Thursday, March 31, 2011

Update on Fukushima

Update on Fukushima: Discussion of High Level Radiation Releases and the Previous "Worse Case Senario" Planned for by The Indust from Fairewinds Associates on Vimeo.

Lochbaum Senate Testimony on Japan Crisis: March 29

Dave Lochbaum, Director of UCS’s Nuclear Safety Project, is testifying this morning to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. His testimony on the Japanese nuclear crisis and lessons for the U.S. is available here.

If the past three decades have demonstrated anything, it’s that the NRC will likely come up with a solid action plan to address problems revealed at Fukushima, but will be glacially slow in implementing those identified safety upgrades. A comprehensive action plan does little to protect Americans until its goals are achieved. We urge the US Congress to force the NRC to not merely chart a course to a safer place, but actually reach that destination as soon as possible.

Sievert, Gray, Rem, and Rad

From Slate:

Japan's unfolding nuclear disaster has introduced Americans to the confusing practice of measuring radiation exposure. According to some stories, the water nearby to the No. 2 Fukushima reactor has a radioactivity level of 1,000 millisieverts per hour. But other articles describe radiation levels in terms of millirem per year. And a few sources have referred to exposure in terms of millirad or nanogray per hour. Why don't all radiation experts just use the same unit? Because some people are afraid to switch to the metric system. As with distance, weight, and temperature, doses of radiation can be expressed in either SI units (sieverts) or U.S. customary units (rem). U.S. scientists and engineers in most fields had switched to metric units by 1964, when the National Bureau of Standards (now the National Institute of Standards and Technology) officially adopted the international system. But nuclear physicists never made the full switcheroo. That's because a wholesale change in measurement could lead to mistakes, at least during the transition—and even a small mistake can be very dangerous when it comes to radiation exposure. (There is an historical argument for being cautious: In 1999, NASA lost contact with the Mars Climate Orbiter because of a mix-up between metric and customary units [PDF].) On the basis of this concern, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission still requires plants to report radiation releases in rem, while the rest of the world uses sieverts. For the record, one rem is equivalent to one-hundredth of a sievert.

Read more

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Governor Corbett says Public Water Supply Testing Finds No Risk to Public from Radioactivity Found in Rainwater

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA Dept. of Environmental Protection Commonwealth News Bureau Room 308, Main Capitol Building Harrisburg PA., 17120

Kevin Harley, Governor's Office
Governor Corbett says Public Water Supply Testing Finds No Risk to Public from Radioactivity Found in Rainwater
Experts monitoring water and air supplies after Japanese nuclear event

HARRISBURG -- Governor Tom Corbett today said weekend testing of public drinking water found no elevated levels of radioactivity.

On Friday, concentrations of Iodine-131, likely originating from the events at Japan’s damaged nuclear plants, were found in rainwater samples collected from Pennsylvania’s nuclear power plant facilities.

The numbers reported in the rainwater samples in Pennsylvania range from 40-100 picocuries per liter (pCi/L). Although these are levels above the background levels historically reported in these areas, they are still about 25 times below the level that would be of concern. The federal drinking water standard for Iodine-131 is three pCi/L.

As a result of the findings, Corbett immediately ordered the Department of Environmental Protection’s Bureau of Water Quality, Radiation Protection and Laboratories to test the drinking water from six regions in the state.

Samples were taken from facilities in Norristown, East Stroudsburg, Harrisburg, Williamsport, Greenville and Pittsburgh. After repeated testing throughout the weekend, results showed normal levels of radioactivity and no Iodine-131 above the federal limit. In fact, no Iodine-131 was detected in the drinking water samples.

“We have been proactive and conducted immediate drinking water tests to provide hard facts, assuring the public that the water they drink is safe,’’ Corbett said.

On Friday, rainwater samples were taken in Harrisburg, where levels were 41 pCi/L and at nuclear power plants at TMI and Limerick, where levels were 90 to 100 pCi/L.

Corbett emphasized that the drinking water is safe and there is no cause for health concerns. State officials will continue to carefully monitor the situation, Corbett said, and will keep the public informed.

“Rainwater is not typically directly consumed,’’ Corbett said. “However, people might get alarmed by making what would be an inappropriate connection from rainwater to drinking water. By testing the drinking water, we can assure people that the water is safe.’’

Rainwater is diluted by water in reservoirs and rivers or filters through the ground - and it is treated before reaching consumers as drinking water - it would not be expected to be a concern in public water systems.

While the radioactive element is believed to have originated from Japan’s damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, it is not considered to be a health risk in Pennsylvania or anywhere else in the country. Similar testing in other states, including California, Massachusetts and Washington, has shown comparable levels of Iodine-131 in rainwater samples.

“We do not expect the levels to increase and, in fact, the levels we see now should go down rather quickly over the next three months,’’ Corbett said. “DEP has an extensive network of radiation monitoring points at the nuclear plants and elsewhere, and we will continue to monitor water supplies to ensure there is no risk of contamination to the public,’’ Corbett added.

Any Iodine-131 concentrations detected in rainwater samples are significantly higher than might be detected in a surface body of water, such as a lake or a pond.

Air quality is also being examined and test results are expected later this week. As soon as results are available, Corbett said, they will be made public.

DEP will continue to work with Pennsylvania’s public water suppliers to enhance their monitoring and treatment operations as necessary. Residents whose drinking water originates from groundwater, and obtained from wells or springs, should not be affected.

DEP’s Bureau of Radiation Protection is in regular contact with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Environmental Protection Agency, while the Department of Health is in contact with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other states tracking Japan-related issues.

Pennsylvania residents should not take potassium iodide (KI) pills, Corbett advised. The pills are to be taken only during a specific emergency and only at the recommendation of public health officials or the governor.

“Taking KI now is unnecessary under the circumstances and could cause harmful side effects,” said Corbett. “Although usually harmless, it can present a danger to people with allergies to iodine or shellfish, or those who have thyroid problems.”

Additionally, the elevated levels of radioactivity found in the rainwater on Friday were still well below levels that could pose any harm to pets or livestock.

“Ironically, today marks the 32nd anniversary of the accident at Three Mile Island nuclear power plant,’

TMI: Proposed Main Steam Safety Valve License Ammendment Request


Sunday, March 27, 2011

Radiation inside Japan nuclear plant sharply rises

From the Mainichi Daily News:

Japanese officials reported a huge jump in radioactivity -- levels 10 million times the norm -- in water in one reactor unit at a tsunami-damaged nuclear plant Sunday, forcing workers to evacuate and again delaying efforts to control the leaking complex.

The air, meanwhile, measured 1,000 millisieverts per hour -- four times the limit of 250 millisieverts deemed safe by the government, Tokyo Electric Power Co. spokesman Takashi Kurita told reporters.


Just outside a reactor at the coastal Fukushima nuclear plant, radioactivity in seawater tested about 1,250 times higher than normal, officials. Nishiyama has said the area is not a source of seafood and that the contamination posed no immediate threat to human health.

Read more

Status Reports on the Reactors at Japan’s Fukushima Nuclear Plant: Table

From Bloomberg:

The following is the status of each of six nuclear reactors at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s crippled Fukushima Dai-Ichi power plant as of 9 a.m., Japan time.

The company pumped fresh water into No. 1, No. 2, and No. 3 reactors, Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said. The external power supply has been restored for all six reactors as of March 22, according to Tokyo Electric Power.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said a “certain level of progress” has been made while speaking on an NHK television program today.

No. 1: Contaminated water in the turbine structure contains 10,000 times the radiation of regular cooling water, NHK said. The company has started removing contaminated water from the basement of the turbine building and will prepare more pumps to drain the water, the agency said. The unit has been damaged since a March 12 hydrogen explosion destroyed the building’s walls. The seriousness of the reactor’s threat to safety is rated level five on an international scale of 1-7.

No. 2: Contaminated water in the turbine structure contains 10 million times more radiation than normal cooling water, NHK said. The company plans to remove contaminated water as early as today, the agency said. The company plans to start using freshwater on fuel pool from March 28, the agency said. The containment chamber may have been damaged in a March 15 explosion, and a power cable was reconnected to the unit on March 19. The reactor is rated a level-five threat.

No. 3: Contaminated water in the turbine structure contains 10,000 times the normal radiation, NHK said. The company is considering ways to remove the contaminated water, the agency said. A March 14 explosion damaged the unit’s fuel cover. The reactor is rated a level-five threat.

No. 4: The company plans to spray water in the spent-fuel cooling pool this afternoon, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said. The agency said on March 17 there may be no water in the pool. It’s rated at three on the threat level. This reactor was undergoing maintenance when the earthquake hit.

No. 5: The unit was idle for maintenance before the earthquake.

No. 6: The reactor achieved cold shutdown at 7:27 p.m. on March 20 when the temperature fell below 100 degrees Celsius, the company said. A backup generator was fixed March 19, according to a company press release. The unit was idle for maintenance before the earthquake.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

US Nuclear Plants need more safety measure - Dr. Ed Lyman Sr Physicist Union Concerned Scientists

Radioactive Iodine Releases From Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi Reactors May Exceed Those Of Three Mile Island By Over 100,000 Times

Institute Calls for More Intensive Contingency Planning by Japanese Authorities; U.S. Should Move as Much Spent Fuel as Possible to Dry Storage to Reduce Most Severe Risks and Suspend Licensing and Relicensing during Review

Takoma Park, Maryland – The damaged Fukushima Daiichi reactors in Japan continue to release radioactivity into the atmosphere. So far, the accident has released far more radioactivity than the 1979 Three Mile Island (TMI) accident. While Chernobyl had one source of radioactivity, its reactor, there are seven leaking radiation sources at the Japanese site. Together, the three damaged reactors and four spent fuel pools at Fukushima Daiichi contain far more long-lived radioactivity, notably cesium-137, than the Chernobyl reactor.

Download PDF to read more

TMI: Changes to Number of Operable Steam Safety Valves


Download ML110620167

Friday, March 25, 2011

Markey: U.S. States Must Be Prepared with “Emergency Pill” In the Case of A Nuclear Meltdown

Urges Governors to Distribute Potassium Iodide to Residents Near Nuclear Power Plants, and Requests Implementation of 2002 Markey Law to Protect More People

WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 25, 2011) – With today’s announcement that the evacuation zone around the site of the Fukushima meltdown would be expanded to 19 miles, and news of a possible dangerous breach of containment at one reactor, today Congressman Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) wrote ten state governors urging them to join 22 other states who have already taken advantage of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC’s) policy of providing a free supply of potassium iodide to states that request it for residents that live within ten miles of an operating nuclear power plant. Potassium iodide, also called KI, has been found to protect individuals, especially young children, from the cancer-causing releases of radioactive iodine contained in the fallout that would be discharged in the event if a nuclear disaster occurred in the U.S. Thyroid cancer was the biggest negative health impact caused by the Chernobyl nuclear reactor disaster. More than 6,000 Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian residents who were children at the time of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor disaster developed thyroid cancer. The Japanese and American governments have already distributed KI to those living near Fukushima or participating in the emergency response. Congressman Markey also sent a letter to the National Governors Association requesting its assistance in urging the Obama Administration to implement the 2002 Markey law requiring the distribution of KI to a larger 20-mile radius around operating nuclear power plants. “I urge the Governors and the Obama Administration to take all necessary steps to protect residents living near nuclear power plants,” said Rep. Markey. “It does not make sense to wait for a catastrophic accident at or a terrorist attack on a nuclear reactor in this country to occur to implement this common-sense emergency preparedness measure.” Markey-authored Section 127 of the 2002 Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act directed the President to establish a program to make potassium iodide available free to state and local governments for distribution to residents living within 20 miles of a nuclear power plant. Previously, distribution was limited to just those living within 10 miles, and todate, ten states have not yet requested this free medication from the NRC. The Bush administration improperly waived the law requiring distribution of the pharmaceutical safeguard to occur within 20 miles, and the Obama Administration has not yet reversed that action. Copies of the letters to the ten Governors urging them to request potassium iodide for residents living within 10 miles of a nuclear power plant can be found HERE.

A copy of the letter to the National Governor’s Association requesting that they urge the Obama Administration to allow residents living within 20 miles of a nuclear power plant to receive potassium iodide can be found HERE.

Since the Japanese earthquake, tsunami and power outage that caused the nuclear meltdown in Japan, Rep. Markey has also written to Presidential Science Advisor John Holdren asking him to fully implement his 2002 law. Additionally, Rep. Markey wrote to the Department of Health and Human Services urging them to call on the Obama administration to reverse the Bush Administration’s decision to remove HHS’s authority to implement it. Rep. Markey, the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee and a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has served on the Committees that have oversight over the NRC and the nuclear utility industry since 1976. For more than three decades, Rep. Markey has worked to secure nuclear power plants and ensure the public safety in the event of a nuclear disaster. In 1979, before the Three Mile Island accident occurred, Rep. Markey introduced legislation providing for a three year moratorium on licensing of new nuclear power plants until a top to bottom safety analysis on nuclear reactors could be performed. In the early and mid-1980s, Rep. Markey chaired hearings on the lessons of the Three Mile Island accident, including a March 1982 hearing on the need to make KI available to those living around U.S. nuclear power plants. In 1986, he chaired hearings on the causes and consequences of the disaster at Chernobyl. Following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Rep. Markey passed a law to strengthen security for nuclear reactors and materials, and a law providing for distribution of potassium iodide to those living within 20 miles of a nuclear reactor. And before the catastrophe in Japan, Rep. Markey raised concerns of the seismic resiliency of our reactors.

Japan’s Fukushima Nuclear Plant

On March 16, Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO), the owner of the plant, released this photo of the damaged No. 3 (left), left, and No. 4 reactors. The No. 3 reactor suffered damage on March 14, when overheated fuel caused an explosion. No. 4 was not in operation when the quake hit, but an explosion on March 15 damaged the building that houses it.

CANCELED: Ensuring Safety at Three Mile Island

Saturday, March 26, 3pm

Whitaker Center is pleased to present the nuclear safety program, Ensuring Safety at Three Mile Island at 3pm in Stage Two, Whitaker Center’s Lower Level.

Ralph DeSantis, Communications Manager, Three Mile Island Generating Station, Exelon Nuclear, will discuss the basic operation of Three Mile Island Unit 1 and discuss the numerous safety systems in place. He will explain what Exelon Nuclear, the operator of Three Mile Island, has done over the past several years to further improve the safety and reliability of the plant.

The 30-minute presentation is suitable for all ages and will include an opportunity for the audience to ask questions.Admission is free.

Presenter Background Mr. DeSantis has more than 25 years of communication experience in the nuclear power industry. In his current role, he is responsible for all external and internal communications at Three Mile Island. Mr. DeSantis holds a Masters of Public Administration degree from Penn State and a Bachelor of Science degree in Secondary Education from Clarion State University.

TMI owners to talk about plant safety

From the York Dispatch:

Seizing a timely moment to talk about nuclear energy, Harrisburg's Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts is hosting a presentation Saturday on nuclear safety.

The 30-minute talk features Ralph DeSantis, communications manager for Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station in Middletown.

DeSantis works for Exelon Nuclear, which operates the plant.

Whitaker Center staff decided to host the event because the tragedy in Japan has sparked national discussion about nuclear safety, said Steve Bishop, vice president of science and Imax programs at Whitaker Center.

Read more

Thursday, March 24, 2011

New Problems at Japanese Plant Subdue Optimism

From the New York Times:

The Japanese electricians who bravely strung wires this week to all six reactor buildings at a stricken nuclear power plant succeeded despite waves of heat and blasts of radioactive steam.

The restoration of electricity at the plant, the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, stirred hopes that the crisis was ebbing. But nuclear engineers say some of the most difficult and dangerous tasks are still ahead — and time is not necessarily on the side of the repair teams.

The tasks include manually draining hundreds of gallons of radioactive water and venting radioactive gas from the pumps and piping of the emergency cooling systems, which are located diagonally underneath the overheated reactor vessels. The urgency of halting the spread of radioactive contamination from the site was underlined on Wednesday by the health warning that infants should not drink tap water — even in Tokyo, 140 miles southwest of the stricken plant — which raised alarms about extensive contamination.

"We've got at least 10 days to two weeks of potential drama before you can declare the accident over," said Michael Friedlander, who worked as a nuclear plant operator for 13 years.

Read more

News on Fukushima Daiichi

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Epstein to appear on WITF Smart Talk Panel discussion, "How Japan Changes the Game for PA Energy" (March 24 at 8 pm)

Earlier this week, a top Nuclear Regulatory Commission official said Japan's nuclear crisis does not warrant immediate change in U.S. plants. Bill Borchardt, the NRC's executive director for operations, noted that officials have "a high degree of confidence" that the 104 nuclear reactors operating in the U.S. are safe. He asserted that inspectors at each of the plants are ensuring that efforts are in place to guard against safety breaches. Eric Epstein, co-founder of the citizen-watchdog group Rock the Capital and chairman of TMI Alert, will join our panel discussion. Epstein has grave concerns about whether American plants are designed to withstand whatever man-made or natural disaster strikes them. He says our spent-fuel waste is kept in facilities never designed for long-term storage. Congress has not been able to agree on a permanent site for America's highly radioactive waste.

Radiation Monitors Continue to Confirm That No Radiation Levels of Concern Have Reached the United States


WASHINGTON – During a detailed analysis of four west coast RadNet air monitor filters, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) identified trace amounts of radioactive iodine, cesium, and tellurium consistent with the Japanese nuclear incident. These levels are consistent with the levels found by a Department of Energy monitor last week and are to be expected in the coming days. EPA’s samples were captured by three monitors in California and one in Washington State on Friday, March 18 and sent to EPA scientists for detailed laboratory analysis. The data was reviewed over the weekend and the analysis was completed Monday night. The radiation levels detected on the filters from California and Washington monitors are hundreds of thousands to millions of times below levels of concern. In addition, last night preliminary monitor results in Hawaii detected minuscule levels of an isotope that is also consistent with the Japanese nuclear incident. This detection varies from background and historical data in Hawaii. This isotope was detected at our fixed monitor in Hawaii, and it is far below any level of concern for human health. The sampling filter from this monitor is being sent to our national radiation lab for further analysis. In a typical day, Americans receive doses of radiation from natural sources like rocks, bricks and the sun that are about 100,000 times higher than what we have detected coming from Japan. For example, the levels we’re seeing coming from Japan are 100,000 times lower than what you get from taking a roundtrip international flight. EPA is in the process of conducting detailed filter analyses for fixed monitors located in Oregon. EPA’s RadNet filter results for San Francisco, Seattle, Riverside and Anaheim, California detected minuscule quantities of iodine isotopes and other radioactive particles that pose no health concern at the detected levels. Below are the results of the detailed filter analysis. All of the radiation levels detected during the detailed filter analysis are hundreds of thousands to millions of times below levels of concern. All units are in Picocuries per meter cubed. - Filter results for Anaheim, Calif. found:

  • Cesium-137: 0.0017
  • Tellurium-132: 0.012
  • Iodine-132: 0.0095
  • Iodine-131: 0.046

- Filter results for Riverside, Calif. found:

  • Cesium-137: 0.00024
  • Tellurium-132: 0.0014
  • Iodine-132: 0.0015
  • Iodine-131: 0.011

- Filter results for Seattle, Wash. found:

  • Cesium-137: 0.00045
  • Tellurium-132: 0.0034
  • Iodine-132: 0.0029
  • Iodine-131: 0.013

- Filter results for San Francisco, Calif. found:

  • Cesium-137: 0.0013
  • Tellurium-132: 0.0075
  • Iodine-132: 0.0066
  • Iodine-131: 0.068

EPA’s RadNet system is designed to protect the public by notifying scientists, in near real time, of elevated levels of radiation so they can determine whether protective action is required. In addition, an analysis of the filters in the monitors can identify even the smallest trace amounts of specific radioactive isotopes. As part of the federal government’s continuing effort to make our activities and science transparent and available to the public, EPA will continue to keep RadNet data available at:

Markey Urges HHS Assistance in Implementing Nuclear “Emergency Pill” Law

Lawmaker Authored 2002 Law That Requires Potassium Iodide for Residents Living within 20 Miles of Nuclear Plant; Law Ignored by Bush Administration

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass) sent a letter to Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius requesting the department’s assistance in urging Presidential Science Advisor Dr. John Holdren to reverse the Bush administration decision to that effectively blocks HHS from distributing potassium iodide – also called KI – to Americans living within a 20 mile radius of a nuclear power plant. Potassium iodide has been found to protect individuals, especially young children, from the cancer-causing releases of radioactive iodine that would occur if a nuclear disaster occurred in the United States. In the wake of the Japan nuclear crisis, earlier this week, Rep. Markey today wrote [LINK] to the president’s science adviser asking him to begin implementing the law. “The essential value of distributing potassium iodide in preparation for a potential nuclear disaster has been abundantly clear for more than 30 years,” wrote Rep. Markey in the letter to Secretary Sebelius “The exercise of Presidential power to distribute KI is now long overdue, leaving many Americans living near these plants needlessly at risk, as sadly evidenced by the disaster in Japan.” A copy of the letter to the HHS can be found HERE. Rep. Markey amended the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness andResponse Act of 2002 to make potassium iodide available to state and local governments to meet the needs of all persons living within a 20-mile radius of a nuclear power plant. However, the Bush administration chose to ignore these provisions and declined to implement them, thereby denying communities access to stockpiles of KI. InDecember 2009, Rep. Markey wrote President Obama urging him to move forwardwith full implementation of the provisions. However, Dr. Holdren’s office wrote Rep. Markey in July of last year upholding the Bush administration’s position. Because of this action, citizens living within the 10 mile radius of nuclear power plants in some states have KI stockpiled for an accident, but others do not and those living out to the 20 mile radius do not receive KI. Rep. Markey, the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee and a senior Democratic member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has served on the Committees that have oversight over the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the nuclear utility industry since 1976. Following the Three Mile Island accident in 1979, he authored an amendment to establish a moratorium on licensing of new nuclear power plants until the consequences of that accident could be fully understood and participated in the Congressional hearings on the accident. Following the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, he chaired the Congressional hearings examining the causes and consequences of the accident.

New fact sheet: Radiation and Human Health (IEER release)

Journalists and others may find helpful a new fact sheet, "Radiation and Human Health," from the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IEER): This plain-language two-pager was produced in response to the extraordinary volume of questions and requests IEER has received in light of the Japan nuclear reactor situation. It includes descriptions of some radionuclides of concern, a glossary of radiation units, an explanation of differences between high dose and low dose, and accepted conversions for estimating cancer morbidity and mortality from radiation exposure.

Japanese Officials Weep As Nuclear Accidentt Continues

Markey: NRC Must Provide Full Transparency, Potential Consequences of Japanese Events

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Eben Burnham-Snyder, 202-225-6065 Giselle Barry, 202-225-2836

Conflicting Accounts Require Clarity, Says Lawmaker; Nuclear Industry Updates Hampered by Tokyo Electric Power Co. Membership

WASHINGTON (March 18, 2011) – Amidst conflicting information regarding the status of the meltdowns and condition of the spent nuclear fuel pools at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan, today, Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee and a senior Democratic member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, is calling on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to provide the American public and Congress the latest in information on the nuclear emergency in Japan. Now that the NRC is on the ground and involved in the response in Japan, Rep. Markey asks the agency to provide daily reports and an analysis of multiple scenarios, including worst-case events, to Congress and the public. “I believe that it is vitally important to all those who may be considering leaving the vicinity of the impacted reactors to be receiving accurate and unbiased written assessment of current conditions,” wrote Rep. Markey in the letter to NRC head Greg Jaczko. “It is also important that the American public fully understand the potential magnitude and timing associated with a worst-case core melt-down and radiation release or spent fuel fire.” A copy of the letter to the NRC can be found HERE. Along with daily situation reports, Rep. Markey is asking the NRC to provide scenario readouts on the following events at each of the affected reactor units and spent nuclear fuel pools: --The loss of water in the spent fuel cooling ponds and subsequent fire and/or release of radiation. --A full core meltdown assuming that no further breaches in containment occur. --A full core meltdown assuming containment structures are already breached or become breached. Rep. Markey also notes in the letter that Tokyo Electric Power Co., the owner of the Fukushima reactors, is a member of the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), which has been sending updates on the situation in Japan to Congress and the public. Rep. Markey notes in the letter that NEI has “a clear vested interest in providing a highly optimistic assessment of the situation.” Since the earthquake and tsunami hit Japan, Rep. Markey has called for a series of immediate actions in response to the resulting nuclear emergency. Rep. Markey has asked the Obama administration to fully implement the 2002 law he authored that potassium iodide, the “emergency pills” taken after a nuclear disaster which can help prevent the cancer-causing effects of radiation poisoning, be distributed to those living within 20 miles of a U.S. nuclear facility. The Bush administration ignored the law and the Obama administration has not yet reversed the Bush policy despite a letter Rep. Markey sent in 2009 urging President Obama to implement the law. Rep. Markey also called for a moratorium on all new reactors that could be placed in seismically active areas until a top-to-bottom review of design resiliency, emergency response, backup power to prevent a meltdown during long electricity outages, and evacuation plans has been conducted. Operating nuclear reactors should then also be retrofitted to incorporate the findings of the review. Rep. Markey has also demanded a safety review of the 31 reactors in the United States that are the same design as those currently experiencing major failure in Japan. And Rep. Markey has asked the NRC to suspend a pending approval of the design for the AP1000 nuclear reactor. One of NRC's most senior staff warned that the containment structure for this reactor design would not be able to withstand a strong earthquake and it was so brittle it could “shatter like a glass cup” under sufficient stress. Rep. Markey has served on the Committees that have oversight over the NRC and the nuclear utility industry since 1976. For more than three decades, Rep. Markey has worked to secure nuclear power plants and ensure the public safety in the event of a nuclear disaster. In 1979, before the Three Mile Island accident occurred, Rep. Markey introduced legislation providing for a three year moratorium on licensing of new nuclear power plants until a top to bottom safety analysis on nuclear reactors could be performed. In 1986, he chaired hearings on the causes and consequences of the disaster at Chernobyl. Following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Rep. Markey passed a law to strengthen security for nuclear reactors and materials, and a law providing for distribution of potassium iodide to those living within 20 miles of a nuclear reactor (which still has not been implemented). And before the catastrophe in Japan, Rep. Markey raised concerns of the seismic resiliency of our reactors.

Peach Bottom: NRC Security Report


Download Report

Peach Bottom: Review of Relief Request


Download ML110730602

TMI: Relocation of equipment


Download ML110540374

Monday, March 21, 2011

NRC Provides Protective Action Recommendations Based On U.S. Guidelines

U.S. NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION Office of Public Affairs Telephone: 301/415-8200 Washington, D.C. 20555-0001 E-mail: Site: Blog: No. 11-050 March 16, 2011 Under the guidelines for public safety that would be used in the United States under similar circumstances, the NRC believes it is appropriate for U.S. residents within 50 miles of the Fukushima reactors to evacuate. Among other things, in the United States protective actions recommendations are implemented when projected doses could exceed 1 rem to the body or 5 rem to the thyroid. A rem is a measure of radiation dose. The average American is exposed to approximately 620 millirems, or 0.62 rem, of radiation each year from natural and manmade sources. In making protective action recommendations, the NRC takes into account a variety of factors that include weather, wind direction and speed, and the status of the problem at the reactors. Attached are the results of two sets of computer calculations used to support the NRC recommendations. In response to nuclear emergencies, the NRC works with other U.S. agencies to monitor radioactive releases and predict their path. All the available information continues to indicate Hawaii, Alaska, the U.S. Territories and the U.S. West Coast are not expected to experience any harmful levels of radioactivity.

Markey, Pallone Query FDA on Radiation in Japanese Imports, Pacific Seafood

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE March 20, 2011 Reports of radiation in food near Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan underscore need for monitoring WASHINGTON, D.C. – In response to reports of variable but high levels of dangerous radiation being emitted from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan, today on CBS's "Face The Nation," Reps. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Ranking Member on the House Natural Resources Committee and senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, announced he and Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.), Ranking Member on the House Subcommittee on Health of the Energy and Commerce Committee, today sent a letter to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Margaret Hamburg asking for information on how the Agency is ensuring that contaminated radioactive food or other agricultural products are prevented from entering the domestic food supply here in the United States. Media reports confirm that trace amounts of radiation have been found in spinach and milk up to 75 miles from the distressed reactor prompting Japanese officials to halt shipments of milk from contaminated farms, though officials warn that some products may have already entered the market. The Japanese government has found contamination on canola and chrysanthemum greens in additional areas. “Radiation can pose a dire threat to our food chain, and it is imperative we monitor all food imports and agricultural products from Japan, as well as seafood harvested from areas that might be contaminated from radiation,” said Rep. Markey. “We have to ensure nuclear fallout doesn’t defile our food chain.” “We don’t want to see the people of Japan suffer any more due to radiation contamination from the damaged nuclear power plants, but we also don’t want the danger spread to America,” said Rep. Pallone. “Radioactive particles are an insidious threat that can enter the food chain in so many different ways, resulting in contaminated products on the dinner tables of American families. We should take all precautions to prevent that from happening and we should do it now.” In the wake of the nuclear emergency in Japan, several countries, including South Korea, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines have stepped up efforts to ensure that produce and seafood imported from Japan are checked for radiation. The European Union has also advised all member states to check levels of radioactivity in food imports from Japan. Russia has begun testing Pacific Ocean fish and other sea life for radiation on Friday in the wake of the nuclear crisis. In the letter today, the lawmakers ask for additional information from the FDA on the monitoring and testing of animal and plant products for the presence of radiation and the federal standards that exist to protect the public from consuming contaminated food. The full letter can be found HERE.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Update on Fukushima

JOINT EPA/DOE STATEMENT: Radiation Monitors Confirm That No Radiation Levels of Concern Have Reached the United States

UPDATED – (please note differences in what was detected in Washington State and California)

WASHINGTON – The United States Government has an extensive network of radiation monitors around the country and no radiation levels of concern have been detected. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency RadNet system is designed to protect the public by notifying scientists, in near real time, of elevated levels of radiation so they can determine whether protective action is required. The EPA’s system has not detected any radiation levels of concern.

In addition to EPA’s RadNet system, the U.S. Department of Energy has radiation monitoring equipment at research facilities around the country, which have also not detected any radiation levels of concern.

As part of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization’s International Monitoring System (IMS), the Department of Energy also maintains the capability to detect tiny quantities of radioisotopes that might indicate an underground nuclear test on the other side of the world. These detectors are extremely sensitive and can detect minute amounts of radioactive materials.

Today, one of the monitoring stations in Sacramento, California that feeds into the IMS detected miniscule quantities of iodine isotopes and other radioactive particles that pose no health concern at the detected levels. Collectively, these levels amount to a level of approximately 0.0002 disintegrations per second per cubic meter of air (0.2 mBq/m3). Specifically, the level of Iodine-131 was 0.165 mBq/m3, the level of Iodine-132 was measured at 0.03 mBq/m3, the level of Tellurium-132 was measured at 0.04 mBq/m3, and the level of Cesium-137 was measured at 0.002 mBq/m3.

Similarly, between March 16 and 17, a detector at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Washington State detected trace amounts of Xenon-133, which is a radioactive noble gas produced during nuclear fission that poses no concern at the detected level. The levels detected were approximately 0.1 disintegrations per second per cubic meter of air (100 mBq/m3),

The doses received by people per day from natural sources of radiation - such as rocks, bricks, the sun and other background sources - are 100,000 times the dose rates from the particles and gas detected in California or Washington State.

These types of readings remain consistent with our expectations since the onset of this tragedy, and are to be expected in the coming days.

Following the explosion of the Chernobyl plant in Ukraine in 1986 – the worst nuclear accident in world history – air monitoring in the United States also picked up trace amounts of radioactive particles, less than one thousandth of the estimated annual dose from natural sources for a typical person.

As part of the federal government’s continuing effort to make our activities and science transparent and available to the public, the Environmental Protection Agency will continue to keep all RadNet data available in the current online database.

Please see for more information.

What Are the Evacuation Standards for School Kids? What Was TMIA’s Proposal?

As noted below, all “general populations” must be moved 10 miles from a nuclear power plant during an evacuation. The "minimum" mandated relocation distance for the general population is 5 miles past the 10 mile plume exposure boundary. (15 miles from the reactor) The NRC recommends the general population be located 10 miles past the 10 mile plume exposure boundary. (20 miles from the reactor) However, host school pick up centers for kids only need to be 10 miles and 1 inch from the reactor. Please note the proximity of host school centers for kids. TMI is the only community to evacuate an accident . TMI-Alert's solution to the problem of proximity was for host school pickup centers to be located a minimum distances of at least five miles and preferably 10 miles beyond the plume exposure boundary zone “The requirements that the NRC upheld allow host school pickup centers to be just outside of the 10 mile radiation plume exposure boundary zone, and fail to adequately protect kids." He added, "Why does the NRC insist on keeping children within a zone of exposure during a radiological emergency?

Download PDF of Map

Peach Bottom: Review of Relief Request


Download ML110730602

Japan nuclear crisis stirs deep memories of TMI; Pa.'s near-meltdown in 1979 routed thousands

From the Associated Press:

The partial meltdown at Pennsylvania's Three Mile Island nuclear plant in 1979 routed more than 180,000 people living within 50 miles of the plant, a five-day evacuation nightmare that residents are reliving as the nuclear plant crisis unfolds in Japan.

Then-Gov. Dick Thornburgh advised pregnant women and preschool children within five miles of the Susquehanna River plant to leave after the March 28, 1979, TMI accident. Tens of thousands more responded.

Emergency sirens blared and massive traffic jams snarled area roadways through farmlands near the state Capitol amid fears the Unit 2 reactor could unleash a massive amount of radiation into the river or the atmosphere.

"People just left, and they left not knowing if they would return, or what provisions to take with them," said Eric Epstein, chairman of TMI Alert, a safe energy group that monitors Three Mile Island and two other nuclear plants in Pennsylvania.

Read more

TMI: Control Rod Drive Housing Examinations


Greater Danger Lies in Spent Fuel Than in Reactors

From the New York Times:

Years of procrastination in deciding on long-term disposal of highly radioactive fuel rods from nuclear reactors are now coming back to haunt Japanese authorities as they try to control fires and explosions at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station.

Some countries have tried to limit the number of spent fuel rods that accumulate at nuclear power plants: Germany stores them in costly casks, for example, while China sends them to a desert storage compound in the western province of Gansu. But Japan, like the United States, has kept ever-larger numbers of spent fuel rods in temporary storage pools at the power plants, where they can be guarded with the same security provided for the plants.

Figures provided by Tokyo Electric Power on Thursday show that most of the dangerous uranium at the power plant is actually in the spent fuel rods, not the reactor cores themselves.

Read more

PEMA: Japan’s Nuke Plant Crisis Poses No Present Risk to Pennsylvania Residents

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA Dept. of Environmental Protection


HARRISBURG -- The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency and the state departments of Environmental Protection and Health are working with federal partners to monitor the situation at Japan’s damaged nuclear reactors.

“We receive regular updates from federal agencies that are working closely with the Japanese authorities,” said PEMA Director Glenn M. Cannon. “At this point, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has given us no indication that radiation from Japan poses a threat to Pennsylvania residents.”

The Department of Environmental Protection's Bureau of Radiation Protection is maintaining close communications with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, or NRC, regarding the worsening situation in Japan.

Although little, if any, radioactive material is expected to reach the continental U.S., DEP has an extensive environmental surveillance program in place around Pennsylvania’s five nuclear power plant sites that would be able to detect if any radioactivity from Japan reached the state.

The NRC requires that U.S. nuclear power plants be designed and built to withstand the most severe natural phenomena historically reported for each specific site and surrounding area, such as earthquakes and even tsunamis.

The best way for residents to stay safe is to stay informed and monitor local media, Cannon said. If necessary, health and emergency management officials would alert the public as to what action they should take.

“While there is no imminent threat to Pennsylvania, the earthquake and tsunami in Japan serve as vivid reminders that everyone should take steps to learn what to do in an emergency, be it a fire, flood, nuclear incident or a chemical spill,” Cannon said. “Visit to learn how you and your family can be better prepared.”

ReadyPA is a state campaign that encourages citizens to take three basic steps before an emergency or natural disaster:

• Be Informed: know what threats Pennsylvania and your community face. • Be Prepared: have an emergency kit with at least three days’ worth of essentials at your home, including food, one gallon of water per person per day, medications and specialized items such as baby or pet supplies. Create an emergency plan so family members know where to meet if everyone is separated when an incident occurs. • Be Involved: Pennsylvanians have a long history of helping one another in times of need. Specialized training and volunteer opportunities are available so citizens can help others in their community in a disaster.

Information such as checklists for emergency kits and templates for emergency plans, as well as other information and volunteer opportunities, is available at or by calling 1-888-9-READYPA (1-888-973-2397).

While evacuation is always the best way to protect human health during a large release of radioactivity, potassium iodide, or KI, provides another layer of protection. KI tablets help protect the thyroid gland from harmful radiation but should only be taken under direction from state health officials or the governor.

Pennsylvanians should not take potassium iodide in response to the current radiological events in Japan, health officials said.

As part of its ongoing preparedness efforts, the Pennsylvania Department of Health offers free KI tablets to residents that live, work or go to school within a ten-mile radius of a nuclear power plant. Those residents can pick up free potassium iodide during normal business hours at state and/or county health department offices located near nuclear facilities. A list of offices is available at or by calling 1-877-PA-HEALTH.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Evacuating Three Mile Island: A Parent's Perspective

Central Pennsylvania is middle America. We enjoy holiday parades, Friday night football and old fashioned everything. We welcome the change of seasons and pretty much stay put from generation to generation. We’re used to America coming to us to visit Gettysburg, marvel at the Amish, and smell Hershey Chocolate.

My father admired the technology that was Three Mile Island. Driving towards the nuclear power plant he confidently welcomed the billowing steam clouds. Many residents boated, fished or water skied around the Island. School students routinely were paraded through the plant to greet their future. My dad was assured that an accident at Three Mile Island was “not possible.” I believed my dad. We believed the nuclear industry and the government.

The last week of March 1979 was unseasonably warm. Central Pennsylvanians stepped outside for their first, prolonged post-winter break. While Governor Richard Thornburgh was acclimating to Harrisburg, the “new” reactor in Middletown was struggling to stay on line. On Wednesday, March 28, 1979, TMI became a household name. Two days later, while school was in session, area residents fled the area not knowing if or when they would return. America now knew us for all the wrong reasons.

Evacuation plans in 1979 were little more than an afterthought stashed in a drawer. The problem is that people are not hypothetical planning numbers. Human behavior rarely conforms to scientific predictions. People don’t want to leave their homes. Farmers don’t want to desert their animals. And Coatesville isn't Middletown.

I was away at college. My sister waited for my mom to pick her up at Linglestown Junior High School, my brother was in his first trimester, and the family furniture store, which had survived three floods and a fire, remained open.

  • Hershey still made chocolate, the Amish continued to plow Lancaster’s fertile earth, and the Battlefield at Gettysburg still attracted visitors.
  • In Middletown, Mayor Robert Reid directed traffic out of town as fleeing residents asked him to protect their homes while they were gone.
  • To the north, streams of citizens from Harrisburg flowed down Market Street to line up for busses heading anywhere.
  • Across the river, Goldsboro became a ghost town, dairy cows continued to graze in Etters, and the City of York, like Harrisburg and Lancaster, had no nuclear evacuation plan.

The TMI community remains a living case study of how not to evacuate. Many residents still keep an overnight bag packed, a stash of “TMI money”, and make sure their cars have a full tank of gas. For those of us who live, work and parent in the shadow of Three Mile Island, the Accident continues to exact a toll.

No reactor community should have to endure another nuclear nightmare. At the very least, we should stop pretending that emergency evacuation planning for small children is adequate. I need to be able to get in my car, drive past Three Mile Island, and tell my daughter that adults are doing everything humanly possible to make sure there is no “next time.”

Sincerely, Eric J. Epstein, 717-541-1101

Mr. Epstein is Chairman of Three Mile Island Alert, Inc., a safe-energy organization based in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and founded in 1977, and a member of the American Nuclear Society.

Beaver Valley Unit 1 among reactors most vulnerable to quake damage

From the Beaver County Times:

While new Nuclear Regulatory Commission research puts the Beaver Valley Unit 1 nuclear reactor in Shippingport among the nation's most vulnerable to earthquake damage, First Energy officials say their site has adequate protection.

NRC "seismic hazard estimates" were revised in 2010 and obtained by MSNBC for a report that was made public following the recent catastrophic earthquake that damaged nuclear reactors in Japan.

The Beaver Valley site, according to the NRC numbers, was listed fifth among sites in earthquake damage probability. The report said Beaver Valley Unit 1 has a 1 in 21,739 chance of suffering core damage from an earthquake each year.

Read more

What's the most at-risk U.S. nuclear power plant?

From CBS News:

Indian Point, located in Buchanan, N.Y., has the highest risk of core damage in the event of an earthquake, according to NRC estimates reported by MSNBC. At a 1 in 10,000 chance of core breach, that's right on the verge of what the NRC calls "immediate concern regarding adequate protection."

The East Coast comes off much worse than other parts of the country. The second plant on the list is Pilgrim 1 in Massachusetts. Number three is in Pennsylvania. The only West Coast plant is Diablo Canyon in California at number nine.

What explains it?

The government's list considered how close the plants were to major fault lines and how well they were designed to handle an earthquake. Back in the 1960s and 70s, when most of the plants were built, the government knew about earthquake risks on the West Coast. Those plants were designed to withstand them. But new surveying technology has revealed fault lines in the central and eastern states where plants were not designed for the serious stresses of a large quake.

Read more

Nuclear paranoia

Vt. Nuclear Engineer Becomes International Star


As the world sits glued to the coverage of Japan's nuclear crisis, they will likely see Vermonter Arnie Gundersen among that coverage, speaking as an expert on nuclear energy.

Gundersen has done interviews nonstop since Monday, including 18 Tuesday alone. On Wednesday, a Japanese news crew flew in from New York City to interview Gundersen and hours later, he did a Skype interview with a Russian TV station out of Moscow.

"It's neat to be recognized, but what caused the recognition is the worst industrial accident in the history of the world," Gundersen said.

Gundersen has been outspoken about his belief that the nuclear crisis surpasses that of Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, perhaps accounting for the extreme media attention he has gotten.

"I don't think the (Japanese) government is lying. I do think the government is not telling everything it knows," Gundersen said in one interview Wednesday.

Read more

Experts Had Long Criticized Potential Weakness in Design of Stricken Reactor

From the New York Times:

The warnings were stark and issued repeatedly as far back as 1972: If the cooling systems ever failed at a “Mark 1” nuclear reactor, the primary containment vessel surrounding the reactor would probably burst as the fuel rods inside overheated. Dangerous radiation would spew into the environment.

Now, with one Mark 1 containment vessel damaged at the embattled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant and other vessels there under severe strain, the weaknesses of the design — developed in the 1960s by General Electric — could be contributing to the unfolding catastrophe.

Read more

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Delay in Transmittal of Director's Decision


Your petition dated September 30, 2010 addressed to Stephen Burns, Office of the General Counsel, is currently being reviewed by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff pursuant to 10 CFR 2.206 of the Commission's Regulations. This letter is to inform you that the due date for the final Director's Decision has been delayed from March 11, 2011, to May 13, 2011. The delay is necessary to complete the technical review and accommodate the required Petitioner/licensee draft Director's Decision review. NRC expects to provide you, and the licensee, the proposed Director's Decision by April 8, 2011, for your review and comment.

Please feel free to contact John Buckley at 301-415-6607 to discuss any questions related to this petition.


Larry W. Camper, Director Division of Waste Management and Environmental Protection Office of Federal and State Materials and Environmental Management Programs

Download PDF

Susquehanna: Fire Protection Baseline Inspection


Download ML110740422 (PDF)

Peach Bottom: NRC Examination Report


Download ML110740322 (PDF)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Persons Living Within 10 Miles of Nuclear Power Plants

EFMR: Radiation Monitoring Stations

The EFMR Monitoring Group is installing continuous radiation monitors at several locations around the Three Mile Island nuclear power station. The monitors are connected by telephone to a central computer, which downloads the data and displays it. The monitors can be set to record data at preset intervals varying from minutes to hours and can store 1500 data points. The data is downloaded via a dedicated telephone line at preset polling intervals. If the radiation level exceeds a preset alarm level the data is automatically downloaded to the central computer and a polling of all stations is initiated. The software allows the data to be displayed as tables, graphs or readings on a diagram or map.

The monitoring station consists of a Thermo Eberline ESM Model FHZ 621 G-L4 wide range detector in a weatherproof housing. The housing also contains an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) and DC power supply, which operates the detector, the RS232 interface adapter, and a telephone modem. The battery in the UPS will operate the monitor and modem for several hours after loss of AC power. The detector is capable of measuring dose equivalent rates from background to 10 rem/hour. The detector also has a feature that uses the difference in radiation energy between natural background radiation and reactor fission product radiation to determine whether small radiation increases are from natural or man-made sources. The chart below shows data from one of the monitors during a 48-hour test. The peak is from a 137Cs calibration source.

Five monitoring stations have been purchased and the electrical and telephone installations have been completed for 3 stations as of 27 Mar 03. The other two stations are being used for testing and will be installed when the computer programming and testing is complete.

TMI Health Expert Reports

Export Witness Report: Three Mile Island Litigtation by Arnold Gundersen (Download PDF)

Post Accident Containment Leakage by Arnold Gundersen (Download PDF)

Preliminary Estimates of Radioactivity Releases from Three Mile Island by Lake Barret, NRC (Download PDF)

Nuclear expert: “50-50 chance of a catastrophic radiation” from Japan

From GlobalPost:

To get independent answers about the risks faced by people, GlobalPost turned to Arnold Gundersen, a 39-year veteran of the nuclear industry. Now chief engineer at Fairwinds Associates, he has worked as a nuclear plant operator and he served as an expert witness in the investigation into the Three Mile Island accident.

GlobalPost: Officials have said the possibility of a large-scale radiation release is small. Do you agree?

Arnold Gundersen: I think that the probability of a large scale release is about 50-50, and I don’t call that small.

GlobalPost: Why do you think that?

Gundersen: For several reasons. One, you’ve got three reactors involved. Two, you’re already picking up radiation on aircraft carriers a hundred miles away at sea, on helicopters 60 miles to the north, and in town. So clearly, as these plants become more and more difficult to control, it becomes quite likely that a containment now will have a gross failure. And a gross failure will release enormous amounts of radiation quickly.

Read more

Will nuclear industry feel fallout?

From the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Japanese officials continue to struggle to contain the damage at a nuclear plant in Fukushima, but it may be much harder to limit the fallout for the future of nuclear energy in the United States.

Images of an explosion Saturday and word of a possible partial meltdown have rippled around the globe and are expected to linger for U.S. nuclear advocates already wrestling with their own economic and political challenges.

"This is obviously a significant setback for the so-called nuclear renaissance; the image of a nuclear plant blowing up on the television screen is a first," said Peter Bradford, a former commissioner for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and a frequent industry critic. "Those cannot be good things for an industry that's looking for votes in the Congress and in the state legislatures."

Already, some on Capitol Hill are bringing back memories of the nuclear disasters at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl.

Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) called Saturday for the NRC to impose a moratorium on building new nuclear reactors in seismically active areas until a sweeping new safety review is completed, and he demanded reviews of the Japanese plant's design to determine if there were flaws that could repeat themselves elsewhere.

Read more

Monday, March 14, 2011

Commercial Nuclear Power Facilities in Japan

NRC Notice of Licensee Meeting, Exelon, March 10, 2011

The NRC requested an Annual Assessment Meeting with Exelon to review the results of the NRC's assessment of the safety performance of the Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station for calendar year 2010. The NRC's assessment is documented in a letter dated March 4. 2011.

Download PDF

Peach Bottom: Proposed Elimination of Containment Accident Pressure Credit


Download ML110610192

Peach Bottom: Liquid Nitrogen Storage


Sunday, March 13, 2011

For some, Japanese nuclear emergency mirrors 1979's Three Mile Island accident

From the Patriot News:

Former Pennsylvania Gov. Dick Thornburgh said he experienced “a large dose of deja vu” as he watched news of the nuclear reactor crisis in Japan.

In March 1979, Thornburgh had been in office for only 72 days when a relief valve failed to close on the Unit 2 reactor at Three Mile Island, producing what Thornburgh called "the chilling prospect of a meltdown at the facility."

The circumstances are different in Japan, said Thornburgh, but the problems are very similar.

Read more

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Fukushima vs. Three Mile Island (Background: March 12, 2011)

The crippled Fukushima reactor is a grim reminder of the Three Mile Island crisis. It has some common technical and safety aspects, and brings to mind broken promises by the industry to resolve open safety issues. The Japanese crisis certainly demonstrates the propensity for obfuscation by the industry while the public is left sifting through hundreds of media reports. The first indication that the Fukushima reactor was in serious trouble came from reports that the Japanese military was flying batteries to the plant. This clue made it clear that the operators were having more problems than just trouble with circulating reactor coolant. It revealed that the operators were losing or had lost electrical control of the reactor systems and that the emergency diesel generators were not working. But the Japanese government and the industry continued to downplay the dire conditions facing them.

This same pattern of denial happened here at Three Mile Island leaving the citizens and their governor bewildered and confused. In fact, radioactive releases at TMI are presently being reported as a miniscule amount of radiation. At least 13 million curies of radiation were released. So it is easy to see how the Japanese crisis brings back various details of the TMI crisis.

Here are some of the similarities and differences:

(Download PDF to read more)

Friday, March 11, 2011

Japan Issues Emergency at Nuclear Plant

From the Wall Street Journal:

The Japanese government issued an official emergency at one of the country's nuclear plants Friday after a massive earthquake automatically shut down its reactors and caused problems with its cooling system, but said there are currently no reports of radiation leakage.

"There are no reports of leakage from any nuclear power plants at the moment and no signs of any leakage," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said Friday. As a result of the state of emergency, the government will set up a special emergency task force to deal with the situation.

As a precaution, the government ordered nearly 2,000 people living within three kilometers, or nearly two miles, of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant to evacuate Friday night.

Read more

Nuclear Energy Insider: NRC, Exelon, Progress Energy, and TVA Look at the Importance of Uprates for the Operating Nuclear Fleet

With an increasing number of US utilities opting to increase the generating capacities of their existing nuclear power plants, the power uprate market is now worth an estimated $25 billion. In order to ensure projects are completed on time and on budget and that all risks are mitigated, the industry needs solutions that will aid this multi-billion dollar market. If profits are going to be maximized on all projects, careful planning is essential and common sense strategies must be put in place. (PRWEB) March 9, 2011 In May 2009, a survey of reactor licensees indicated that some 36 power uprate applications are likely to be submitted to the NRC over the next five years – it is therefore essential for the industry to discuss potential hurdles and solutions. Over 9 key utilities in the USA will be meeting at the 2nd Annual Nuclear Power Uprate Conference to discuss the future for power uprates and to meet with key suppliers to network and discuss how the industry can move forward with the 36 planned projects. The 2 day conference (June 16-17, Charlotte, North Carolina) is expected to host 300 key industry decision-makers with attendees from all major stakeholders within the uprate supply chain in attendance. This expert-led discussion will give the industry all of the tools to understand current regulatory, licensing and technical challenges surrounding power uprates to master project execution. For more information on the 2nd Annual Nuclear Power Uprate For more information on this press release, contact: Dean Murphy Senior Industry Analyst Nuclear Energy Insider +44 (0) 207 375 7204 dmurphy(at)eyeforenergy(dot)com

Reconstruction of Chernobyl plume

This is a reconstruction of the Chernobyl radioactive plume by the French Government's official agency on radiation and nuclear matters, the Institut de Radioprotection et Surete Nucleaire. It is based on weather patterns for the time period April 26 to May 6 when the fire was burning inside the stricken reactor, and on known Cs-137 measurements.

View website

TMI: Notice of Licensee Meeting, March 24, 2011

Notice of Licensee Meeting - Three Mile Island Power Station, Unit 1, on March 24, 2011

ADAMS Accession No. ML110620589

TMI: Annual Assessment Letter

Annual Assessment Letter for Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station, Unit 1 (05000289/2010001) ADAMS Accession No. ML110620216

Susquehanna: Annual Assessment Letter

Annual Assessment Letter for Susquehanna Steam Electric Station, Units 1 and 2 (05000387/2010001 and 05000388/2010001)

ADAMS Accession No. ML110620317

TMI: Emergency Preparedness Annual Inspection



Susquehanna: Emergency Preparedness Annual Inspection



Peach Bottom: Emergency Preparedness Inspection


Peach Bottom: Annual Assessment Letter

Annual Assessment Letter for Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station (05000277/2010001 and 05000278/2010001)

ADAMS Accession No. ML110620331 (PDF)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Susquehanna shut down

Event Number: 46654 Event Date: 03/03/2011 Facility: SUSQUEHANNA

TECHNCIAL SPECIFICATION REQUIRED SHUTDOWN DUE TO INOPERABLE HPCI At 2259 EST, Susquehanna Unit 1 commenced a TS Required shutdown for High Pressure Coolant Injection (HPCI) T.S. 3.5.1. Due to a suspected steam leak, the HPCI Inboard Steam Supply Valve HV155F002 was closed to attempt to identify and isolate an unknown drywell leakage condition. After closing the HV155F002, a detectable change in drywell leak rate occurred, therefore, HV155F002 was left closed. Closing HV155F002 makes HPCI INOP and UNAVAILABLE. TS 3.5.1 was entered for this condition on 2/25/2011 at 2136 EST. LCO completion time for T.S. 3.5.1 entry is 3/11/2011 at 2136 EST. The licensee has notified the NRC Resident Inspector and State authorities. The licensee also anticipates issuing a press release.

Peach Bottom & TMI: Cyber Security Plan


Susquehanna: Cyber Security Plan

Susquehanna Steam Electric Station, Units 1 and 2 – Request for Additional Information Regarding Amendment Application for Approval of the Susquehanna Steam Electric Station, Units 1 and 2 Cyber Security Plan (TAC Nos. ME4420 and ME4421) ADAMS Accession No.: ML11060A027 (PDF)

UN Reports Thousands of Thyroid Cancers 25 Years After Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster

From VOANews:

Twenty five years after the explosion and fire at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, a United Nations report estimates the disaster caused thyroid cancer in more than 6,000 children in the affected area.

The world's worst nuclear accident caused thousands of cases of thyroid cancer among children, largely from drinking contaminated milk, according to a report by the U.N. Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation.

Read more

Request for Input to SRBC's 2011 Water Resources Program

Annually, the Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) is required to adopt a Water Resources Program that identifies water projects and programs planned by SRBC, federal, state and local agencies and non-profit and for-profit interests to meet various water resource needs in the Susquehanna River Basin. I am contacting your agency, organization or business to request input to SRBC’s 2011 Water Resources Program. Specifically, SRBC is seeking to catalog projects (facilities, plans and programs) expected in the 2011 – 2012 period. You can view and download the 2011 Water Resources Program response form at . This form contains instructions for completing and submitting responses by April 1, 2011. As you may know, SRBC relies on the Water Resources Program to implement the 74 actions listed in the agency’s Comprehensive Plan. While the 2011 Water Resources Program response form includes many actions, you are asked to consider only those that apply to your agency, organization or business for the 2011 – 2012 period. Thank you for your consideration of this request. I encourage your participation. If you have any questions or need additional information on this matter, please contact Mr. David Heicher of my staff. He can be reached at or (717) 238-0423 ext. 110. Many government and non-governmental entities participate in SRBC’s Water Resources Program each year. Should you wish to review the final 2010 document, it is available at or by contacting Mr. Heicher for hard copies.

Shooting the messenger

From the Brattleboro Reformer:

If you can't refute the message then try to discredit the messenger.

That's the tactic several Vermont Yankee advocates have taken to impugn the character and devalue the experience of Arnie Gundersen, a nuclear safety advocate who has been highly critical of the operation of the nuclear power plant in Vernon.

The writer of Atomic Insights ( accused Gundersen of inflating his resume, which states he is an engineer with more than four decades of experience in the nuclear power industry.

Gundersen was a licensed nuclear engineer but has not been recertified in many years, though he claims he has spent 20 years working directly in the nuclear industry and led teams of engineers dealing with nuclear reactors at 70 nuclear power plants around the country.

Read more

TMI: NRC Triennial Fire Protection Inspection Report


ADAMS Accession No. ML110600907 (PDF)

Vermont delegation to NRC: Don’t delay Vermont Yankee cleanup


The Vermont congressional delegation today urged the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to ensure a swift cleanup at Vermont Yankee after the license to run the nuclear power plant runs out.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) signed a letter that was drafted by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Sanders sits on the Senate panel that oversees the NRC, which regulates commercial nuclear plants in the United States.

The lawmakers called it “unacceptable” that Entergy, which owns the Vermont plant, could engage in “decades of delay” before cleaning up the site along the Connecticut River at Vernon, Vt. “Immediate decommissioning will assure Vermonters that the plant is being disassembled safely,” the delegation wrote. An immediate cleanup and shutdown of the site also would allow the plant operator to take advantage of the skills of many long-term Yankee employees who otherwise would lose their jobs.

Read more

Peach Bottom: Relief Request Concerning Weld


Download ML110590472 (PDF)

TMI: Request for Information on Weld Overlay

Three Mile Island Nuclear Station, Unit 1 - Request for Additional Information Regarding Relief Request RR-10-02, Weld Overlay of the Pressurizer Spray Nozzle to Safe-End and Safe-End to Elbow Dissimilar Metal Welds (TAC No. ME4795) ADAMS Accession No.: ML110340246 (PDF)

Unit 1 HPCI Inoperable Due to Steam Leak

Event Number: 46644 Facility: SUSQUEHANNA Event Date: 02/25/2011

"At 2027 EST, Unit 1 HPCI system was declared inoperable due to a steam leak on HV155F002, HPCI Steam Supply Inboard Isolation Valve. Engineering evaluation determined that the valve actuator will not close the valve fully under design basis conditions, due to the impingement of steam from the valve packing region on the valve stem. The penetration flow path has been isolated and the outboard isolation valve has been deactivated. "HPCI is a single train ECCS safety system, This event results in the loss of an entire safety function which requires an 8 hour ENS notification in accordance with 10CFR50.72(b)(3)(v) and the guidance provided under NUREG-1022, rev. 2. "There are no other ECCS systems presently out of service. Unit 1 is in a 14 day LCO 3.5.1. EDG's are operable, and offsite power is normal. There is no increase in plant risk, and the licensee will notify the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA). The NRC Resident Inspector has been notified.

Manual Scram Due to Recirculation Pump Trip

Event Number: 46641 Facility: LIMERICK Notification Date: 02/25/2011

"Limerick Unit 2 was manually scrammed from 100% power on 2/25/11 at 0910 EST in accordance with plant procedure OT-112 'Recirculation Pump Trip', when both the '2A' and '2B' recirculation pumps tripped. Preliminary indication of why the recirculation pumps tripped is due to main generator stator water coolant runback. The cause of the stator water coolant runback is currently under investigation at this time. "All control rods inserted as required. No ECCS or RCIC initiations occurred. No primary or secondary containment isolations occurred. The plant is currently in HOT SHUTDOWN maintaining normal Reactor Water Level with Feedwater in service." Primary plant pressure and temperature is 600 psia and approximately 485 degrees F. All unit safety related equipment is operable and available, if needed. The decay heat path is via turbine bypass valves. There is no affect on Unit 1. The licensee informed Montgomery, Chester, Burks Counties and the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA). The licensee intends to issue a press release. The NRC Resident Inspector has been notified.