Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Nuclear units can operate beyond 60 years, with R&D: DOE official

From Platts:

No reason has yet been discovered why light-water power reactors could not operate beyond 60 years, but coordinated, near-term research efforts should address the issues, industry and government officials said Tuesday. Co-sponsored by the US Department of Energy, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Nuclear Energy Institute, the three-day workshop in Washington examined "life beyond 60" issues for power reactors. The event followed on a DOE-NRC workshop held in February 2008. NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko told the workshop that "it's very important that we guard against any potential sense of complacency about aging management and license renewal." Some 61 of the 104 operating US power reactors have had their initial 40-year licenses renewed by NRC for an additional 20 years. Jaczko said "the industry has done good work in developing effective aging management programs to meet NRC safety requirements. This is a track record that the industry can be proud of. But it's also important to recognize that we have very limited experience in seeing how aging management programs actually work after the initial 40-year period of operation." Jaczko also said that "if the industry's research demonstrates that licensees can safely conduct extended operation beyond 60 years, the NRC has every reason to believe that the licensing reviews will proceed efficiently and effectively."

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Value of Subsidies Oten Exceed Market Price of Nuclear Energy Produced

NEWS MEDIA ADVISORY FOR FEBRUARY 23, 2011 CONTACT: Elliott Negin, Union of Concerned Scientists, 202-331-5439 NATIONAL SCIENCE GROUP TO RELEASE REPORT CATALOGUING DECADES OF TAXPAYER SUBSIDIES TO NUCLEAR POWER AS THE INDUSTRY DEMANDS BILLIONS MORE REPORT FINDS THE VALUE OF SUBSIDIES OFTEN EXCEED MARKET PRICE OF NUCLEAR ENERGY PRODUCED The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) will hold a telephone press conference to release a new report detailing the full range of subsidies that have benefitted the commercial nuclear power industry in the United States over the last 50 years. The report found that subsidies for the entire nuclear fuel cycle -- from uranium mining to long-term waste storage -- have often exceeded the average market price of the power produced. In other words, if the government had purchased power on the open market and given it away for free, it would have been less costly than subsidizing nuclear power plant construction and operation. Pending and proposed subsidies for new nuclear reactors would shift even more costs and risks from the industry to taxpayers and ratepayers. The president’s new budget proposal would provide an additional $36 billion in taxpayer-backed federal loan guarantees to underwrite the construction of new reactors. That would nearly triple the amount of loan guarantees already available to the industry. WHO Ellen Vancko, UCS Nuclear Energy & Climate Change Project manager, Washington, D.C. Doug Koplow, founder, Earth Track, Inc., Cambridge, Mass. (report author) WHEN Wednesday, February 23, 2011, 1 p.m. EST WHERE The comfort of your own office. Call: 866-793-1307; Conference ID: UCS nuclear subsidies teleconference ### The Union of Concerned Scientists is the leading U.S. science-based nonprofit organization working for a healthy environment and a safer world. Founded in 1969, UCS is headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and also has offices in Berkeley, Chicago and Washington, D.C. For more information, go to

New AP1000 Nuclear Reactor Design Sparks Ire

From In These Times:

In their rush to approve a newly designed nuclear reactor slated for proposed power plants throughout the southeastern United States, federal regulators are ignoring safety issues raised by a pattern of containment failures in reactors. That’s the urgent message at the center of two recent reports examining the design of the Westinghouse AP1000 reactor, which the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is in the process of certifying.

Both reports were written by Arnold Gundersen, a former senior nuclear industry official and chief engineer of Fairewinds Associates, Inc., an independent research firm. The initial report was released in April 2010, and the follow-up report released in late December. They were commissioned by the AP1000 Oversight Group, a coalition of environmental organizations centered in the Southeast, where construction of 14 new nuclear power plants has been proposed. Because of the safety issues documented by Gundersen, the coalition is contesting certification of the AP1000.

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TMI: Operator Examinations


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Coal's hidden costs top $345 billion in U.S. study

From Reuters:

The United States' reliance on coal to generate almost half of its electricity, costs the economy about $345 billion a year in hidden expenses not borne by miners or utilities, including health problems in mining communities and pollution around power plants, a study found. Those costs would effectively triple the price of electricity produced by coal-fired plants, which are prevalent in part due to the their low cost of operation, the study led by a Harvard University researcher found. "This is not borne by the coal industry, this is borne by us, in our taxes," said Paul Epstein, a Harvard Medical School instructor and the associate director of its Center for Health and the Global Environment, the study's lead author. "The public cost is far greater than the cost of the coal itself. The impacts of this industry go way beyond just lighting our lights."

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3 States Challenge Federal Policy on Storing Nuclear Waste

From the New York Times:

The attorneys general of New York, Connecticut and Vermont sued the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Tuesday, challenging a new commission policy stating that nuclear waste can be safely stored at a nuclear power plant for 60 years after a reactor goes out of service. The three states argued that the policy, adopted in December, violated two federal laws requiring that a full environmental review be carried out at each nuclear site before permission for long-term storage could be granted. “Our communities deserve a thorough review of the environmental, public health and safety risks such a move would present,” New York’s attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, said in a statement.

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

TMI: Changes to Number of Operable Steam Safety Valves

Three Mile Island Nuclear Station, Unit 1 - Request for Additional Information Regarding License amendment Request Proposing changes to the Number of Required Operable Main Steam Safety Valves

Download ML110350379 (PDF)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Sandia Labs Helps Secure Nuclear Fuel in Kazakhstan

From International Business Times:

One of the ongoing problems with unclear non-proliferation efforts is what to do with nuclear material in the former Soviet Union. A group from Sandia National Laboratories recently completed a project in Kazakhstan, and took another step towards securing it.

A large cache of enriched nuclear fuel - some 13 metric tons -- was stored in a nuclear reactor in the port city of Aktau, on the Caspian seacoast. The reactor was a Soviet-era fast breeder reactor, designed to make nuclear fuel for both weapons and power plants. The reactor, which started operations in 1973, also provided 135 megawatts of electricity, 9 million gallons of water per day and steam for hot water and heating for Aktau. It was shut down by the Kazakh government in 1999.

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Nuclear-Power Firms Push Back Against Fees

From the Wall Street Journal:

Buried in the details of President Barack Obama's budget release Monday will be more than $770 million that nuclear-power companies pay each year for a waste-storage site that's years behind schedule.

But this might be the last year the White House can count on that income.

Nuclear-power companies are pressing to suspend the hefty fees they pay into the national nuclear-waste fund. Created by Congress in 1982, this fund was designed to finance the government's storage of radioactive waste. And, until recently, it was to pay for a new waste dump at Yucca Mountain, Nev.

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David Vitter to the rescue!

From Green Mountain Daily:

Sens. James Inhofe, R-Okla., and David Vitter, R-La., say applications for the Pilgrim nuclear station in Plymouth, Mass., and the Vermont Yankee plant in Vernon, whose owner, Entergy Corp., applied for 20-year license extensions for the two on the same day, Jan. 27, 2006, are taking too long.


Vitter, who represents Louisiana, Entergy's home state, has received $20,000 in campaign contributions from the company since the 2002 election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan Washington-based group that tracks money in politics.

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SRBC Commission Meeting to Take Place March 10, 2011

The Susquehanna River Basin Commission quarterly meeting will take place at Juniata College, Huntingdon, Pa.,Neff Lecture Hall – William J. von Liebig Center for Science. Read More

Cancer Risk Assessment Meeting: Agenda

The open session for the first meeting of the Cancer Risk Assessment will be held February 24th, from 1:00pm to 5:30pm. This session will also be webcast, and a link will be made available at the day of the meeting. Please direct any inquiries to the project email at

New firm tackles troubled Knolls atomic cleanup job

From the Times Union:

The private company behind the troubled radioactive cleanup at Knolls Atomic Power Labs has hired another firm to take over the stalled project, the Department of Energy said. In addition, the cost of the project, originally set at $75 million, is now expected to top out at $145 million because of a slower, more conservative approach designed to avoid further escapes of radioactivity, the department admitted Tuesday. There were three incidents last fall.

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Peach Bottom: Proposed Elimination of Containment Accident Pressure Credit

Peach Bottom: Forthcoming Meeting with Exelon Nuclear Regarding Proposed Elimination of Containment Accident Pressure Credit for Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station, Units 2 and 3

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Monday, February 7, 2011

Vermont To Create Oversight Committee For Entergy Nuclear Plant

From the Wall Street Journal:

Concerns over the 650-megawatt Vermont Yankee plant and its operator have heightened over the past year after groundwater tests showed increased levels of tritium, which regulators say can increase the risk of cancer. Entergy has been accused of misleading the public by stating in prior years that no radioactive material was transported through underground pipes, where leaks were eventually found. Last November, Entergy said it was considering selling the plant located near the state's southern border amid state resistance--led by Shumlin, who at the time was president of the Vermont Senate--to extending the aging reactor's operations for 20 years. The operating license expires in 2012. The announcement came days before the company reported another leak caused by a crack in a pipe that was part of a system feeding water into the reactor, causing the power plant to go offline for a few days. "I am deeply concerned with Vermont Yankee's lack of transparency about serious problems that continue to be discovered around the plant," Shumlin said in a statement. He expressed concern over a weeks-long delay in testing samples, which showed new tritium hits. Vermont Yankee spokesman Larry Smith said the plant is "working quickly to determine the source of the newly detected tritium," but noted the cases pose no threat to public health or safety. No traces have been found in drinking water, and the cause is being investigated.

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Radiating Posters available

Radiating Posters: A collection of posters from the global anti-nuclear power movement is available for pre-order.

RELEASE: Gov. Peter Shumlin calls for Vermont Yankee Reliability Oversight Committee, citing tritium leaks

MONTPELIER – Gov. Peter Shumlin, citing the on-going discovery of tritium leaks at the plant, instructed the Vermont Department of Public Service to appoint a Vermont Yankee Reliability Oversight Committee. “I've asked the Department of Public Service to organize a Reliability Oversight Committee to provide, in these coming critical months, additional expertise on oversight of Vermont Yankee issues within the state's jurisdiction,” Gov. Shumlin said. “I am deeply concerned with Vermont Yankee’s lack of transparency about serious problems that continue to be discovered around the plant.” Shumlin continued, “I learned two weeks ago about another well with a tritium hit, and this one is not near the plume we already knew about, but 150 feet away. Then, last Friday, I was told that yet another well had a tritium hit. Vermont Yankee had the samples pulled that showed the new tritium hits, but didn't test those samples for a few weeks because a piece of equipment was broken.” Gov. Shumlin noted that no investigation occurred during those weeks, while tritium levels rose. Plant officials participated in hearings at the Public Service Board about the leaks the Shumlin administration learned about in January of last year, while the samples showing new tritium hits were sitting untested, unknown to anyone at the state, the Governor said. In addition, the Governor has asked Yankee officials to disclose an investigation plan to ensure they are taking adequate steps to deal with the escalating situation. In a related announcement, the Governor has appointed Montpelier attorney Richard Saudek and Vermont Law School professor Peter Bradford to the Texas Low-Level Radioactive Waste Compact Commission. Saudek, who is a partner in the law firm of Cheney, Brock & Saudek, P.C., has advised legislative committees on issues involving Vermont Yankee and its owner, Entergy Corp. Saudek has also served as Chair of the Vermont Department of Public Service, and as Vermont’s first Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Public Service. Bradford is an adjunct professor at Vermont Law School, where he teaches ‘Nuclear Power and Public Policy.’ He also teaches utility regulation, restructuring, nuclear power and energy policy. Bradford served on the Public Oversight Panel for the Comprehensive Vertical Assessment of Vermont Yankee, and has served as an expert witness on investment in new nuclear power.

Officials say tritium likely from “buried” pipe carrying radioactive waste


Low levels of the radioactive isotope tritium have been found in two monitoring wells on the Vermont Yankee compound over the last two weeks.

Though the source of the contaminated water has not yet been identified, officials say it could be coming from a new leak, possibly from pipes buried in soil near the radioactive waste treatment building, where radioactive fluids are treated and stored. As part of the new probe, an Entergy hydrogeologist will be sharing data with experts from New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Feb. 10.

The two monitoring wells that have tested positive for very low concentrations of tritium (between 1,000 and 9,000 picocuries per liter, well below the EPA standard of 20,000 pc/L) are located 200 feet and 100 feet, respectively, from tritium contamination that was discovered at the nuclear power plant a little more than a year ago.

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Cancelled Meeting Notice: Exelon

Cancelled Meeting Notice: Forthcoming Meeting with Exelon Nuclear Regarding License Amendment Request to Store Low Level Radioactive Waste Generated Off-site at Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station (TAC Nos. ME 3092 and ME3093) ADAMS Accession No.: ML110310173 (Downlaod PDF)

Upton Signals Congressional Focus on NRC, Licensing Progress

From Nuclear Townhall:

The first indication that the 112th Congress will give a high priority to nuclear energy has come from the new Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, who knocked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in a statement for taking five years to decide on license renewals.

"Today marks an unfortunate milestone for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission as the timeline for the reactor renewal process has now doubled without explanation,” said the chairman. He noted that the renewal applications for the Pilgrim and Vermont Yankee reactors “eclips[ed] 60 months with no end in sight. “Gone are the days of reasonable expectations for a stable and predictable regulatory process," continued Upton. "This uncertainty and lack of transparency in the process is needlessly putting plants and thousands of jobs at risk.”

According to the NRC’s own website, “License renewal is expected to take about 30 months, including the time to conduct an adjudicatory hearing, if necessary, or 22 months without a hearing.”

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Consultants say VY decomm study flawed

From the Rutland Herald:

Vermont needs to launch a new study on the decommissioning of the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant because the most recent one is flawed, outdated and has a conflict of interest at its core, nuclear consultants for the Legislature told a House committee Wednesday. The most recent study on the complicated process of decommissioning the Vernon power plant was written by a company that is owned by Entergy, which also owns Vermont Yankee, the consultants, Arnie and Maggie Gunderson, told the House Committee on Natural Resources and Energy. “When the company that owns the reactor is also telling you how much it’s going to cost to dismantle it, there’s at least the appearance of a conflict of interest,” said Arnie Gunderson. “I would suggest more than that: There is a conflict of interest.” The Gundersons, who own the nuclear consulting company Fairewinds Associates, said widely diverging estimates of the cost of decommissioning are the major reason that an independent contractor should perform a new study. Those decommissioning estimates were based on studies performed by the Entergy-owned TLG Services Inc. and ranged from a low of $500 million to a high of nearly $1 billion. Despite the Gundersons’ calls for a new study, Rep. Tony Klein, an East Montpelier Democrat who heads the House Committee on Natural Resources and Energy, said he doesn’t think there will be one. Klein said he and other legislators already believe there is a huge gap between the $465 million in the decommissioning fund and the actual cost of dismantling the plant. “And a new study is not going to tell us anything different than that,” Klein said. In addition, it would be hard to find the money to pay for the study, Klein said, though he didn’t know how much a new analysis would cost. The state can’t afford it, Klein said, and Entergy — which funded past decommissioning studies — no longer has an incentive to pay. “The only leverage we were holding over Entergy was they were hoping against hope they would be able to talk us into letting them operate,” Klein said.

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