best available technology.” Contractors performing the first phase of the project will be from ANS Services and individuals performing work will be required to have a company photo ID. Please remember that any contractor wishing to enter a property should produce the proper company ID upon request. This $2.2 million investment around Three Mile Island is part of Exelon Nuclear’s commitment to replace and upgrade the emergency sirens at all of the sites in the mid-Atlantic including Limerick Generating Station, Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station, and Oyster Creek Generating Station. This project will involve a total investment of more than $9 million and the replacement of 400 sirens. The warning sirens are one of several methods used by county emergency management authorities to provide notification of emergencies. Individual counties may activate the sirens to warn the surrounding community of events such as fires, floods, tornados, hazardous material releases, or nuclear energy plant events. The sirens are not a signal to evacuate, but to tune to the local Emergency Alert Station.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station: NRC Integrated Inspection Report 05000277/2009004 and 05000278/2009004

Letter from the NRC to Exelon:
On Septermber 30, 2009, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) completed an inspection at your Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station (PBAPS), Units 2 and 3. Th enclosed integrated inspection report documents the inspection results, which were discussed on October 30, 2009, with Mr. William Maguire and other members of your staff.
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Susquehanna Steam Electric Station, Units 1 and 2 - Issuance of Amendment

Letter from the NRC to PPL Susquehanna:
The Commission has issued the enclosed Amendment No. 254 to Facility Operating License No. NPF-14 and Amendment No. 234 to Facility Operating License No. NPF-22 for the Susquehanna Steam Electric Station, Units 1 and 2 (SSES 1 and 2). These amendments consist of changes to the Technical Specifications (TSs) in response to your application dated March 24, 2009, as supplemented by letters dated April 24, and September 11, 2009.
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CPS Energy sends team to Japan to negotiate cut in nuclear power costs

From the San Antonio Business Journal:
CPS Energy CEO Milton Lee and Interim General Manager Steve Bartley are heading to Japan on Tuesday to square off behind closed door meetings with Toshiba Corp. officials to discuss why the cost projection on two new nuclear reactors are higher than expected. Toshiba Power Systems is the lead contractor for the proposed expansion of the South Texas Project nuclear power plant in Matagorda County, Texas. There have been reports indicating that the price tag could be as much as $4 billion higher than originally projected. CPS Energy’s partner in the South Texas Project expansion, NRG Energy, will also be involved with discussions. CPS Energy will press the Japanese for a pricing structure on the two new reactors that is more affordable than the current cost projection. CPS Energy wants the cost of the nuclear reactors to have no more than a 5 percent impact on customer bills, Bartley says.
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Friday, November 6, 2009

Three Mile Island Nuclear Station, Unit 1 - Request for Additional Information Regarding License Amendment Request to Adopt Technical Specification...

Letter from the NRC to Exelon:
By letter dated November 6, 2008 (Agencywide Documents Access and Management System (ADAMS) Accession No. ML083120122), supplemented by letters dated December 11,2008, (ADAMS Accession No. ML083470249), and July 2,2009 (ADAMS Accession No. ML091870996), AmerGen Energy Company, LLC (the licensee, now Exelon Generation Company, LLC) submitted a license amendment request regarding proposed changes to the technical specifications (TSs) for Three Mile Island Nuclear Station, Unit 1 (TMI-1). The proposed amendment would replace the current TMI-1 TS limit on Reactor Coolant System (RCS) gross specific activity with a new limit on RCS noble gas specific activity. The noble gas specific activity limit would be based on a new dose equivalent Xenon-133 definition that would replace the current E Bar average disintegration energy definition. In addition, the current dose equivalent lodine-131 definition would be revised.
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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

UPDATE 1-Areva shares fall over nuclear safety concerns

From Reuters:
A new generation of French nuclear power reactors came under attack on Tuesday as opposition parties called for an inquiry into their security systems, after three nuclear safety bodies asked for changes to their design. In a rare joint statement, nuclear safety bodies in France, Britain and Finland on Monday ordered France's Areva and EDF to modify the safety features on its European Pressurised Reactors due to insufficient independence between the day-to-day systems and the emergency systems.
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Three Mile Island Nuclear Station, Unit 1 - Once-Through Steam Generator Tube Loads Under Conditions Resulting From Postulated Breaks In Reactor Coola

Letter from NRC to Exelon:
On June 25, 2009, a public meeting was held between the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC or Commission) staff and representatives of the Pressurized Water Reactor Owners Group (PWROG) at NRC Headquarters, One White Flint North, 11555 Rockville Pike, Rockville, Maryland, regarding once-through steam generator tube loads under conditions resulting from postulated breaks in reactor coolant system upper hot-leg large-bore piping.
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Summary Of October 20, 2009, Meeting With Exelon To Discuss Proposed Control Rod Drive Control System License Amendment Request (Tac No. Md9762)

Letter from NRC to Exelon:
On October 20, 2009, a Category 1 public meeting was held between the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and representatives of Exelon Generation Company, LLC (Exelon, the licensee). The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the current status of Exelon's license amendment request (LAR) regarding a planned upgrade to the Control Rod Drive Control System and the remaining issues yet to be resolved.
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Governor Rendell Says PA’s Solar Capacity Doubles under Sunshine Solar Rebate Program

DEP News Release: Harrisburg – Governor Edward G. Rendell said today that the new PA Sunshine Solar Program is performing better than expected and has helped to double the state’s solar generating capacity in less than 6 months.

According to the Department of Environmental Protection, the program has reached its first incentive milestone for small business rebates—the deployment of 5 megawatts of solar power, or enough to supply electricity to about 575 average homes in the state.

The Governor said achieving the goal is good news for those small businesses interested in lowering their electricity costs through clean, renewable energy, and also for Pennsylvania’s environment and economy.

“When we enacted the PA Sunshine program, we said it was going to help reduce electricity bills for consumers, make solar energy more affordable, create economic opportunities, and help produce more renewable energy that will help improve our environment,” said Governor Rendell. “Reaching this milestone, not to mention the overwhelming response we’ve had to the program, is proof that it’s performing as intended.

“PA Sunshine is putting people to work across the state doing everything from manufacturing solar technologies to installing and maintaining them, while helping people and businesses become less dependent on the electrical grid and other fossil fuels, which saves them money. And because of the program, we’re also emerging as a national leader in developing and deploying solar technology. With the projects this program is making possible and others in the works, it is likely that we will be among the top five states for total solar capacity within the next year,” he added.

Since the program opened on May 18, the commonwealth has committed $12.5 million in 625 projects by residential and small business consumers. The projects represent at least $50 million in private investment, according to DEP.

More than 300 installers have been certified to install solar systems under the program and DEP continues to receive and accept applications.

The solar electricity capacity created by the small business program, 5 megawatts, is enough to offset 5,580 tons of carbon dioxide, 16,000 pounds of nitrogen oxide, and 77,500 pounds of sulfur oxide.

A running tally of completed projects is kept on the rebate program’s Web site so perspective applicants and solar developers are able to track the program’s progress.

“Among the small business community in particular, we are seeing a very high response rate to the program, so much so that in less than six months, we've more than doubled the solar capacity in Pennsylvania,” said DEP Secretary John Hanger. “As the market continues to develop, the intense competition among solar installers and greater efficiencies on the part of manufacturers will help bring down prices for solar. As such, the need for the incentive will continue to decline.”

The $100 million PA Sunshine Solar program reimburses homeowners and small business owners up to 35 percent of the purchase and installation costs of solar energy technology. In combination with federal tax credits, consumers could reduce system costs by 45 percent. It is part of the $650 million Alternative Energy Investment Fund Governor Rendell signed into in law in July 2008.

Under the original guidelines of the program, reaching the 5 megawatt threshold means the incentive rates for small business solar projects will be reduced. Originally, the program offered $2.25 per watt for 3-10 kilowatt (kW) projects, $2 per watt for 10-100 kW projects, and $1.75 per watt for 100-200 kW projects.

As of Saturday, Oct. 31, all small business incentive rates were reduced by 50 cents across the board. Homeowner incentive rates will remain at the original level of $2.25 per watt.

For more information, call the Office of Energy and Technology Deployment at 717-783-8411 or visit, keyword: Pa Sunshine.