Wednesday, June 29, 2011

NRC hearing raises questions about safety at nuclear plants

From the Christian Science Monitor:

A Nuclear Regulatory Commission hearing offered fresh findings in the runup to a final 90-day safety review report on the US nuclear fleet due next month. A safety task force staff told the five-member commission that America's nuclear plants were safe, but noted that: • In many cases, older "vintage" plants that undergo relicensing examinations to operate an added 20 years are not required to bring those plants fully up to current safety standards • NRC regulations have never formally recognized the possibility of an extreme event – like an earthquake or tornado – simultaneously knocking out both on-site and off-site power at a nuclear plant, as happened at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan. • The nation's nuclear plants have "different licensing bases and associated safety margins," with variations among the plants depending upon their age.

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Confessions of a Nuclear Power Safety Expert

From Miller-McCune:

When Italy decided in the mid-’70s to add nuclear power to its power portfolio, young mechanical and nuclear engineer Cesare Silvi was among those attracted to the opportunities it presented. His work centered on nuclear safety issues — in particular, what might happen if something unexpected struck a power plant. Corners he saw cut there eventually soured Silvi on that endeavor. His next position — at the Italian Commission on Nuclear and Alternative Energy Sources, which included work on nuclear disarmament — eventually soured him on nuclear energy itself. “[If we] continue with nuclear power, there will definitely be worse accidents,” he argued in the wake of Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi disaster. Over the weekend, Italian voters agreed and overwhelming rejected restarting nuclear power in their country.

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Mass. joins Vermont in opposition to Entergy injunction

From the Brattleboro Reformer:

It may be full house later this month when Entergy's request for a preliminary injunction against the state is heard in federal court. Late on Monday, the state of Massachusetts got involved when Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of Vermont. In her filing, Coakley wrote that the Commonwealth has a significant interest in the case because of its state laws regarding regulation of power generating facilities within its borders, including nuclear power plants and "... preserving its ability to enact, implement and enforce its own laws, to address the numerous concerns inherent in construction and operation of nuclear power plants within its border, now or in the future. The preemption questions presented in this proceeding, while specifically focused on Vermont laws, implicate the same type of constitutional analysis to a preemption challenge." Coakley wrote that this case could have a tremendous impact on how the Commonwealth is able to regulate its nuclear power plant, the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station, in Plymouth, Mass.

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Hazards of Storing Spent Fuel

From the New York Times:

Dangerous conditions can occur if water drains from pools storing radioactive fuel rods.

Japan adds four new areas to radiation threats

From CNN:

Four new areas in northern Japan have been added to the list of places affected by radiation originating from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, authorities said Friday.

Three of the four are in the Ryozenmachi area, including about 180 households some 50 kilometers (31 miles) from the Fukushima plant, said Takayuki Sato, a Date city official

Government data of the three hot spots showed an estimated radiation level between 20.1 to 20.8 millisieverts per year.

By comparison, the average resident of an industrialized country receives a dose of about 3 millisieverts per year.

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June 10, 2011: Markey Statement on NRC IG Report

WASHINGTON (June 10, 2011) -- Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), the Ranking Member on the Natural Resources Committee and a senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, released the following statement on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Inspector General report: “The NRC Inspector General report is a vindication for Chairman Jaczko and confirms that his decision to close out the Yucca Mountain program was consistent with both the law and his authority, contrary to accusations made during a Republican witch-hunt that his actions were 'illegal.' “While the nuclear industry and their allies in Congress may be frustrated that Yucca Mountain has not opened, the fact is that Secretary Chu, not Chairman Jaczko, made the decision to close it. I think that decision was entirely justified, given the fact that the proposed nuclear waste storage site was going to be located on an earthquake fault line. Others may disagree. But Chairman Jaczko had the authority to cease licensing activities on this facility once the Department of Energy made the decision to shut it down.” “The irony is that had Congress not made the political decision to limit DOE to only investigating Yucca Mountain’s suitability to be used as our nation’s high level nuclear waste repository, we might be much further along right now in getting to practical solutions about how best to safely store this deadly waste."

Japan cites ‘lessons’ of nuclear accident


Japan admitted yesterday that it was unprepared for a severe nuclear accident like the tsunami-caused Fukushima disaster, and said damage to the reactors and radiation leakage were worse than it previously thought.

In a report being submitted to the UN nuclear agency, the government also acknowledged reactor design flaws and a need for greater independence for the country’s nuclear regulators.

The report said the nuclear fuel in three reactors probably melted through the inner containment vessels, not just the core, after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami knocked out the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant’s power and cooling systems. Fuel in the Unit 1 reactor started melting hours earlier than previously estimated.

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Monday, June 20, 2011

NRC: May 17 Meeting with Exelon

Summary of May 17, 2011, Meeting with Exelon Re: Proposed Amendment Request to Modify Spent Fuel Pool Storage Racks at Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station, Units 2 and 3 ADAMS Accession No.: ML111540243

Thursday, June 16, 2011

White House & NRC Recommend 50 Mile Fukushima Evacuation, Yet Insist US Safe With Only 10

White House & NRC Recommend 50 Mile Fukushima Evacuation, Yet Insist US Safe With Only 10 from Fairewinds Associates on Vimeo.

Exelon: Meeting Regarding Spent Fuel Pool Storage Racks

Summary of May 17, 2011, Meeting with Exelon Re: Proposed Amendment Request to Modify Spent Fuel Pool Storage Racks at Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station, Units 2 and 3 ADAMS Accession No.: ML111540243

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Nuclear Update

Peach Bottom:

May 13, 2011 – The NRC said there would be no significant environmental impact with the transfer of low-level radioactive waste from the Limerick Generating Station in southeastern Pennsylvania to a storage facility at the Peach Bottom plant.

Peach Bottom officials initially requested a license amendment to allow the transfer of the waste on Jan. 6, 2010. The waste does not include any transfer of spent nuclear fuel from Limerick.

Exelon operates both nuclear power plants.

The Limerick plant does not have the capacity to store all of the low-level radioactive waste it generates. The NRC noted that the Barnwell disposal facility in South Carolina is no longer available for Limerick, but Peach Bottom has the ability to store a large amount of low-level waste on an interim basis.

In its environmental analysis, the NRC noted that there would be two or three shipments a year from Limerick to Peach Bottom. “The distance between the plant sites is less than the distance that was previously traveled to the Barnwell disposal facility in South Carolina,” the NRC noted.

“The staff concludes that the radiological impacts associated with the transportation, handling and storage of low-level radioactive waste at Peach Bottom will not result in a significant impact to plant workers and members of the public,” the NRC said.

“The proposed action will not significantly increase the probability or consequences of accidents. No changes are being made in the types of effluents that may be released offsite. There is no significant increase in the amount of any effluent released offsite. There is no significant increase in occupational or public radiation exposure. Therefore, there are no significant radiological environmental impacts associated with the proposed action.”

Berwick plant

May 16, 2001 – Operators of the Susquehanna nuclear plant near Berwick shut down the Unit 1 reactor for an inspection of the main turbine.

The precautionary shutdown was done to inspect the blades of the turbine. Workers detected defects on similar blades in the Unit 2 turbine during a routine inspection as part of a refueling and maintenance outage.

Officials said the defective turbine blades on Unit 2 are being replaced. Unit 1 will be returned to service when the inspection and any needed repairs are completed, PPL officials said.

Peach Bottom to store low-level nuclear waste from Montgomery County

From the York Dispatch:

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Tuesday approved an Exelon Nuclear application to store low-level radioactive waste from Montgomery County at a facility in Peach Bottom Township.

Under the amendment to Peach Bottom's operating license, Exelon can immediately begin transporting the waste from Limerick Generating Station to a containment building at Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station, said NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan.

He said Limerick is running out of space for the waste, while Peach Bottom has excess capacity.

The waste includes items - such as discarded clothing, equipment, tools, and filters - that were exposed to radiation. The authorization does not include the transfer of spent nuclear fuel, Sheehan said.

The NRC reviewed Exelon's proposal, submitted in January 2010, to make sure exposure levels for workers and the public and all are within allowable levels, Sheehan said.

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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Susquehanna: Closure Letter on Managing Gas Accumulation


Download ML11146A021 (PDF)

Exelon nuclear reactor shuts down unexpectedly in Limerick

From newsworks:

A malfunction led to the sudden shutdown of one of the nuclear reactors at Exelon’s Limerick Nuclear Generation Station early Sunday morning.

Exelon said in a press release that Unit 2 shut down Sunday at 5:02 a.m. “after the turbine tripped following scheduled testing and maintenance on an electrical system in the non-nuclear section of the plant.”

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