Monday, April 25, 2011

Peach Bottom: Eratta for Exemption From Title 10 of the Code of Federal Regulations


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Susquehanna: Notice of Public Meeting, May 19, 2011

The U. S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) will-meet with the public to discuss the NRC's assessment of safety performance at the Susquehanna Steam Electric Station 'for 2010, as described in the annual assessment letter dated March 4,2011. The NRC will respond to questions on specific performance issues at the plant and our role in ensuring safe plant operations.

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Friday, April 22, 2011

Beyond Nuclear Petitions US NRC for Suspension of 21 Atomic Reactor Licenses in Wake of Japanese Nuclear Catastrophe

Watchdog group alleges General Electric Boiling Water Reactor Mark 1 design’s weak containment, inadequate experimental venting back fit, and radioactive waste storage pool are accidents waiting to happen

TAKOMA PARK, MD - April 19 - Today the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) docketed an emergency enforcement petition filed by the environmental watchdog group Beyond Nuclear. Beyond Nuclear’s petition calls for the suspension of operating licenses at 21 General Electric Boiling Water Reactors of the Mark 1 design (GE BWR Mark 1s). Beyond Nuclear has filed the petition in the wake of catastrophic failure of just such containment systems at identical atomic reactors in Fukushima, Japan at the Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant. In addition, Beyond Nuclear has highlighted the extreme risk posed by GE BWR Mark 1 high-level radioactive waste storage pools, at a total of 24 such reactors in the U.S., which lack emergency backup power supplies for circulating cooling water in the event of a loss of electricity from the primary grid. Lack of cooling water circulation in high-level radioactive waste storage pools can result in boil off, subsequent irradiated nuclear fuel fire, and large-scale releases of hazardous radioactivity directly into the environment, as has occurred at Fukushima Dai-Ichi Unit 4. Beyond Nuclear’s Reactor Oversight Project Director, Paul Gunter, has identified 21 GE Mark 1 BWRs in the United States that utilize the Fukushima Dai-Ichi style, free-standing primary containment structure composed of a carbon steel drywell, connected by large diameter piping to the carbon steel suppression chamber referred to as the wet well or torus, which altogether comprises the safety-credited pressure suppression containment system. The 21 GE BWR Mark 1 atomic reactors at risk of catastrophic containment failure in the U.S. are, in alphabetical order: Browns Ferry Units 1, 2, and 3 in Alabama; Cooper Unit 1 in Nebraska; Dresden Units 2 and 3 in Illinois; Duane Arnold Unit 1 in Iowa; Fermi Unit 2 in Michigan; Fitzpatrick Unit 1 in New York; Hatch Units 1 and 2 in Georgia; Hope Creek Unit 1 in New Jersey; Monticello Unit 1 in Minnesota; Nine Mile Point Unit 1 in New York; Oyster Creek Unit 1 in New Jersey; Peach Bottom Units 2 and 3 in Pennsylvania; Pilgrim Unit 1 in Massachusetts; Quad Cities Units 1 and 2 in Illinois; and Vermont Yankee Unit 1 in Vermont. “The Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear catastrophe in Japan has dramatically illuminated the grave risks and unforgiving consequences of a severe accident combined with the fundamental failures of the GE BWR Mark 1 containment concept, design, construction, and subsequent experimental retrofit which unsuccessfully attempted to mitigate these significant flaws,” said Gunter. “Any loss of cooling to the reactor core could lead to pressure build up that could breach these old, small, weak, badly designed and built containment structures,” he added. Gunter recounted that high-level U.S. nuclear power regulators have long identified the undue risks associated with GE BWR Mark 1 type containments. In 1972, Dr. Stephen Hanauer of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) warned about the buildup of explosive hydrogen gas during a reactor core accident in such relatively small containment structures, and urged that “the AEC adopt a policy of discouraging further use of pressure suppression containments…”. At Fukushima Dai-Ichi Units 1, 3, and 4, such hydrogen explosions severely damaged or entirely destroyed the secondary containment buildings. This happened despite attempts, in the earliest days of the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear catastrophe, to vent radioactive steam into the environment in an effort to prevent catastrophic rupture of the containment structures. Also, at Fukushima Dai-Ichi Unit 2, failure of the containment venting system led to a large hydrogen explosion within the primary containment structure which has very likely severely damaged the wet well/torus, creating a direct pathway to the environment for hazardous radioactivity releases. This is made all the worse by the likelihood that the Fukushima Dai-Ichi Unit 2 nuclear fuel core has melted through the bottom of the reactor pressure vessel. “It is unreasonable to back fit an identified severe design flaw with a venting system to deliberately defeat the purpose of a leak tight containment in order to save it from catastrophic failure based on the unlikelihood that the task will be required,” Gunter surmised. In addition, safety concerns over the substandard Mark I pressure suppression containment system were again affirmed in 1986 by Dr. Harold Denton, Director of Nuclear Reactor Regulation at NRC. Denton told a nuclear industry conference that this flawed reactor containment type has as high as a 90% chance of failure if challenged by severe accident conditions. Beyond Nuclear’s emergency enforcement petition, brought under Title 10, Part 2.206 of the Code of Federal Regulations, also calls for emergency diesel generators and backup batteries to be connected to 24 GE BWR Mark 1 reactor units’ storage pools for high-level radioactive waste. Currently, these elevated storage pools for irradiated nuclear fuel are located outside of credited primary containment structures and lack “Class E1” safety-related backup power supply systems in the event of a loss of electricity from the primary grid for running cooling water circulation pumps. These 24 pools include those at the permanently closed Millstone Unit 1 atomic reactor in Connecticut, as well as the Brunswick Units 1 and 2 atomic reactors in North Carolina. “It is incredible that pools for storing high-level radioactive wastes in the U.S. are not connected to emergency backup power supplies,” said Kevin Kamps, Radioactive Waste Watchdog at Beyond Nuclear. “Any loss of the electrical grid – whether due to tornadoes, hurricanes, ice storms, or even wildlife or tree branches touching power lines – could begin pool boiling within hours, leading to complete boil off within a day or two, followed by a radioactive waste inferno within hours of the irradiated nuclear fuel losing its cooling water cover,” Kamps added. “Whereas Fukushima Dai-Ichi Unit 4’s pool contained around 130 tons of high-level radioactive waste, pools in the U.S. are crammed with significantly more,” Kamps added. “For example, Fermi Unit 2 in Michigan – the largest GE BWR Mark 1 in the world – has well over 500 tons of high-level radioactive waste crammed into its pool. This means that without the primary electrical grid, the pool could begin boiling in just over four hours, could boil dry and catch fire all that much more quickly, and the consequences downwind would be multiple times worse than the still-unfolding catastrophe at Fukushima Dai-Ichi Unit 4’s pool,” Kamps concluded. A 1997 study commissioned by the NRC estimated the median consequences of a high-level radioactive waste storage pool fire, which included: 54,000 to 143,000 latent cancer deaths downwind; 770 to 2,700 square miles of agricultural land condemned; and economic costs due to evacuation of $117 to 566 billion ($158 to 765 billion when adjusted for inflation to current dollar values). Beyond Nuclear’s 2.206 emergency enforcement petition, and NRC’s docketing announcement, are posted at the top of Beyond Nuclear’s homepage,, and can be provided upon request. Beyond Nuclear aims to educate and activate the public about the connections between nuclear power and nuclear weapons and the need to abandon both to safeguard our future. Beyond Nuclear advocates for an energy future that is sustainable, benign and democratic.

Three Mile Island: Exelon says quake won’t cripple TMI

From the Press and Journal

If an earthquake shook Middletown, would Three Mile Island shut down safely? Would the reactor lose power during a natural disaster, lose its cooling systems? Would we have a crisis resembling the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi reactor in Japan? The owner of TMI says no, no and no. To assure residents who live near the reactor, it has sent 24,000 letters to neighbors within a 5-mile radius, asserting that the catastrophe in Japan couldn’t happen here. TMI would survive a severe earthquake and maintain electricity during a natural disaster, a problem that has plagued Japan’s damaged reactor, said the letter, signed by Bill Noll, TMI site vice president for Exelon Nuclear, the owner. “Our generating station is able to withstand and safely shut down in very strong earthquakes, and the uranium fuel would remain protected,’’ Noll said in the letter, which went to residents in Dauphin, Lancaster and York counties.

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Monday, April 18, 2011

Entergy files complaint to protect Vermont Yankee nuclear plant operations

Entergy Corporation announced that two of its subsidiaries, Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee, LLC and Entergy Nuclear Operations, have filed a complaint in U.S. District Court for the District of Vermont seeking a judgment to prevent the state of Vermont from forcing the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant to cease operation on March 21, 2012. Today's request for declaratory and injunctive relief follows the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission's March 21 renewal of Vermont Yankee's operating license authorizing the plant's operation through March 21, 2032. The NRC's action came after a thorough and exhaustive five-year safety and environmental review of the plant.

Source: Theflyonthewall

Three Mile Island expert: Fukushima could kill 200,000

From globalpost:

In the days after Japan’s Fukushima nuclear accident began, GlobalPost turned to Arnold Gundersen for an independent view of whether the reactors might melt down. A 39-year veteran of the nuclear industry, Gundersen has worked as a nuclear plant operator and served as an expert witness on the Three Mile Island accident. He is now chief engineer at Fairwinds Associates. Back then, Gundersen said that the evidence suggested the accident was worse than authorities were revealing. This week, his assessment was shown to be accurate when Japan upgraded Fukushima to a 7, the worst possible rating for a nuclear accident. So we contacted Gundersen again to get an update on Fukushima. In the following edited and condensed interview, Gundersen gives his expert view of what might happen, how authorities are handling the accident, and how Fukushima will affect health and the environment.

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Markey: NRC Directing Secrecy in the Wake of Fukushima Meltdown

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Giselle Barry 202-225-2836, Eben Burnham-Snyder 202-225-6065 Markey: NRC Directing Secrecy in the Wake of Fukushima Meltdown Limits Placed on Time, Scope, Transparency of Inspections Designed to Assess U.S. Vulnerability WASHINGTON (April 15, 2011) – In the wake of the Fukushima disaster, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) set out to inspect the U.S. fleet of nuclear reactors to ensure their safety and report publicly on its findings. Yet today, Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) revealed that significant limits may be imposed on the inspections, and that inspectors also have been directed to keep many of the most serious vulnerabilities secret. In a letter sent to Greg Jaczko, the Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Rep. Markey notes that he has been informed that inspectors are limited to 40 hours to check a nuclear power plant with only one unit, and 50-60 hours to check a plant with multiple units. Inspectors were also initially instructed to limit their inspections only to the adequacy of safety measures needed to respond to “Design Basis Events.” These inspections were therefore looking at the vulnerabilities to events that have already been contemplated and analyzed by the NRC, but not to many of the events that occurred in Fukushima which were previously considered to be impossible and therefore not subject to regulation. When NRC's own inspectors complained about this limitation, it was removed, but inspectors were then directed not to record any observations or findings of vulnerabilities that went beyond design-basis events in any document that would eventually become public as part of the NRC's review. “These limitations, if true, severely undermine my confidence in the Commission’s interests in conducting a full and transparent assessment of the ability of U.S. nuclear power plants to be kept safe in the event of an incident that exceeds the current design basis assumptions regarding earthquakes or electricity outages -- such as the ones that occurred in Japan,” wrote Rep. Markey, who is the top Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee and a senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee. “This also seems entirely at odds with the Commission-approved direction to study the implications of the Fukushima meltdown on U.S. facilities and report publicly on the findings of the study. We should stand prepared to learn from the catastrophe in Japan and plan ahead to address what was unforeseen but occurred anyway, rather than attempting to hide our vulnerabilities from public view and, potentially, use the fact that the information will be kept secret to avoid taking all necessary regulatory action.” “The fact that they plan to keep the most serious vulnerabilities secret raises questions about whether the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is more interested in public relations than public safety,” said Rep. Markey in additional comments. In the letter, Rep. Markey asks Chairman Jaczko and the NRC to respond to these reports, and ensure that the decision to hide some of the results from public view is reversed. Rep. Markey also asks whether U.S. nuclear power plants' vulnerability to events that are known or thought to have occurred in Japan – such as more severe earthquakes and tsunamis than expected, the melting of core nuclear fuel rods through the reactor pressure vessel, hydrogen explosions in reactor cores and spent nuclear fuel areas, long electricity outages and losses of cooling to reactor cores and spent nuclear fuel storage areas, and the failure of multiple safety systems and diagnostic capabilities – will be both analyzed and reported on publicly as the Commission was supposed to do. The full letter is available HERE.

The 2011 off the Pacific coast of Tohoku Pacific Earthquake and the seismic damage to the NPPs

The 2011 off the Pacific coast of Tohoku Pacific Earthquake and the seismic damage to the NPPs

by the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) and Japan Nuclear Energy Safety Organization (JNES)

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Emergency Petition to Suspend All Licensing Proceedings


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Thursday, April 14, 2011

A post-VY economy: Boom or bust?

From The Commons:

Robert “Jake” Stewart, one of the charter members of the New England Coalition on Nuclear Pollution (NEC), believes that the economic impact of Vermont Yankee’s closure cannot outweigh the consequences of a disaster at the plant. He also reminds people that the decommissioning process will require skilled employees. But he said that, ultimately, people need to conserve energy. “We need to stop the increase of energy use,” said Stewart, who worked with solar power in the 1970s, and remembers the Arab oil embargo and the gasoline shortages that ensued. Stewart said new technologies exist that can help with conservation. People should also develop more “energy efficient systems,” and governments could provide more incentives to people developing alternative energy and technologies.

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Groups To Seek Full “Three Mile Island Style” Review Of Fukushima Disaster Implications

Call for NRC Licensing Suspension In Keeping with Response to Less Severe TMI Accident in 1979 WASHINGTON, D.C.///NEWS ADVISORY///Organizations from across the U.S. will announce Thursday at 11 a.m. EDT that they are formally petitioning the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to suspend, on an emergency basis, all pending U.S. nuclear reactor licensing decisions. The petitioners will contend that before acting on any applications for new reactor construction permits or operating licenses, early site permits, renewed licenses for existing reactors, or design certification rulemakings for new reactors, the NRC should complete a full-“Three Mile Island style” investigation into the safety and environmental implications of the ongoing catastrophic nuclear facility accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, Units 1-6 in Okumu, Japan. The groups are concerned that the NRC’s “business as usual” approach to licensing, even going so far as to issue a renewed license for the Vermont Yankee reactor – which has the same boiling water reactor design as the Fukushima reactors – is completely inconsistent with the serious-minded review of U.S. nuclear power that took place after the Three Mile Island accident in 1979, when the NRC Commissioners suspended all licensing decisions until it had investigated the regulatory implications of the accident. · Diane Curran, attorney, Harmon, Curran, Spielberg & Eisenberg, LLP; · Sara Barczak, high risk energy director , Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Savannah, GA; · Jane Swanson, spokesperson, San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace, San Luis Obispo, CA; · Mary Lampert, director, Pilgrim Watch, Duxbury, MA; and · Dr. Arjun Makhijani, president, Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IEER), Takoma Park, MD. TO PARTICIPATE: You can join this live, phone-based news conference (with full, two-way Q&A) at 11 a.m. EDT/8 a.m. PDT on April 14, 2011 by dialing 1 (800) 860-2442 in the U.S. Ask for the “U.S. nuclear licensing suspension” telenews event. CAN'T PARTICIPATE?: A streaming audio replay of the news event will be available on the Web at as of 4 p.m. EDT on April 14, 2011. MEDIA CONTACT: Ailis Aaron Wolf, (703) 276-3265 or

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, Testimony Before the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Sa

Release date: 04/12/2011

Contact Information: EPA Press Office,, 202-564-6794

As prepared for delivery. Good morning, Madam Chairman, Chairman Carper and Members of the Committee. I am pleased to be here today to discuss EPA’s role in monitoring for radiation associated with the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant emergency in Japan and the possible implications for the United States. Let me begin by expressing my sympathy for those who have lost loved ones from the earthquake and tsunami and my support to those who are working to control the radiation at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan. Their efforts are selfless and deserve our recognition. EPA Monitoring As part of its ongoing radiation monitoring program, EPA regularly monitors and tracks radiation and radionuclide releases into the environment in the United States. Monitoring allows us to track known releases and to watch for contaminants when there is an actual, potential, or unexpected release. In addition, EPA may bring monitoring equipment to the scene of an incident to look for localized radiation and to help protect people and the environment. EPA’s nationwide radiation monitoring system, RadNet, contains 124 fixed, or stationary air monitors across the United States (of which, 122 are currently operational), and 40 deployable air monitors that can be sent to take readings anywhere in the United states or its territories. The RadNet network continuously monitors the nation’s air and regularly monitors drinking water, milk, and precipitation for a variety of radionuclides (e.g., iodine-131) and radiation types (e.g., gross gamma (γ)). The near-real-time air monitoring data is continuously reviewed by computer, and if the results show an unusual increase in radiation levels, EPA laboratory staff is alerted immediately and further analyzes additional data from the monitor. RadNet data provides a means to estimate levels of radioactivity in the environment, including background radiation as well as radioactive fallout from past atomic weapons testing, nuclear accidents, and other large-scale releases of radioactive materials. RadNet also provides the historical data needed to estimate long-term trends in environmental radiation levels. In the event of a threat of a significant radiation release, EPA typically will increase the frequency of RadNet sampling and generate many more data records for a given period of time compared to its routine operation. As a result of the events at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan, several EPA monitors have detected very low levels of radioactive material in the United States consistent with releases from the damaged nuclear reactors. In an effort to provide additional geographic coverage to areas in close proximity to the releases in Japan, EPA shipped 8 deployable monitors to islands in the Pacific, including Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the Western United States, including Hawaii, Idaho, and Alaska. EPA has also accelerated its monitoring of precipitation, milk, and drinking water in response to the radiation concerns from the Japanese nuclear reactors. While the detections in air, precipitation, and milk were expected, the levels detected have been far below levels of public-health concern. EPA, along with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Department of Energy, Department of Defense, and the Department of Health and Human Services (FDA, CDC) are among the many federal agencies taking roles in monitoring and assessing radiation emissions from the Japanese nuclear facilities and modeling the potential dose assessments of radiation that might reach the United States. As part of the federal government’s ongoing effort to make our activities and science transparent and available to the public, EPA will continue to post all RadNet data in the current on-line database, accessible through the EPA website: In the highly unlikely event that radiation levels begin to approach levels of concern for public health, the federal government will coordinate with state and local governments to ensure that public health and safety precautions are communicated to the public. Monitoring Results EPA’s RadNet radiation air monitors across the United States have shown typical fluctuations in background radiation levels. The levels detected are far below levels of concern. Results of EPA’s drinking water sampling, precipitation sampling, milk sampling, and air filter and cartridge analysis have detected very low levels of radioactive material consistent with releases from the damaged Japanese nuclear reactors. Keep in mind that all of us are exposed to radiation every day, both from natural sources such as minerals in the ground, and from man-made sources such as medical x-rays. Scientists estimate that the average person in the United States receives a dose of about 310 millirem of radiation per year from natural background sources. Over the course of a lifetime, a person will average an additional ~300 millirem per year from medical procedures. The amount of radiation that will have an impact on a person’s health depends on the type of radiation and the sensitivity of the individual to the radiation exposure. Differences such as age, gender and even previous exposure are factors that might influence a person’s reaction to radiation exposure. Air samples obtained through the RadNet system have, to date, contained very small amounts of iodine, cesium, and tellurium, which are consistent with possible releases from the damaged Japanese reactors. The largest amounts were found in samples from Alaska on March 19 and 24, 2011, but all of the radiation levels detected during the detailed filter analysis are hundreds of times below levels of concern. Drinking water samples taken at various locations throughout the U.S. during the week of April 4, 2011, ranged from non-detects to trace amounts of iodine-131 – approximately 1.6 picocuries per liter (piC/L). (An infant would have to consume over 200 gallons of this water at the highest detection level to receive a radiation dose equivalent to a day’s worth of the natural background radiation exposure we experience continuously from natural sources of radioactivity in our environment.) Drinking water samples from across the country are currently being analyzed. After all data are appropriately reviewed, EPA will release analysis results and will post the results on our website. Early precipitation samples collected by EPA indicated low levels of radioactivity. Given the sampling results in other environmental media, EPA expected to find very low levels of radiation in precipitation samples. Similar findings are to be expected in the coming weeks as radioactive materials are dispersed through the air from Japan. While the levels in some of the rainwater exceed the applicable Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) of 3piC/L for drinking water, it is important to note that the corresponding MCL for iodine-131 was calculated based on long-term chronic exposures over the course of a lifetime 70 years. The levels seen in rainwater are expected to be relatively short in duration and are not expected to present any threat to public health. Results from samples of milk taken March 28, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona and Los Angeles, California showed approximately 3 pCi/L of iodine-131, which is more than 1,500 times lower than the Derived Intervention Level set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. These types of findings are to be expected in the coming days and are far below levels of public health concern, including for infants and children. Iodine-131 has a very short half-life of approximately eight days, and the level detected in milk and milk products is, therefore, expected to drop relatively quickly. Additional information about the broader federal response can be found at: Conclusion Since the events in Japan occurred, EPA’s website has had thousands of views and we have received many positive comments from the public on the information we have made available. The Agency will continue to provide monitoring results to the public in a very open and transparent manner. While we do not expect radiation from the damaged Japanese reactors to reach the United States at harmful levels, I want to assure you that EPA will continue our coordination with our federal partners to monitor the air, milk, precipitation and drinking water for any changes, and we will continue our outreach to the public and the elected officials to provide information on our monitoring results. Madam Chairman, Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to testify. I welcome any questions you may have.

Japan nuclear disaster tops scale

From CNN:

Japan's prime minister vowed to wind down the month-long crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant "at all costs" Tuesday after his government officially designated the situation there a Chernobyl-level nuclear accident.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan said he wants the plant's owner, the Tokyo Electric Power Company, to produce a timetable for bringing the disaster to an end, "and they will be doing that soon." And a day after his government warned that thousands more people would need to be evacuated from the surrounding region, he pledged to provide jobs, housing and education for those uprooted by the accident.

"The government will not forsake the people who are suffering because of the nuclear accident," Kan told reporters in a Tuesday evening news conference.

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SJC: State authorities may regulate water intake at nuclear plants

From the Boston Herald:

Environmental authorities, arguing that water intake systems used by nuclear facilities kill “billions” of aquatic organisms each year, scored a victory Monday in Massachusetts’s highest court.

The Supreme Judicial Court, in a ruling authored by now-retired Justice Judith Cowin, said the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection has the authority to regulate water intake, rejecting an argument by Entergy Nuclear Generation Co. that the agency overstepped its authority.

Entergy, which operates Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station and draws water from Cape Cod Bay, had argued that DEP may only regulate nuclear “discharge” and other traditional forms of pollution, but that water intake was off limits. Entergy also claimed federal regulators pressured the state to regulate water intake.

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In Tennessee, Heat Waves Diminish Nuclear Power Output

From Climate Central:

On July 8, 2010, as the temperature in downtown Decatur, Alabama climbed to a sweltering 98°F, operators at the Browns Ferry nuclear power plant a few miles outside of town realized they had only one option to avoid violating their environmental permit: turn down the reactors. For days, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), which owns the nuclear plant, had kept a watchful eye on the rising mercury, knowing that more heat outside could spell trouble inside the facility. When the Tennessee River, whose adjacent waters are used to cool the reactors, finally hit 90°F and forced Browns Ferry to run at only half of their regular power output, the TVA hoped the hot spell would last just a few days. Eight weeks of unrelenting heat later, the plant was still running at half its capacity, robbing the grid of power it desperately needed when electicity demand from air conditions and fans was at its peak. The total cost of the lost power over that time? More than $50 million dollars, all of which was paid for by TVA’s customers in Tennessee.

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Monday, April 11, 2011

Arnie Gundersen Discusses Radioactive Water Leaking Into the Pacific Ocean with CNN's John King

Arnie Gundersen Discusses Radioactive Water Leaking Into the Pacific Ocean with CNN's John King from Fairewinds Associates on Vimeo.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission: Watchdog Or Lapdog?

From the New England Center for Investigative Reporting:

Internal government watchdogs and outside experts alike say the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is too lenient on the industry it is charged with regulating, often making decisions based on the industry’s profit margins rather than safety.

The charges are similar to complaints leveled against the Mine Health Safety Administration and the Minerals Management Service over the past year, after high-profile tragedies — the Upper Big Branch Mine collapse and the Deepwater Horizon spill — in the industries they are responsible for regulating.

In the wake of the events in Japan, there is a heightened sense of concern throughout the United States that a similar meltdown could occur, particularly in New England where reactors similar to those in Japan remain in operation.

Top nuclear industry officials maintain the public has nothing to fret about — that the NRC is a tough regulator that asks tough questions. NRC critics counter that the agency might ask tough questions, but is all too willing to accept easy answers.

Concerns about the NRC’s oversight are nothing new. A clear illustration is a series of reports issued since 2002 by the NRC’s internal inspector general and the U.S. General Accountability Office related to a near-catastrophe at Davis-Besse, a nuclear reactor on the shores of Lake Erie.

From those reports:

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Former Hill Stars Add Muscle to Nuclear Industry's Post-Japan Lobbying

From New York Times:

As a congressman, Rep. Robert Walker extolled the safety of nuclear power, arguing that technology prevented radiation poisoning during the meltdown at Three Mile Island. He's buttressing nuclear again today, this time working from the inside. Retired from the House, the Pennsylvania Republican provides strategic advice to the trade group Nuclear Energy Institute. Walker is one of more than 240 lobbyists for companies with nuclear interests who came through the government-to-industry revolving door. A Greenwire analysis of companies involved in nuclear found that the overwhelming majority of their lobbyists previously worked on Capitol Hill or in a presidential administration. The portion ranges from a high of 83 percent at Energy Future Holdings Corp., which operates a Texas nuclear plant, to 69 percent at Entergy Corp., the country's second largest nuclear generator.

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Nuclear Engineer Arnie Gundersen demonstrates How Fukushima's Fuel Rods Melted and Shattered

Nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen demonstrates how Fukushima's fuel rods melted and shattered from Fairewinds Associates on Vimeo.

NRC Thinks Japan Unit Pressure Vessel Damaged, Markey Says

From Bloomberg:

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission thinks the reactor in unit 2 of Japan’s disabled power plant got so hot it “probably melted through the reactor pressure vessel,” U.S. Representative Edward Markey said. Martin Virgilio, the agency’s deputy director for reactor and preparedness programs, told reporters after a House hearing today that the commission doesn’t think the “core has breached,” which would let radiation escape. The commission gets reports several times a day from agency staff in Japan and none mentioned a breach, he said. The pressure vessel is one line of defense preventing a larger radiation leak from Fukushima Dai-Ichi’s crippled reactors, where workers have sought to reconnect power to provide a steady supply of water. “After you lose the vessel, then you are down to one final barrier, that’s the containment,” Virgilio told reporters.

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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Conflicting Details Emerge About Status Of Japanese Nuclear Reactor

From Dow Jones Newswires:

There is conflicting information over what details U.S. officials know about a damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor in Japan and the threat it poses.

On Wednesday, Rep. Ed Markey (D., Mass.) raised alarm bells when he claimed that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission believes the core of Fukushima's Unit Two had "gotten so hot that part of it has probably melted through the reactor pressure vessel."

If the reactor vessel has in fact been breached, it removes a line of defense in a set of barriers aimed at protecting the public. Shortly after Markey made this claim during a House hearing, however, a top U.S. nuclear official disputed the claim.

"That's not in the situation report that we have from the team in Japan," said Martin Virgilio, deputy executive director for reactor and preparedness programs at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, while speaking to reporters Wednesday. " And that [report is] as of this morning."

Markey, a vocal critic of nuclear power, says a member of his staff received an e-mail Tuesday from an NRC official stating the core "may be out of the reactor pressure vessel."

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Closing Ranks: The NRC, the Nuclear Industry, and TEPCO are Limiting the Flow of Information

Closing Ranks: The NRC, the Nuclear Industry, and TEPCo. Are Limiting the Flow of Information from Fairewinds Associates on Vimeo.

RADIATION EXPOSURE DEBATE RAGES INSIDE EPA — Plan to Radically Hike Post-Accident Radiation in Food & Water Sparks Hot Dissent

For Immediate Release: April 5, 2010 Contact: Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337

Washington, DC — A plan awaiting approval by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that would dramatically increase permissible radioactive releases in drinking water, food and soil after “radiological incidents” is drawing vigorous objections from agency experts, according to agency documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). At issue is the acceptable level of public health risk following a radiation release, whether an accidental spill or a “dirty bomb” attack.

The radiation arm of EPA, called the Office of Radiation and Indoor Air (ORIA), has prepared an update of the 1992 “Protective Action Guides” (PAG) governing radiation protection decisions for both short-term and long-term cleanup standards. Other divisions within EPA contend the ORIA plan geometrically raises allowable exposure to the public. For example, as Charles Openchowski of EPA’s Office of General Counsel wrote in a January 23, 2009 e-mail to ORIA:

“[T]his guidance would allow cleanup levels that exceed MCLs [Maximum Contamination Limits under the Safe Drinking Water Act] by a factor of 100, 1000, and in two instances 7 million and there is nothing to prevent those levels from being the final cleanup achieved (i.e., it’s not confined to immediate response of emergency phase).”

Another EPA official, Stuart Walker of the Office of Superfund Remediation and Technology Innovation, explains what the proposed new radiation limits in drinking water would mean:

“It also appears that drinking water at the PAG concentrations…may lead to subchronic (acute) effects following exposures of a day or a week. In a population, one should see some express acute effects…that is vomiting, fever, etc.”

“This critical debate is taking place entirely behind closed doors because this plan is ‘guidance’ and does not require public notice as a regulation would,” stated PEER Counsel Christine Erickson. Today, PEER sent EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson a letter calling for a more open and broader examination of the proposed radiation guidance. “We all deserve to know why some in the agency want to legitimize exposing the public to radiation at levels vastly higher than what EPA officially considers dangerous.”

The internal documents show that under the updated PAG a single glass of water could give a lifetime’s permissible exposure. In addition, it would allow long-term cleanup limits thousands of times more lax than anything EPA has ever before accepted. These new limits would cause a cancer in as much as every fourth person exposed.

PEER obtained the internal e-mails after filing a lawsuit this past fall under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) but the EPA has yet to turn over thousands more communications. “EPA touts its new transparency but when it comes to matters of controversy the agency still puts up a wall,” added Erickson, who filed the FOIA suit. “Besides the months of stonewalling, we are seeing them pull stunts such as ORIA giving us rebuttals to other EPA documents they have yet to release.”

Safety of Vt. Nuclear Plant Cables Questioned

From National Public Radio:

Federal regulators knew when they renewed the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant's license last month that electrical cables serving key plant safety systems had been submerged in water for extended periods of time, Nuclear Regulatory Commission documents show.

A nuclear watchdog group says the issue has new urgency following the nuclear disaster in Japan, in which tsunami flooding knocked cooling systems out of service, causing reactors to overheat at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear station.

An NRC report in December said 23 reactors around the country had electrical cable failures between 1988 and 2004, with nine more instances since 2007 of cables improperly being submerged in water.

"Because these cables are not designed or qualified for submerged or moist environments, the possibility that more than one cable could fail has increased," the report said. "This failure could disable safety-related accident mitigation systems."

The agency's documents show it has been concerned about submerged electrical cables at U.S. nuclear plants for years. The cables, usually housed in concrete boxes or small tunnels underground, get wet from rain, melting snow or groundwater, the NRC said.

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EPA STATEMENT: Update on Ongoing Monitoring

WASHINGTON – As a result of the incident with the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan, several EPA air monitors have detected very low levels of radioactive material in the United States consistent with estimated releases from the damaged nuclear reactors. EPA has stepped up monitoring of precipitation, milk, and drinking water in response to the Fukushima events. The detections in air, precipitation, and milk were expected, and the levels detected have been far below levels of public-health concern. Today, EPA released its latest RadNet results, which include the first results for drinking water. Drinking water samples from two locations, Boise, Idaho and Richland, Washington, showed trace amounts of Iodine-131 – about 0.2 picocuries per liter in each case. An infant would have to drink almost 7,000 liters of this water to receive a radiation dose equivalent to a day’s worth of the natural background radiation exposure we experience continuously from natural sources of radioactivity in our environment. Earlier precipitation samples collected by EPA have shown trace amounts of radioactivity, so EPA has expected to find results such as these in some drinking water samples. Similar findings are to be expected in the coming weeks. To see results from these samples, please visit:\japan2011\docs\rert\RadNet-Drinking-Water-Data-Public-Release-4-2-2011.pdf In addition, results of EPA’s precipitation sampling and air filter analyses continue to detect very low levels of radioactive material consistent with estimated releases from the damaged nuclear reactors. These detections were expected and the levels detected are far below levels of public-health concern. For the latest sample results please visit: For the latest air monitoring filter data: For the latest milk sampling data: For the latest precipitation sampling data:

Monday, April 4, 2011

Disaster fuels debate over nuclear accident evacuation plans

From the Miami Herald:

Dead-center in hurricane alley, South Florida has probably performed more large-scale evacuations than any place in the country.

But a wind-borne cloud of radioactive isotopes represents a different monster, unseen but every bit as scary as a powerful cane. For emergency managers thrust into a crisis like the one in Japan, the concern would not be the few ignoring orders to leave Turkey Point’s 10-mile evacuation zone.

“The big issue is how many people will leave outside the evacuation zone,’’ said Jay Baker, a Florida State University geography professor and authority on evacuation behavior who conducted hazard response surveys for a state study last year. “No one knows, to be honest with you.’’

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New High-Res Photos of Fukushima

Cryptome has published hi-res photos of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant.

U.S. Dropped Nuclear Rule Meant to Avert Hydrogen Explosions

From the New York Times:

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has allowed reactors to phase out some equipment that eliminates explosive hydrogen, the gas that blew up the outer containments of three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi in Japan. The commission says it judged that at the American plants, the containments were strong enough that the equipment was not needed or other methods would do. After the Three Mile Island accident in 1979, many reactors were required to install “hydrogen recombiners,” which attach potentially explosive hydrogen atoms to oxygen to make water instead. At Three Mile Island, engineers learned that hot fuel could interact with steam to give off hydrogen. That caused the plant’s reactor to suffer a hydrogen explosion, although it did not seriously damage its containment. By contrast, the secondary containments at Fukushima Daiichi blew apart when hydrogen detonated inside them. The change in commission policy was pointed out this week by a nuclear safety critic, Paul M. Blanch, who said that he had been involved in installing such equipment at Millstone 3, a nuclear reactor in Waterford, Conn. “Post-Three Mile Island, they were considered very important to safety,’’ Mr. Blanch said. He accused the Nuclear Regulatory Commission of having “gutted the rule’’ because the industry wanted to save money.

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Newly released TEPCO data provides evidence of periodic chain reaction at Fukushima Unit 1

Newly released TEPCO data provides evidence of periodic chain reaction at Fukushima Unit 1 from Fairewinds Associates on Vimeo.

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