Friday, May 27, 2011

Two damaged reactors may have holes in their containment vessels: TEPCO data

From the Mainichi Daily News:

At least two reactors at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant may have holes in their containment vessels, according to a report released by Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) on May 24, a finding that could hamper efforts to meet a government-sanctioned timetable to end the crisis.

TEPCO, the operator of the troubled nuclear power plant, said in the report that meltdowns had occurred at the No. 1, 2 and 3 reactors. The report revealed for the first time the possibility of the No. 1 and 2 reactors having a hole about 7 centimeters in diameter and multiple holes about 10 centimeters in diameter in their respective containment vessels.

TEPCO said the damage caused by meltdowns to the pressure vessels of the No. 2 and 3 reactors was "limited." But experts had questioned the status of their pressure vessels as well as their containment vessels because highly contaminated radioactive water was leaked into their turbine buildings. Therefore, it has become increasingly unclear whether the utility and the government can deliver on the roadmap that seeks to bring the nuclear power plant under control within six to nine months.

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Risk From Spent Nuclear Reactor Fuel Is Greater in U.S. Than in Japan, Study Says

From the New York Times:

The threat of a catastrophic release of radioactive materials from a spent fuel pool at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi plant is dwarfed by the risk posed by such pools in the United States, which are typically filled with far more radioactive material, according to a study released on Tuesday by a nonprofit institute. The report, from the Institute for Policy Studies, recommends that the United States transfer most of the nation’s spent nuclear fuel from pools filled with cooling water to dry sealed steel casks to limit the risk of an accident resulting from an earthquake, terrorism or other event. “The largest concentrations of radioactivity on the planet will remain in storage at U.S. reactor sites for the indefinite future,” the report’s author, Robert Alvarez, a senior scholar at the institute, wrote. “In protecting America from nuclear catastrophe, safely securing the spent fuel by eliminating highly radioactive, crowded pools should be a public safety priority of the highest degree.”

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Swiss officials: Let's close all our nuclear plants

The Swiss Cabinet on Wednesday called for the decommissioning of the country's five nuclear power reactors and new energy sources to replace them. The recommendation by the seven-member Federal Council will be debated in parliament, which is expected to make a final decision next month. If approved, the reactors would go offline between 2019 and 2034 after they reach their average lifespan of 50 years, unless their use could be safely extended for a few more years. Switzerland has four nuclear power plants with a total of five reactors. The country will keep the reactors running as long as they are safe, but gradually hopes to turn to entirely non-nuclear sources of power, Energy Minister Doris Leuthard and other Swiss energy officials said.
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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Susquehanna: Rausch's request for additional information


Download ML11138A034

Susquehanna: Kammeier's request for additional information

Susquehanna Steam Electric Station, Units 1 and 2 – Request for Additional Information Re: 2011 Decommissioning Funding Status Report (TAC Nos. ME5542 and ME5543) Download ML11138A036

TMI: Inspection Report


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Peach Bottom: Relief Request I4R

Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station, Units 2 and 3 - Request for Additional Information Regarding Relief Request I4R-52 Concerning Alternatives to Reactor Vessel Weld Examinations Adams Accession No. ML111390152

NRC Petition on Spent Fuel Pools

Eric: My group, the Foundation for Resilient Societies, has a proposal for safety enhancements to spent fuel pools at nuclear plants. Backup cooling power would be provided by solar panels and other unattended, high reliability electric generation. This could prevent spent fuel pool fires and radiation releases. Our proposal has been submitted to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in the form of a Petition for Rulemaking. PRM-50-96 is the only Petition for Rulemaking currently on the NRC docket for 2011. On May 6, the NRC published the petition in the Federal Register for comment: A blog moderated by the NRC is covering the status of the petition. Already, there are some very interesting public comments on the blog: A full copy of the petition can be downloaded from: If people in your group would comment on the petition, either on the NRC blog or as a formal comment for NRC rulemaking, this would further the discussion about safety enhancements for spent fuel pools. The deadline for formal comments is July 20, 2011. Comments on the NRC blog before this date would be very helpful as well. A notice on your website about the petition would be ideal, if you can do this and believe it would fit with your group’s goals. Many thanks for considering this. If you have questions, please email or call at the number below. Thomas Popik Foundation for Resilient Societies 603-321-1090

Fukushima News: May 16th - 22nd

In a quick review of the last week's Fukushima global coverage, there was a modest burst in global coverage at the beginning of the week, but it quickly dropped off as only international wire services were doing any coverage, and even coverage in Japan dropped of on Sunday. There is clearly many stories still being investigated from the quake primer to on Friday where TEPCo acknowledged that it is on the brink of economic failure.

Sunday, May 22nd, 2011

Saturday, May 21st, 2011

Friday, May 20th, 2011

Thursday, May 19th, 2011

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

Monday May 16th, 2011

Japan's TEPCO posts record loss as president resigns

From Yahoo News:

Japan's Tokyo Electric Power on Friday posted a record $15 billion loss and its under-fire president resigned to take responsibility for the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl 25 years ago.

The beleaguered utility posted an annual net loss of 1.247 trillion yen ($15 billion), the biggest ever for a non-financial Japanese firm. The company did not give an earnings forecast for the current financial year.


Recent TEPCO updates have confirmed experts' fears that fuel rods inside reactor one had been fully exposed to the air and had melted, and that reactors two and three were likely in a similar condition.

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Analysis of Cancer Risks in Populations near Nuclear Facilities: Phase 1

Third Committee Meeting: May 23-24, 2011 Atlanta, Georgia

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Friday, May 20, 2011

NRC Meeting on TMI Safety, June 7, 2011

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) will meet with the public to discuss the NRC's assessrhent of safety performance at Three Mile fsland Power Station Unit 1 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 operationg. Download ML111400039 (PDF)

Five steps to prevent another Fukushima

From the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists:

The situation at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant has been an ongoing disaster since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. According to an estimate by the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan, by April 27 approximately 55 percent of the fuel in reactor unit 1 had melted, along with 35 percent of the fuel in unit 2, and 30 percent of the fuel in unit 3; and overheated spent fuels in the storage pools of units 3 and 4 probably were also damaged. The accident has already surpassed the 1979 Three Mile Island accident in seriousness, and is comparable to the 1986 Chernobyl accident.

To prevent this kind of nuclear disaster from happening again, both the nuclear industry and government officials worldwide must seriously consider making at least five major changes to the safety systems at nuclear power plants, as well as to security measures and international agreements.

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U.S. Was Warned on Vents Before Failure at Japan’s Plant

From the New York Times:

Five years before the crucial emergency vents at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant were disabled by an accident they were supposed to help handle, engineers at a reactor in Minnesota warned American regulators about that very problem. Anthony Sarrack, one of the two engineers, notified staff members at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that the design of venting systems was seriously flawed at his reactor and others in the United States similar to the ones in Japan. He later left the industry in frustration because managers and regulators did not agree. Mr. Sarrack said that the vents, which are supposed to relieve pressure at crippled plants and keep containment structures intact, should not be dependent on electric power and workers’ ability to operate critical valves because power might be cut in an emergency and workers might be incapacitated. Part of the reason the venting system in Japan failed — allowing disastrous hydrogen explosions — is that power to the plant was knocke

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Japanese Officials Ignored or Concealed Dangers

From the New York Times:

The nuclear power plant, lawyers argued, could not withstand the kind of major earthquake that new seismic research now suggested was likely. If such a quake struck, electrical power could fail, along with backup generators, crippling the cooling system, the lawyers predicted. The reactors would then suffer a meltdown and start spewing radiation into the air and sea. Tens of thousands in the area would be forced to flee. Although the predictions sound eerily like the sequence of events at the Fukushima Daiichi plant following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, the lawsuit was filed nearly a decade ago to shut down another plant, long considered the most dangerous in Japan — the Hamaoka station.

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Peach Bottom and Berwick: accident readiness

May 13, 2011 – In the aftermath of the problems at the Japanese Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Station resulting from the earthquake and tsunami, the NRC asked various nuclear plants in the U.S. to assess their capabilities to respond to extraordinary consequences. The plants were asked to evaluate measures to address their ability to mitigate problems from large fires or explosions; station electrical blackouts; internal and external flooding; and the impact from seismic events.

The NRC found both Peach Bottom and Berwick were in good shape for any of the listed catastrophic events.

At the Peach Bottom facility, no deficiencies were found addressing blackout conditions. On flooding events, the NRC noted that the licensee identified several minor barrier and door discrepancies, and procedural enhancements were entered into its corrective action program.

On the other issues, the NRC inspector noted that equipment was available and functional, and no significant deficiencies were identified. However, the licensee identified several enhancements needed to improve the long-term reliability of equipment and several enhancements needed to increase the survivability of portable equipment.

At Berwick, plant operator PPL identified a vulnerability in a blackout because a portable diesel generator may be unavailable for use because it is not routinely stored in a hardened building or enclosure. This problem was entered into the plant’s corrective action program. The NRC also observed that no concerns were identified from flooding events, although some issues were entered into a corrective action program.

On the other issues, certain vulnerabilities were identified in case of a major seismic event, and corrective actions are planned.

Nuclear agency to probe Pilgrim nuke shutdown

From the Cape Cod Times:

The federal agency that oversees nuclear power plants in the United States has sent a special inspection team to the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth to investigate an unplanned shutdown there last week.

The nuclear reactor was being brought back online May 10 after a refueling operation when human error caused it to automatically shut down, according to an Entergy Corp. official. Entergy runs the Plymouth plant, which is the only commercial nuclear power plant operating in Massachusetts.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced Monday that it had sent a three-member special inspection team to the plant to "review plant operator performance and decision-making, the effectiveness of Entergy's response to the event and corrective actions taken by the company to date."

"There were no immediate safety implications associated with the unplanned shutdown," NRC Region I Administrator Bill Dean said in a statement released by the agency. "Nevertheless, we want to gain a better understanding of exactly why the shutdown occurred, what role human performance issues may have played in the event and the steps being taken by the company to learn from this event and prevent it from happening again in the future."

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Monday, May 16, 2011

Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant Photos 15

Cryptome has posted more photos of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station.

Nuclear Expert Warns Congress U.S. Power Plants Not Safe

From Environment News Service:

Congressional lawmakers were warned today that U.S. nuclear power plants are by no means safe and that government agency and nuclear industry representatives have not been telling the whole story.

David Lochbaum, a nuclear engineer who serves as director of the Nuclear Safety Project with the Union of Concerned Scientists, has the credentials to know whereof he speaks. From March 2009 until March 2010, Lochbaum worked for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission as a Boiling Water Reactor technology instructor at their Technical Training Center.

His duties included teaching the severe accident management guidelines to NRC employees for their initial qualifications and requalifications.

Lochbaum was asked to testify before a joint session of the Energy and Environment and Investigations and Oversight Subcommittees of the House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.

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NRC: Meeting with petitioner requesting GE BWRs Mark I Reactors license suspension


Topics Discussed at May 2, 2011 Meetings with Public Interest Groups

Natural Resources Defense Council, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Public Citizen, Nuclear Information and Resource Service, Project on Government Oversight, Riverkeeper, Inc., Pilgrim Watch

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Susquehanna: Temporary Instruction 2515/183 Inspection Report


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Fukushima - One Step Forward and Four Steps Back as Each Unit Challenged by New Problems

Gundersen says Fukushima's gaseous and liquid releases continue unabated. With a meltdown at Unit 1, Unit 4 leaning and facing possible collapse, several units contaminating ground water, and area school children outside the exclusion zone receiving adult occupational radiation doses, the situation continues to worsen. TEPCO needs a cohesive plan and international support to protect against world-wide contamination.

Regulatory Inadequacies Threatening U.S. Nuclear Reactor Safety Detailed in New Markey Report


Regulatory Inadequacies Threatening U.S. Nuclear Reactor Safety Detailed in New Markey Report

“Fukushima Fallout” Reveals Breakdown in Emergency System Regulations Exposed Since Japanese Reactor Meltdown

WASHINGTON, D.C. –Congressman Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), a senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee and the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, today released a report prepared by his staff at his direction entitled “Fukushima Fallout: Regulatory Loopholes at U.S. Nuclear Power Plants”, a summary of Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) regulatory inadequacies, practices and decisions that impair effective nuclear safety oversight in the United States. The report, created in the wake of the Japanese catastrophe, highlights the following key findings:

  • Widespread malfunctions and inoperability of emergency diesel generators at nuclear power plants
  • The absence of emergency back-up power requirements at some spent fuel pools
  • The absence of requirements to prevent hydrogen explosions at reactors and spent fuel pools
  • Outdated seismic safety requirements, even as applications for new licenses and license extensions for many nuclear reactors continue to be processed by the NRC.

“It is apparent that many of the failures of the reactor cooling systems and measures to prevent explosions that led to the meltdowns in Japan could also occur in the United States, and would not even be violations of current regulations,” said Rep. Markey. “This is unacceptable, and I believe that the NRC must halt its processing of all pending nuclear reactor licensing applications until these vulnerabilities are fully remedied.” The report concludes that “An examination of NRC regulations demonstrates that flawed assumptions and under-estimation of safety risks are currently an inherent part of the NRC regulatory program, due to a long history of decisions made by prior Commissions or by the NRC staff that have all too often acquiesced to industry requests for a weakening of safety standards. Coupled with reports that the near-term inspections being conducted at United States nuclear power plants may be limited in scope and subject to restrictions on public disclosure, it would be unwise to move forward with any pending licensing actions before the NRC fully completes its review and upgrades its safety requirements.” A copy of the full report can be found HERE. Rep. Markey recently introduced legislation to overhaul nuclear safety. The Nuclear Power Plant Safety Act of 2011 will impose a moratorium on all new nuclear reactor licenses or license extensions until new safety requirements are in place that reflect the lessons learned from the Fukushima reactor meltdown. 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 1982, he chaired a hearing on the distribution of potassium iodide. 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. In 2010, he requested a Government Accountability Office investigation into the resiliency of nuclear power plants to earthquakes and other natural disasters. And several days before the earthquake in Japan, Rep. Markey raised concerns regarding the seismic resiliency of the Westinghouse AP1000, a new nuclear reactor whose design is currently pending before the NRC.

NRC chief: 10-mile evac zone 'a planning standard'

From the Associated Press:

The chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said Tuesday that the 10-mile emergency evacuation zone around U.S. nuclear plants is a "planning standard" that could change during an accident or attack.

Chairman Gregory Jaczko said his agency recommended that Americans move 50 miles away from the Japanese plants that were failing after an earthquake in March because of "the potential for a more significant event to develop."

In the "highly unlikely" event of an accident at a U.S. plant, he said, decisions would be based "on what information we can get."

"If we needed to take action beyond 10 miles, that's certainly what we would recommend," he said.

Critics of the Indian Point nuclear power plants — which Jaczko toured on Tuesday — say the NRC's 50-mile advisory in Japan proved that a larger area is endangered by the plants than the NRC has acknowledged. They also say it would be impossible to evacuate the millions of people within 50 miles of Indian Point, which includes most of New York City, so the plants' application for new licenses should be denied.

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NRC: Cyber Security Plan Implementation Schedule


ADAMS Accession No.: ML110980538 (PDF)

Fission Stories #39: Ripley Wouldn’t Believe It

From All Things Nuclear:

Nuclear power plants are inherently dangerous. They generate tremendous amounts of energy, producing large quantities of highly radioactive material along the way. Strict controls are required to ensure that this potentially deadly combination is properly managed to an acceptably low risk level.

Even Robert Ripley, the creator of the well-known Rip1ey’s Believe It Or Not syndicated newspaper feature and museums, probably wouldn’t believe the response by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to potential natural gas hazards at two U.S. reactors.

In 1991, the NRC wrote a report taking the owners of the Fort St. Vrain nuclear plant in Colorado to task for not taking seriously the threat of a natural gas explosion near the plant. The report said that the plant owners did not adequately evaluate “external hazards that could have affected the safe operation” of the facility, and that a later safety evaluation “was too narrowly focused and did not consider additional possible malfunctions.”

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Congress to Obama: Fully Implement Nuclear “Emergency Pill” Law

For Immediate Release May 10, 2011 Contact: Giselle Barry (Markey) 202-225-2836 Harry Glenn (Young) 202-225-5961 Matt Dennis (Lowey) 202-225-6506 David Peluso (Bilirakis) 202-225-5755

Congress to Obama: Fully Implement Nuclear “Emergency Pill” Law

In Wake of Fukushima Meltdown, Bipartisan Group of 30 Members Join in Support of 2002 Law Requiring Potassium Iodide for Residents Living within 20 Miles of Nuclear Plants

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representatives Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), C.W. Bill Young (R-Fla.), Nita M. Lowey (D-N.Y.), and Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.) led a letter signed by 30 House Members sent yesterday to President Barack Obama calling for full implementation of the 2002 law that requires distribution of potassium iodide – also called KI – to Americans living within a 20 mile radius of a nuclear power plant. Although this law has been on the books since 2002, it has yet to be implemented. Previously, distribution of KI was limited to just those within 10 miles, and only to states that requested it from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). In Japan, the NRC recommended a fifty-mile evacuation zone for U.S. citizens and potassium iodide was made available for military personnel, Americans working in the disaster relief effort, and other Americans living in or visiting Japan. “We write to urge you to implement the 2002 law requiring the distribution of potassium iodide to the people who live within 20 miles of nuclear power reactors in order to protect the Americans in at least 33 States against the possibility of a radioactive iodine release from a nearby nuclear reactor,” wrote the Representatives in the letter to President Obama. If an earthquake, terrorist attack, or accident caused a radiation release in the United States, one of the greatest risks to health comes from radioactive forms of the chemical element iodine.” Potassium iodide has been found to protect individuals, especially young children, from the cancer-causing releases of radioactive iodine by flooding it with stable iodine so that the gland cannot take up the cancer-causing radioactive form. The Food and Drug Administration has found that inhalation of radioactive iodine is of particular concern for those residing in the immediate area of a nuclear accident or otherwise directly exposed to radiation. With several large population centers within 20 miles of a nuclear power plant, rapid evacuation may not be a viable option for residents. “Our experience with Hurricane Katrina, and the Japanese experience shows just how difficult it can be to rapidly evacuate large population centers.” wrote the Representatives. “Distribution of potassium iodide now, before the unlikely event of a disaster, is the prudent course.” A copy of the letter to President Obama can be found HERE. Rep. Markey amended the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response 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.

NRC: 30-Day Update on Events in Japan

On Thursday, May 12, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will receive its first 30-day briefing from the agency task force created to examine issues raised by the Fukushima reactor accident to see what lessons might be applicable to U.S. reactors. The briefing will be held at 9:30 a.m. at NRC Headquarters, 11555 Rockville Pike, Rockville, Md.

Because of the level of media interest, this event will be a mandatory pool for television. C-SPAN will provide a two-camera, high definition pool for distribution via the usual pool methods. Japanese networks are asked to obtain the feed from their U.S. network partners.

As in the case of the initial commission meeting, seats on one side of the commission hearing room will be reserved for accredited members of the news media. Photographers will have limited space at the meeting in which to take photos. Movement must be kept to a minimum so as not to be distracting and entry into the inner well closest to the Commission briefing table is prohibited.

Plan to arrive in advance of the meeting at the Marinelli Road entrance of the NRC with proper media credentials. The NRC is located across the street from the White Flint Metro station. Parking is available at the White Flint metro parking garage on Marinelli Road.

Members of the media are asked to call the NRC Office of Public Affairs at 301-415-8200 in advance to provide the names of those attending the meeting to assure sufficient seating.

Immediately following the meeting commissioners and the task force staff will exit the commission meeting room. Because of the ongoing nature of the task force review, there will be no interviews afterwards.

The commission meeting will be open to public observation and will be webcast at:

Inspector General Reports: FY 2011 Index

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Office of the Inspector General, recently issued a new report. To view this and other reports issued by the office, please click here.

Deadly Silence on Fukushima

From the Huffington Post:

I received the following email a few days ago from a Russian nuclear physicist friend who is an expert on the kinds of gases being released at Fukushima. Here is what he wrote:

About Japan: the problem is that the reactor uses "dirty" fuel. It is a combination of plutonium and uranium (MOX). I suspect that the old fuel rods have bean spread out due to the explosion and the surrounding area is contaminated with plutonium which means you can never return to this place again. It is like a new Tchernobyl. Personally, I am not surprised that the authority has not informed people about this.

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NRC Public Meeting: Seismic Review of U.S. Nuclear Plants


Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff will conduct a public meeting at the agency headquarters in Rockville, Md., on Wednesday, May 18, to discuss the information and analysis needed for an updated understanding of seismic hazards at U.S. reactors. The NRC will hold the meeting in the Commission Meeting Room of the agency’s One White Flint North building, 11555 Rockville Pike in Rockville, from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. NRC staff will provide an update on Generic Issue 199 (GI-199), which over the past few years has been examining updated seismic models and information for Eastern and Central U.S. nuclear power plants. GI-199 continues to conclude the plants can safely withstand earthquakes at their sites. Discussions for the remainder of the meeting will focus on how to develop the best available seismic information and the best available methods for evaluating that information, as well as considering strategies for conducting the work as efficiently as possible. The public is invited to participate at designated points in the agenda. A teleconference will be available; please contact Jonathan Rowley at 301-415-4053 by May 16 for details. NRC staff will consider information from the meeting in preparing a Generic Letter regarding GI-199 for later this year. The letter is expected to ask U.S. nuclear power plants to re- evaluate their seismic hazards. The NRC discussed preliminary GI-199 findings last year; more information on the issue is available on the NRC website.