Sunday, May 30, 2010

Coming to your Municipal Landfill – Radioactive Waste

From the RWMA Newsletter:
Is the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico a good reason for energy companies to reconsider the use of cheap practices and quick solutions? Apparently not so for the natural gas giants, who are drilling up the Northeast region that overlies a naturally radioactive Marcellus shale formation. The formation is estimated to contain a colossal 500 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. But how to dispose of the radioactive shale rock brought up from the drill hole? Why not your neighborhood solid waste landfill? The Marcellus shale formation has elevated radioactive concentrations due to naturally occurring uranium, approximately 25-30 times above background concentrations. Meanwhile, the produced water from these wells can contain 15,000 pCi/L (picoCuries per liter) of radium. The drinking water standard for radium is 5 pCi/L. What is to be done with the cuttings and the wastewater? Well, most Marcellus shale wells in Pennsylvania send the fluids to wastewater treatment plants and dispose of the dewatered drill cuttings in various landfills.
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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Unit 1 at Susquehanna nuclear plant shuts down safely

MAY 15, 2010
Joe Scopelliti, 866-832-4474
Unit 1 at Susquehanna nuclear plant shuts down safely
Operators at PPL’s Susquehanna nuclear plant near Berwick, Luzerne County, Pa., safely shut down the Unit 1 reactor Friday night (5/14) during equipment testing.
“During the refueling and maintenance outage that concluded last month, we made several equipment upgrades, including installing a new integrated digital control system for plant equipment and replacing turbines that power pumps providing water to the reactor vessel,” said Jeff Helsel, PPL’s Susquehanna plant manager.
“While plant personnel were performing a required test on the control system and the pumps, operators shut down the unit because established test limits were met,” he said.
All equipment responded to the shutdown as designed. There was no equipment damage.
“We have been performing a series of tests with the new control system to ensure the safety and reliability of the unit. We will complete an evaluation of the shutdown and have Unit 1 generating electricity again,” Helsel said.
The Susquehanna plant, located in Luzerne County about seven miles north of Berwick, is owned jointly by PPL Susquehanna LLC and Allegheny Electric Cooperative Inc. and is operated by PPL Susquehanna.
PPL Susquehanna is one of PPL Corporation’s generating facilities. Headquartered in Allentown, Pa., PPL Corporation (NYSE: PPL) controls or owns nearly 12,000 megawatts of generating capacity in the United States, sells energy in key U.S. markets and delivers electricity to about 4 million customers in Pennsylvania and the United Kingdom.

UN Atomic Chief Amano Warns That Nuclear Accidents May Rise

From BusinessWeek:
Nuclear accidents may occur more often as atomic technology spreads and countries build more reactors, International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Yukiya Amano said.
“Member states are considering the introduction of nuclear power plants,” Amano said during a May 14 interview in his 28th-floor office overlooking Vienna. “We cannot exclude accidents. If there are more, we have certain risks.”
The IAEA expects as many as 25 nations to start developing nuclear-power facilities by 2030. The total global investment in building new atomic plants is about $270 billion, the Arlington, Virginia-based Pew Center on Global Climate Change said on Feb. 17. Interest in nuclear power is growing at the fastest rate since the Three Mile Island accident in the U.S. in 1979 and the Chernobyl explosion in Ukraine in 1986, IAEA statistics show.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Retired Millstone worker alleges safety compromises at Millstone, NRC

From the Day:
Federal regulators are investigating allegations by a retired Millstone Power Station worker that plant owner Dominion puts profits ahead of safety and that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is not thoroughly managing safety issues.
David Collins of Old Lyme, a pro-nuclear retiree who took a company buyout in March, says the way Dominion has handled staffing cuts in key areas at the nuclear complex, along with an electrical mishap that forced a manual shutdown at the plant and the monitoring of fire doors, contribute to a "cover-up culture" that could compromise public safety just the way it was compromised in the late 1990s at the Waterford plant and in 2002 at the Davis-Besse reactor in Ohio.

Power plants face closures

From San Diego Union-Tribune:
Three power plants on the San Diego County coastline face major changes — from shuttering operations to building new cooling towers — in the wake of a landmark ruling by California’s water-quality officials to protect sea life.
The State Water Resources Control Board last week decided to phase out once-through cooling for seaside power plants because the process kills more than 2.6 million fish and 19 billion fish larvae annually, according to the agency. The policy may be contested by energy companies concerned about the cost of compliance, including fitting new infrastructure into existing facilities.

Peach Bottom: NRC Integrated Inspection Report

Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station - NRC Integrated Inspection Report 05-277/2010002 and 05-278/2010002 ADAMS Accession No. ML101320455

Susquehanna Steam: Integrated Inspection Report

Susquehanna Steam Electric Station - NRC Integrated Inspection Report 05-387/2010002 and 05-388/2010002
ADAMS Accession No. ML101320103

Power politics

From the Boston Globe:
On February 24, Randy Brock, a Republican state senator in Vermont, did something he never expected to do. He voted to close Vermont Yankee, the state’s only nuclear power plant. A longtime supporter of the plant, Brock did not want to vote this way. He considers nuclear power safe, environmentally friendly, and reliable and wants the plant to stay open. But a series of problems at Vermont Yankee forced his hand. “If their board of directors and its management had been thoroughly infiltrated by anti-nuclear activists,” he says, “they could not have done a better job destroying their own case.” Vermonters – including the senator – were fed up with the way the plant was being run, so he voted no.
The Vermont vote, coming just a week after President Barack Obama announced $8.33 billion in federal loan guarantees for companies building two new nuclear reactors in Georgia, would seem to show a New England stuck in the no-nukes 1980s, out of step with the nuclear fever sweeping the rest of the country. In March, Gallup reported that support for nuclear power as “one of the ways to provide electricity” had climbed to a new high of 62 percent. In the same poll, 28 percent of Americans said they “strongly favor” nuclear power, the highest Gallup has measured since it first asked the question in 1994.

So, You Want to Invest in Nukes

From the Wall Street Journal:
Investors who want to participate in a nuclear-power revival, take note: It's not for the faint of heart.
That's because the nuclear industry is subject to greater risks than other parts of the power sector. Nuclear plants are extremely costly and take years to build. Most new reactor designs are still awaiting certification by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and no utility in the U.S. has received the commission's permission to build and operate a new plant.
On top of that, the entire power sector is suffering because of depressed demand for electricity caused by the global recession and growing energy-conservation efforts. Low natural-gas prices also mean that nuclear plants look more expensive when compared with plants powered by fossil fuels.
Nevertheless, many investors believe nuclear power will make a comeback because reactors can produce huge amounts of electricity and could substitute for coal-powered plants, cutting pollution. Dozens of new plants are planned for South Korea, China, India, the U.K. and other nations. In the U.S., the Obama administration has proposed up to $54 billion in loan guarantees to jump-start new construction, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is processing applications for nearly two dozen proposed reactors.

Finland’s 100,000-Year Plan to Banish Its Nuclear Waste

From the New York Times:
On a wooded island more than a hundred miles northwest of Helsinki, in the town of Eurajoki, Finnish engineers are digging a tunnel. When it is done 10 years from now, it will corkscrew three miles in and 1,600 feet down into crystalline gneiss bedrock that has been the foundation of Finland for 1.8 billion years.
And there, in a darkness that is still being created, the used fuel rods from Finland’s nuclear reactors — full of radioactive elements from the periodic table as dreamed up by Lord Voldemort, spitting neutrons and gamma rays — are to be sealed away forever, or at least 100,000 years.
The place is called Onkalo (Finnish for “hidden”) and it is the subject of “Into Eternity,” a new documentary by Mr. Madsen.

Office of Consumer Advocate on Rate Increases

Tainted nuke plant water reaches major NJ aquifer

Radioactive water that leaked from the nation's oldest nuclear power plant has now reached a major underground aquifer that supplies drinking water to much of southern New Jersey, the state's environmental chief said Friday.
The state Department of Environmental Protection has ordered the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station to halt the spread of contaminated water underground, even as it said there was no imminent threat to drinking water supplies.

Critic: NRC inspectors are ‘too cozy’ with Entergy

From the Brattleboro Reformer:
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has failed the public, said a pair of anti-nuclear activists during a teleconference with the NRC's petition review board (PRB) Wednesday morning.
The review board heard arguments from Thomas Saporito, of, and Ray Shadis, of the New England Coalition on Nuclear Pollution, who have been contending that Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon should be shut down until a number of maintenance issues are resolved, including the remediation of tritium-contaminated groundwater.
Saporito said the NRC's resident inspectors at Vermont Yankee are "too cozy" with plant personnel and because of that, violations and unsafe conditions are not being detected in a timely manner.

Al Qaeda’s Nuclear Plant

From the New York Times:
But perhaps we ought to be concerned a bit less with Mr. Shahzad, a failed terrorist now in custody, and significantly more with Sharif Mobley — a New Jersey native, a former high school wrestler and, until shortly before he moved to Yemen to allegedly join Al Qaeda, a maintenance worker at five nuclear power plants along the East Coast.
Since his arrest by Yemeni security forces in March, American law enforcement officials have taken pains to emphasize that Mr. Mobley’s low security clearance makes it unlikely that he passed crucial details about American nuclear-plant security to Al Qaeda.

Feds Duck Nagging Problems with #1 Safety Rule at U.S. Nuclear Plants

The Union of Concerned Scientists,
Beyond Nuclear,
Public officials, watchdogs seek investigation after NRC ignores fire experts’ warnings about risks at operating plants; modeling failure impacts new reactors too
DURHAM, NC – Officials from five local governments near the Shearon Harris nuclear plant, and three watchdog groups, asked for a federal investigation into possible wrongdoing by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission involving the top safety issue at the nation’s reactors. They say the NRC is ignoring its own safety regulations – and criticisms by numerous fire science experts – while attempting to bring scores of nuclear plants into compliance after over two decades of regulatory failure.
Beyond Nuclear, NC WARN and The Union of Concerned Scientists today filed a legal motion with the NRC’s Office of Inspector General. They urged the OIG to issue an expedited “show cause” order directing NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko to explain why his agency has allowed pilot programs by Progress Energy and Duke Energy to use risk calculations that failed, under required testing, to predict the ignition and spread of electrical fires. The NRC is scheduled to grant license amendments to the Harris and Oconee nuclear plants very soon, which would bless them as finally achieving compliance.
The risk calculations, or fire “modeling,” are the scientific basis for a new regulatory plan intended to end years of controversy over the NRC's lack of enforcement. The watchdog groups today sent the OIG extensive evidence that two international fire science panels, an industry trade association, a national testing lab and the NRC itself have found serious limitations that essentially render the models unreliable for safety decision-making.
"It looks more like smoke and mirrors than real fire safety," said David Lochbaum, director of the nuclear safety project at the Union of Concerned Scientists, during a press teleconference today. He said the NRC seems so focused on scheduling that they’re willing to ignore key safety issues. "The NRC received very critical comments from independent fire scientists, but rather than fixing those serious problems, the agency essentially ignored them in order to approve the pilot projects and move ahead with new plants. The NRC is letting the U.S. public down."
Fire is ranked by the NRC as the leading safety factor – 50 percent of overall risk – for a U.S. reactor meltdown. Current regulations were developed in 1980 following a near-disaster caused by fire at the Browns Ferry plant in Alabama. But most plant owners have never met those regulations, so the NRC recently allowed them to attempt compliance with the fire modeling scheme.
The watchdogs say the NRC is ignoring the modeling problems apparently in order to provide the illusion that fire safety problems are resolved. The new “risk-informed” regulatory plan is optional for all existing plants and for new ones that might be built. Electric cables are of particular concern because they, themselves, are leading fire hazards, and because they are essential so operators can shut down and cool the reactor following an accident or sabotage. The groups also say the new risk-based fire strategy is fundamentally flawed because it explicitly ignores security threats.
“No one can accurately predict the level of fire risk derived from an attack on a nuclear power plant,” said Paul Gunter, Director of Reactor Oversight Project for the Takoma Park, Maryland based anti-nuclear group, Beyond Nuclear. “There is no reliable way to evaluate fire risks from sabotage because of the lack of data, the limited range of scenarios considered, and large uncertainties about human performance,” he said. “This is why we continue to call for stringent enforcement of physical fire protection features as included in the long-standing regulations.”
Gunter and NC WARN director Jim Warren met privately with NRC Chairman Jaczko in March. But the agency head dismissed the firmly worded concerns of the fire science experts. He also would not explain why NRC has directed the pilot plants to use fire models that have not been “verified and validated” as required by regulations. Nor would he explain why the agency intends to grant license amendments even though the NRC has begun a three-year retesting of fire models that failed in earlier laboratory experiments.
Mayor Randy Voller of Pittsboro, a Harris plant neighbor, explained why he wants the OIG investigation: “Local officials must speak out for public protection by looking forward – instead of reacting after disasters. The Gulf oil tragedy shows how catastrophe can strike even after assurances that industrial operations are perfectly safe – and it’s showing the intensity of consequences when such assurances prove wrong.”
The mayor, along with representatives from governing bodies in Chatham County, Orange County and the towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro, sent a letter requesting the OIG investigation. They also have asked U.S. Rep. David Price to urge NRC Chairman Jaczko to resolve the controversy before issuing any license amendments.
Price, whose district includes the Harris plant, was instrumental in gaining earlier investigations of the fire protection saga by the OIG and the U.S. Government Accountability Office. In 2008 both agencies confirmed the complaints by these same nuclear watchdogs, reporting extensive shortcomings with NRC enforcement stretching back two decades. The OIG and Congress have authority to seek prosecution if any individual causes the neglect of regulations designed to protect public safety. The watchdog groups also plan to ask an NRC science panel, the Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards, to directly investigate the fire modeling issue.
Progress Energy reports having spent over $10 million on upgrades and studies for the new regulatory program. The groups said the Raleigh-based power giant delayed compliance with the existing regulations year after year because that would have cost much more.
Jim Warren, director of NC WARN, pointed to President Obama’s recent admonishment that coal mine safety regulations “are riddled with loopholes.” Warren called on Obama to apply the same standard to the NRC: “The nuclear industry has been gaming the NRC for decades because of persistent pressure to cut costs. If the Obama NRC allows this travesty to continue, the U.S. could see more catastrophes that should have been prevented.”

Ohio nuclear plant's problem nozzles now total 24

From WKSU:
Akron-based FirstEnergy hopes it has identified the last of its nozzle troubles at its Davis Besse nuclear power plant. But WKSU's M.L. Schultze says it's still trying to figure out how those problems arose so soon.
The head of the reactor at FirstEnergy’s Davis Besse nuclear power plant has been operating for only about six years. Which is FirstEnergy was surprised in March when it discovered cracks in some of the nozzles that penetrate that the reactor head , and through which control rods are fed.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Consequences of spills can last for decades

From CNN:

As oil began approaching the coast of the United States, environmental scientists said the effects of the spill in the Gulf of Mexico could have ecological and biological consequences for years, if not decades.

The intricate ecosystem is a major source of seafood for the United States and hundreds of species of animals and plants are at risk, experts said.

Some areas in the path of the slick are particularly sensitive to problems because unlike the rocky coast of Alaska hit by oil from the Exxon Valdez disaster, much of the coastline that will be hit by the BP spill consists of marshy areas where the water is calmer and more difficult to clean.

The marshes are in extreme danger, said a biologist with the University of Houston who studies coastal wetlands.

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Radiation death in India raises nuclear safety concerns

From Reuters:

The radiation-related death of a scrap metal worker has raised concerns over nuclear safety in India, at a time when the Asian power is wooing foreign players to its $150 billion civilian nuclear market.

Authorities have launched a probe into the unauthorized disposal of a disused machine from the chemistry department of Delhi University, which contained the radioactive material cobalt-60 and ended up in a scrap metal hub in the capital.

A man died in hospital from exposure last week, in a case a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was quoted as saying was the most serious worldwide since 2006.

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New US study on nuclear plant health risks hailed

From BusinessWeek:

Pennsylvania officials and activists say they are glad the federal government is taking another look at whether people who live near nuclear plants have a higher risk of getting cancer.

The federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced last month that it was asking the National Academy of Sciences to do a "state-of-the-art study" on cancer risk for populations surrounding nuclear power facilities.

The academy is being asked to update a 1990 study released by the National Cancer Institute that found no increased risk of cancer deaths in counties surrounding 62 nuclear facilities, "including all of the nuclear power reactors operational before 1982," the commission said.

NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan said the question of possible health effects comes up frequently from the public.

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Coalition questions NRC oversight of VY

From the Brattleboro Reformer:

The New England Coalition on Nuclear Pollution will have a chance to argue its case that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's oversight of management and maintenance at Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant is lacking.

On May 5, the NRC's petition review board will hear arguments from the NEC in support of its contention.

NEC filed the petition requesting the NRC undertake enforcement actions in response to Entergy's "failure" to understand Yankee's design basis and "the obvious inadequacy of Entergy VY's underground piping aging management plan ..."

NEC requested that the NRC conduct a diagnostic evaluation to assess both NRC and VY performance since Entergy assumed management of "the besieged and troubled facility."

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TMI -- 10 years after the lawsuits

From the York Daily Record:

Ten years ago a judge ruled there was insufficient evidence to link radiation from the Three Mile Island accident to health problems in test cases of about 2,000 plaintiffs.

Yet some people who co-exist with the operating nuclear plant continue to question whether the partial meltdown on March 28, 1979, released radiation into the environment that has affected their health.

They live in the historical shadow of a plant that suffered a partial meltdown, the worst nuclear accident in United States history.

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Study on nuke plants, cancer planned

Two decades after it last did so, the federal government is taking a new look at whether people who live near nuclear plants have a higher risk of getting cancer.

A 1990 study released by the National Cancer Institute found no increased risk of cancer deaths in counties surrounding 62 nuclear facilities, including Three Mile Island and Peach Bottom.

But the new $5 million three-year study, to be conducted by the private National Academy of Sciences beginning this summer, will be able to take advantage of advanced modeling methods and more detailed records on cancers and take into account a longer cancer latency period.

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New cancer study of areas around U.S. nuclear facilities brings relief in TMI area

From the Patriot News:

Brenda Galinac and her infant son fled to Pittsburgh a day after the 1979 accident at Three Mile Island. Her husband, John, a police officer, went to work, including duty at TMI during President Jimmy Carter’s visit.

The family, who lived a few miles from TMI, was interviewed by health researchers a few months after the accident, and everyone felt fine. But 20 years later, her son was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease. Two years after that, her husband developed thyroid cancer. Galinac contacted the researchers, but was told the study was closed.

That’s why she’s excited to learn of a new study that will look at cancer cases surrounding all U.S. nuclear facilities, including TMI in Londonderry Twp.

Galinac, who lives in Wellsboro, said people such as her husband and son, who recovered, must be counted in order to fully understand the health risks of living near nuclear power plants. "I’ve always felt the previous study closed too soon, and maybe the long-term effects of what happened weren’t documented. I don’t think anyone at the time knew how long it might take for the consequences of the accident to develop," said Galinac, 53.

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Next door to nukes

From the York Daily Record:

Citing the 20 years since the last comprehensive national study of its kind and information technology advances since then, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is requesting a new study on potential health effects posed by nuclear power plants.

The request was made to the National Academy of Sciences, which will oversee the study.

Findings from a previous study from the National Cancer Institute were published in 1991 and did not find a connection between living next to a plant and cancer-related deaths.

The question of possible health effects comes up frequently from the public, said Neil Sheehan, spokesman for the NRC.

"It's an appropriate time now," he said. "It's been two decades since this kind of national study."

Also, the previous study looked only at data on the county level to look for possible problems, Sheehan said, which might not have been refined enough.

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U.S. DOE says $13 bln needed in nuclear loan help

From Reuters:

U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu said on Wednesday that the Energy Department would need an additional $13 billion in authority from Congress to provide loan guarantees for building three new nuclear plants.

The department in February awarded $8.3 billion in loan guarantees to help build the first U.S. nuclear power plant in nearly three decades.

Chu told a Senate subcommittee that the $12 billion the department had left in loan guarantee authority would be enough to cover one more nuclear plant project that is seeking government help.

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Peach Bottom: NRC Evaluation of Changes, Tests and Experiments and Permanent Modifications

Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station, Units 2 and 3: NRC Evaluation of Changes, Tests and Experiments and Permanent Modifications Team Inspection Report 05000277/2010006 and 05000278/2010006 ADAMS ACCESSION NO. ML101180465 Download PDF

U.S. DOE pulls doc flagged by TMI-A

From the Press and Journal:
Nearly 20 years before 9/11, federal researchers studied the effects of an airplane crashing into a nuclear reactor. Their 1982 report is considered “sensitive’’ and kept from the public. But a member of Three Mile Island-Alert, a grassroots watchdog of TMI and nuclear power, discovered the report on two federal websites recently. A microfiche version of the report was offered for sale for $40. Scott Portz-line, a security consultant for TMI-Alert, notified the Department of Energy and the Department of Homeland Security about the report. The DOE removed it from its website.
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Group will re-visit study on cancer risk for people living near TMI, other nuclear facilities

From the Patriot News:

The National Academy of Sciences, acknowledging that a study 20 years ago was flawed, is organizing an analysis of cancer risk for people living near the nation’s nuclear facilities, including Three Mile Island, site of the nation’s worst nuclear accident in March 1979.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission formally requested the study Monday at a meeting of the academy’s Nuclear and Radiation Studies Board.

The study done in 1990 considered only children who died of cancer near nuclear plants. The intent of the new study is to track those around nuclear plants who contracted the disease but didn’t die. The old study also looked at countywide populations; this next study is to target residents of communities near nuclear plants, such as Royalton and Middletown near TMI.

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