Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Cracks found in critical reactor parts at Davis-Besse power plant

From cleveland.com:
Inspectors at the Davis-Besse power plant have found cracking in critical parts that is similar to what caused massive corrosion at the plant eight years ago.

The FirstEnergy Corp. plant near Toledo has been down since Feb. 28 for regular refueling, maintenance and safety inspections, including ultrasonic inspections of 69 control rod "nozzles" in the reactor lid.

The problem parts are known as "nozzles" because of their shape. They are corrosion-resistant alloy steel tubes that penetrate the reactor's heavy carbon steel lid. They allow reactor operators to adjust the nuclear fission by moving control rods into and out of the reactor core.

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Susquehanna: Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact

From the NRC:
Download PDF (ml100110253)

Agency needs new plan after Yucca decision

From the Las Vegas Review-Journal:
Speaking with reporters earlier this week, NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko said nuclear fuel can be stored safely for long periods, and the NRC will "work to see what that time frame is really like -- 100 years, 200 years, 400," according to the New York Times.
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FBI, nuclear agency investigate terrorism suspect

From CNN:
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is working with the FBI to determine whether a New Jersey man suspected of being an al Qaeda member had access to any sensitive areas of the nuclear plants where he once worked, a commission spokeswoman said Friday.

The FBI is investigating Sharif Mobley, a 26-year-old from Buena, New Jersey, said Rich Wolf, a spokesman at the agency's Baltimore, Maryland, office. He wouldn't comment further.

Mobley worked at nuclear plants operated by PSEG Nuclear for different contractors from 2002 to 2008, doing routine labor such as carrying supplies and assisting with maintenance activities, company spokesman Joe Delmar said Thursday.

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Press Release Concerning a Former Plant Employee

From the NRC:
"This notification is being made pursuant to 10CFR50.72(b)(2)(xi) due to the issuance of a press release concerning an individual that previously performed work at Salem Generating Station. "PSEG Nuclear provided the following statement to Channel 6 News, the ABC-TV affiliate out of Philadelphia, which read as follows: 'Sharif Mobley previously worked as a laborer at PSEG Nuclear for a variety of contractors from 2002 to 2008 mainly during refueling outages for several weeks at a time. This individual satisfied federal security background checks required to work in the US nuclear industry as recently as 2008. While working here, he did routine labor work carrying supplies and assisting maintenance activities. He also worked at other nuclear plants in the region. We are cooperating with law enforcement as part of their investigation as well as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and other nuclear plant operators.' "Sharif Mobley has been the focus of recent news stories due to his activities in the country of Yemen." The NRC Resident Inspector has been notified and the Lower Alloways Creek Township will be notified.
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Al Qaeda Suspect Worked at 5 U.S. Nuclear Plants

From FOX News:

Before he was rounded up in a sweep of suspected Al Qaeda terrorists in Yemen, Sharif Mobley was a laborer at five nuclear plant complexes in Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Authorities are investigating whether he might have had any access to sensitive information that would have been useful to terrorists.

Edwin Lyman, a senior staff scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, a watchdog of the nuclear power industry, said the case raises questions about security at the nation's nuclear power plants — even though Mobley has not been linked to any wrongdoing at any of them.

Some of the information used to give temporary workers like Mobley clearance comes from other nuclear power companies and is sometimes incomplete, Lyman said.

"The real question is: Was there information that the NRC or utilities could have seen that would have led to his disqualification?" Lyman asked.

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Susquehanna: Notice of Licensee Meeting, April 27, 2010

Date/Time: April 27, 2010 2:30pm to 3:30pm - Information Session 3:30pm to 5:30pm - Meeting Location: Susquehanna Energy Information Center 634 Salem Blvd. Berwick, PA 18603 Purpose: The NRC requested an Annual Assessment Meeting with PPL to discuss the NRC's assessment of the safety performance of the Susquehanna Steam Electric Station for calendar year 2009. The NRC's assessment is documented in a letter dated March 3, 2010. Download PDF

TMI: Issuance of Amendment

From the NRC:
Download PDF (ML100320493)

Leaky Nuclear Plants Versus States Rights

From the Epoch Times:
Tritium is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen, created in the cooling water used in a reactor’s core. It is impossible to chemically separate tritium from contaminated water. Remarkably, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has acknowledged similar tritium leaks at 27 U.S. nuclear plants, potentially threatening the nation’s drinking water. There may be more tritium leaks that have yet to be reported. Vermont Yankee had a previous leak in 2005, made public only last month. In Illinois, the Braidwood Nuclear Plant leaked millions of gallons of tritium-laced water, starting in 1996, but plant management didn’t reveal the problem to state officials until 2005. While NRC documents confirm a 2009 leak at New York’s Indian Point 2 reactor on the Hudson River of at least a hundred thousand gallons over four days, an energy consultant with 45 years in the nuclear industry believes the evidence shows the plant leaked millions of gallons. The consultant, Paul Blanch, says that a contributing factor to leaky nuclear plants is a troubling lack of NRC inspection requirements. Entergy doesn’t inspect or maintain its underground pipes at Vermont Yankee, says Blanch. “Their maintenance philosophy is ‘run to failure.’ It’s like I’m driving along with my car, and the only time I take a look at my tires is after they blow out.” Vermont Radiological Health Chief Bill Irwin blasted Vermont Yankee’s NRC-approved design, saying it was “inappropriate” for pipes carrying radioactivity to be buried 15 feet below ground, where inspection is impossible. But that’s standard design for the nation’s nuclear fleet.
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Summary of annual review: Peach Bottom, PPL & TMI

Three Mile Island NRC staff completed its performance review on Feb. 12, 2010, covering the fourth quarter and all of 2009. In a letter dated March 3, 2010, the NRC said Unit 1 “operated in a manner that preserved public health and safety and fully met all cornerstone objectives.” Peach Bottom NRC staff completed its performance review on Feb. 16, 2010, for the most recent quarter and all of 2009. In a letter dated March 3, 2010, the NRC said Units 2 and 3 “operated in a manner that preserved public health and safety and fully met all cornerstone objectives.” The letter reviewed the confirmatory order of Dec. 1, 2009, to plant owner Exelon regarding two workers, one a licensed reactor operator who failed to report a driving under the influence arrest and the other a maintenance supervisor who provided inaccurate and incomplete information when applying for the job. Details are mentioned in previous reports. The letter also mentioned the previously reported $65,000 civil penalty issued on Jan. 6, 2009, relating to inattentive security officers discovered in September 2007. The NRC noted that its 2009 mid-cycle performance assessment letter indicated that extensive inspections have “adequately addressed this issue.” Berwick The NRC staff completed its performance review on Feb. 16, 2010, for the fourth quarter and all of 2009. In a letter dated March 3, 2010, the NRC said that Susquehanna Units 1 and 2 “operated in a manner that preserved public health and safety and fully met all cornerstone objectives.” The letter discussed the previously reported matter when a potential chilling effect letter was issued in January 2009 over safety work environment issues. The letter noted that plant owner PPL has taken reasonable actions to improve the safety conscious work environment (SCWE) at the site. “Specifically,” the NRC letter said, “the staff determined that you recognized the issue impacted multiple areas across the site; took appropriate and timely actions to address it; and completed a range of corrective actions which have been implemented and are judged, at this time, to have been effective in addressing the underlying issues.” The NRC said that cross cutting issues do not exist at this time. Nonetheless, the NRC said it would continue to monitor PPL’s activities over the issue. It added that it is continuing to review some events that occurred during 2008, and PPL would be notified of the outcome in separate correspondence.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Three Mile Island Unit 1 Back On-Line after Maintenance

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Ralph DeSantis Three Mile Island Communications 717-948-8930 LONDONDERRY TWP. Pa. (March 5, 2010) – Three Mile Island Unit 1 (TMI-1) began producing carbon-free electricity today at 7:30 p.m ET when operators connected the plant to the regional power grid. TMI-1 generates 852 megawatts of electricity, enough power for more than 800,000 homes. The unit was taken offline on March 4 at 3:02 a.m. ET to perform maintenance on two reactor coolant pumps and on an Isolation Phase Bus Bar in the Turbine Building. The maintenance work involved repairing small oil leaks on both pumps and electrical work on the bus bar. The work has been completed. “We took advantage of being offline to do all the work necessary to ensure the plant is set up for a safe and reliable operating cycle,” said Bill Noll, TMI site vice president. 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.

NRC Announces Opportunity To Request Hearing On Proposal To Produce Co-60 At Hope Creek Nuclear Power Plant

From the NRC:

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff is seeking public comment and offering the opportunity to request a hearing regarding a request from PSEG Nuclear for a pilot program to explore the production of Cobalt-60 at the Hope Creek Generating Station, located about 18 miles south of Wilmington, Del.

If approved, the requested license amendment would give PSEG permission to generate and transfer Cobalt-60 under the NRC’s regulations for “byproduct” material. The Cobalt-60, as a radioactive material licensed by the NRC and Agreement States, is used in applications such as cancer treatment and for irradiation sterilization of foods and medical devices.

PSEG seeks permission to alter the reactor’s core by inserting up to 12 modified fuel assemblies with rods containing Cobalt-59 pellets, which would absorb neutrons during reactor operation and become Cobalt-60. PSEG’s pilot program would gather data to verify that the modified fuel assemblies perform satisfactorily in service prior to use on a production basis. PSEG has informed the NRC that if the amendment is granted, the company plans to insert the modified assemblies during Hope Creek’s planned fall 2010 refueling outage.

The NRC staff review of the amendment request will include evaluating the potential effects of the modified fuel assemblies on plant operation and accident scenarios. The amendment will only be approved if the staff concludes the modified core will continue to meet the agency’s safety requirements.

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Thomas H. Pigford, Nuclear Engineer, Is Dead at 87

From the New York Times:
Thomas H. Pigford, an independent-minded nuclear engineer who was recruited by the federal government for his advice on major nuclear accidents and nuclear waste, died Saturday at his home in Oakland, Calif.. He was 87. His death was confirmed by the nuclear engineering department at the University of California, Berkeley, of which he was the first chairman. Dr. Pigford had been treated for Parkinson’s disease for nine years, his wife, Elizabeth Pigford, said. In 1979 he was a member of the commission that investigated the accident at the Three Mile Island reactor, near Harrisburg, Pa. The panel found that poorly trained operators had turned off key safety systems, allowing a simple malfunction to grow into a harrowing accident that reduced the nuclear core to rubble.
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Susquehanna: Annual Assessment


Peach Bottom: Annual Assessment

ANNUAL ASSESSMENT LETTER - PEACH BOTTOM ATOMIC POWER STATION (05000277/2010001 and 05000278/2010001) Download PDF

TMI: Annual Performance Review


Troubles At Yankee Affecting Industry Elsewhere

From Vermont Public Radio:
(Host) The troubles at Vermont Yankee are beginning to affect the nuclear power industry elsewhere in the country.

Today, New York regulators raised concerns about Entergy's record in Vermont.

As VPR's John Dillon reports, the questions came as New York considered Entergy's plan to spin off some of its reactors into a new company.

(Dillon) Entergy faces a criminal investigation for misleading regulators about leaking underground pipes at Vermont Yankee.

The Vermont investigation came up during a hearing in Albany. Entergy owns three nuclear plants in New York that it wants to spin off - along with Vermont Yankee - into a new corporation.

New York utility commissioner Robert Curry said the company's record in Vermont raises a warning flag.

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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Susquehanna: NRC Security Inspection Report


Meeting with Exelon: March 18

Subject: Forthcoming Meeting With Exelon Nuclear To Discuss The NRC Request For Additional Information Regarding Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station, Units 2 And 3 License Amendment Request To Revise The Technical Specifications For The Spent Fuel Pool K-Infinity Value Date and Time: Thursday, March 18, 2010, 1:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m. Location: U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission One White Flint North, Room 16-B4 11555 Rockville Pike Rockville, MD 20852 Download PDF (ML100610536)

DEP Urges Medical Facilities to Take Proper Precautions with X-Ray Equipment to Avoid Health Hazards

From the PA Dept of Environmental Protection:

Environmental Protection Secretary John Hanger today encouraged medical facilities to eliminate potential radiological hazards by reviewing and evaluating their practices and properly calibrating medical diagnostic or therapeutic X-ray devices.

In addition, Hanger reminded facilities of the requirement to report all medical events that may cause unintended harm to patients.

Recent media reports have highlighted serious medical incidents nationally involving diagnostic computed tomography (CT) and radiation therapy procedures. Hanger said these incidents underscore the importance of medical professionals verifying proper patient referral and radiation protection protocols throughout all phases of medical treatment.

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NRC Names New Senior Resident Inspector at Susquehanna Nuclear Power Plant

From the NRC:

Nuclear Regulatory Commission officials in King of Prussia, Pa., have selected Patrick Finney as the new Senior Resident Inspector at the Susquehanna nuclear power plant, in Salem Township (Luzerne County), Pa.

Finney joined the NRC in 2004 as a Reactor Inspector in the Division of Reactor Safety in the Region I Office in King of Prussia, Pa. In that role, he took part in various team inspections.

He was assigned to Susquehanna as the Resident Inspector in the fall of 2007. Shortly thereafter, he was called up by the Navy Reserve and served a one-year tour of duty in Afghanistan as Chief Engineer constructing forward operating bases.

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Nuclear projects face financial obstacles

From the Washington Post:

Hopes for a nuclear revival, fanned by fears of global warming and a changing political climate in Washington, are running into new obstacles over a key element -- money.

A new approach for easing the cost of new multibillion-dollar reactors, which can take years to complete, has provoked a backlash from big-business customers unwilling to go along.

Financing has always been one of the biggest obstacles to a renaissance of nuclear power. The plants are expensive, and construction tends to run late and over budget. The projected cost for a pair of proposed Georgia plants would be $14 billion; the Obama administration last month pledged to provide them with $8.3 billion in federal loan guarantees.

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Water Issues Derailing Nuclear Power in Utah

From AlterNet:
Nuclear power has been a hot topic these past few weeks with Vermont’s leaking reactor, Georgia’s plans for new ones (thanks to Obama), and the press’s blind approval of all things nuclear. And now, Rachel Waldholz from High Country News, writes that Blue Castle Holdings, “a 3-year-old, politically connected startup” is trying to get Utah’s first new nuclear plant since 1987 built in the state. While there are lots of reasons that nuclear power is a bad idea, residents in Utah are particularly concerned about water. Waldholz writes:
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Vermont Senate Votes to Close Nuclear Plant

From the New York Times:
In an unusual state foray into nuclear regulation, the Vermont Senate voted 26 to 4 Wednesday to block operation of the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant after 2012, citing radioactive leaks, misstatements in testimony by plant officials and other problems. Unless the chamber reverses itself, it will be the first time in more than 20 years that the public or its representatives has decided to close a reactor. The vote came just more than a week after President Obama declared a new era of rebirth for the nation’s nuclear industry, announcing federal loan guarantees of $8.3 billion to assure the construction of a twin-reactor plant near Augusta, Ga.
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Peach Bottom: BWR Technical Specifications Changes That Implement The Revised Rule For Combustible Gas Control.


Nuke expert: ‘Entergy is worst of worst'

From the Brattleboro Reformer:

A nuclear power expert who briefed state legislators on the operation of Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant last week recommended they vote no Wednesday on continued operation of the plant.

Paul Blanch, who has 45 years in the industry, including working or consulting at Millstone, Connecticut Yankee, Maine Yankee and Indian Point nuclear power plants and the Electric Power Research Institute and the Nuclear Energy Institute, said there are two major reasons for closing down the plant -- Entergy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

"Entergy is certainly the worst of the worst," Blanch told the Reformer one day after his testimony at the Statehouse.

The company is nothing but a "carpetbagger coming up here (with the) only goal to extract as much money as possible," he said. "They're milking every dime out of it that they possibly can."

And don't expect that the NRC will take enforcement action against Entergy in response to a leak of tritiated water at the plant, said Blanch.

"The root cause of this problem is the NRC," he said. "They're in bed with the industry. The NRC is supposed to be the parent, but it's not enforcing the regulations. And the utilities are abusing their parents and society."

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Owner admits leak found at VY in 2005

From the Brattleboro Reformer:

In 2005, Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant had a steam leak in the same system that is under investigation as the possible source of a leak of tritiated water into the environment.

"The licensee has acknowledged that there was a leakage they repaired in 2005," said Don Jackson, the NRC's branch chief for Region 1. "They reported that today. We are not aware that it was reported in 2005. "

Whether this is the same leak described by an alleged employee of the power plant in an anonymous phone call to a member of Yankee's Public Oversight Panel is under investigation, he said.

"We haven't confirmed this," said Jackson. "But it sounds like the story the individual is talking about."

The NRC is investigating why it took Entergy five years to report the leak, but for it to have been reportable, it has to meet certain offsite dose limits. It is also investigating how Entergy responded to the problem.

"We are determining whether the repair was in accordance with procedures," said Jackson.

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Criticism arises over Public Utility Commission's complaints division's chief

From the Patriot News:
The Public Utility Commission’s recent hiring of a utility insider to be its consumer watchdog has some fearing that she might be more of a utility lapdog. Alexis Bechtel of Reading, who has 32 years of experience working for gas and cable companies, began working this month as the director of the commission’s bureau of consumer services. She is only the third director in the bureau’s 33-year history but the first to come out of the utility industry. The two other directors came from state government.
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The Hidden Threat to the Nuclear Renaissance

From the American Prospect:

It's a little misleading to call America's renewed interest in nuclear power a full-blown renaissance. For one thing, the renaissance hasn't happened yet. Even with the perfect storm of global warming, dwindling fossil fuels, and the second Bush presidency, the current zeal for new nuclear power has fed on speculation for the last decade. It will have to do so for a long time to come. Tuesday's news that President Barack Obama agreed to provide $8 billion in federal backing for two reactors in the state of Georgia -- the first nuclear plants cleared for construction in nearly 30 years -- ignored the massive financial, political, and technical hurdles between announcement and production.

However, it is fair to say that the unlikely partnership of Republicans and pro-nuke environmentalists just got a lot stronger. Candidate Obama's nuclear support was often read as political posturing; President Obama's nuclear support comes with hard cash. Viable or not, the nuclear revival now has the backing of the most prominent Democrat in a generation. His 2011 budget proposes to triple federal loan guarantees for new plant construction, essentially forcing taxpayers to shoulder the immense risks that Wall Street learned to shun decades ago. Nuclear power offers all the fiscal risks of a "too big to fail" bank, with the added risk of being too dangerous to fail as well.

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Vt. nuclear plant gets closer to licensing defeat

From the Brattleboro Reformer:

A former nuclear engineer told lawmakers Thursday that the Vermont Yankee reactor should be shut down and a whistleblower raised new questions about what plant officials knew when about leaking radioactivity, as chances for the plant's relicensing weakened.

Vermont's troubled nuclear plant -- tied up in controversy over radioactive tritium leaking into groundwater and allegations that it misled regulators about whether it had pipes that carried tritium -- had another tough day at the Statehouse.

It culminated in the Senate Finance Committee's 7-0 vote to send to the floor a bill that would authorize the state Public Service Board to approve the plant's operation past the 2012 expiration of its current license. The committee did so without endorsing the bill, and it is expected to be defeated easily when it comes up for a vote Wednesday.

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