Saturday, March 11, 2023

NRC Authorizes Restart of National Institute of Standards and Technology Reactor

Nuclear Regulatory Commission - News Release
No: 23-021 March 10, 2023
CONTACT: Scott Burnell, 301-415-8200

NRC Authorizes Restart of National Institute of Standards and Technology Reactor

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has concluded the National Institute of Standards and Technology has satisfied the requirements to safely restart the NIST research reactor in Gaithersburg, Maryland. The facility has been safely shut down since February 2021, when an event damaged a reactor fuel element without affecting public health and safety.

“We’ve reached this decision after extensive review of the event, NIST’s corrective actions, and additional work the facility has done to ensure safe operation,” said Andrea Veil, director of the NRC’s Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation. “We’re satisfied this research facility’s important systems and components are ready to go, and we’re satisfied the reactor staff are ready to carry out improved procedures for maintaining safety. We’ll continue our increased oversight of the facility and its ongoing corrective actions.”

NRC approval was required before the facility could restart the reactor because the facility violated the fuel cladding temperature safety limit. The NRC’s technical evaluation report includes: review of the facility’s systems to verify there was no adverse impact from the event; NIST’s actions to comply with the Confirmatory Order issued in August 2022; and results from follow-on NRC inspections. NIST’s actions covered several areas relevant to the 2021 event, including: fuel handling and related management activities; the facility’s safety culture and corrective action program; and the facility’s emergency response resources and procedures. The NRC also separately reviewed and approved several amendments to the facility’s license that were requested by NIST to support the safe restart of the facility.

Thursday, March 9, 2023

Energy Harbor, owner of nuclear plants at heart of HB6 scandal, sold for $3.4 billion to Texas-based Vistra Corp

Energy Harbor, owner of nuclear plants at heart of HB6 scandal, sold for $3.4 billion to Texas-based Vistra Corp.

Davis-Besse plant
This April 4, 2017, file photo shows the entrance to the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station in Oak Harbor, Ohio. Energy Harbor, which owns the Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear plants, will be sold to Texas-based Vistra Corp. for $3 billion in cash, a 15% stake in a Vistra subsidiary, and assumption of $430 million in debt. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane, File)AP

By Jeremy Pelzer,

COLUMBUS, Ohio—Energy Harbor, the owner of two nuclear power plants at the center of the House Bill 6 scandal, has been purchased for more than $3.4 billion by Texas-based Vistra Corp., according to a release.

The sale of the one-time FirstEnergy subsidiary fulfills a key goal of HB6 backers – to be able to sell the Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear plants in Northern Ohio. Vistra was part of the coalition that unsuccessfully pushed to overturn HB6, but the company is now set to buy the power plants even though lawmakers have since repealed HB6′s $1 billion-plus ratepayer bailout, designed to financially prop up the two plants.

Both companies’ boards of directors have approved the deal, and a majority of Energy Harbor stockholders support the move, according to the release.

Most Energy Harbor shareholders will receive cash at the closing of the deal, according to the release, while the two largest shareholders – investment firms Nuveen and Avenue Capital Group – will get a combination of cash and a 15% ownership stake in Vistra.

The companies anticipate closing the deal sometime in the second half of this year, according to the release. Several federal regulators must still sign off on the purchase, including the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and the U.S. Department of Justice.

The release stated that Vistra will not purchase Energy Harbor’s two coal plants along the Ohio River – the W.H. Sammis plant in Jefferson County and the Pleasants Power Station near Belmont, W.Va. The Sammis plant (which was temporarily saved by HB6) is set to close later this summer; West Virginia lawmakers have been trying to find ways to save the Pleasants plant, including urging Energy Harbor to sell the facility to a FirstEnergy subsidiary.

Vistra was already the largest energy generator in Ohio even before the deal, operating seven natural gas, oil and coal power plants around the state, according to previous legislative testimony by the company, though two of their Ohio coal plants are set to close by 2027.

The announcement of the sale comes the same week as closing arguments are scheduled to be delivered in the trial of former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, a Perry County Republican who is charged with using $60 million in FirstEnergy bribe money to get HB6 passed. Ex-Ohio Republican Party Chair Matt Borges, a pro-HB6 lobbyist, is also on trial for racketeering.

Both Householder and Borges have pleaded not guilty. Two other co-defendants, lobbyist Juan Cespedes and Householder political aide Jeff Longstreth, have already pleaded guilty to their roles in the scandal and testified in the trial.

At the time HB6 was passed in 2019, proponents – including FirstEnergy Solutions, the FirstEnergy subsidiary that later spun off into Energy Harbor – argued the law’s ratepayer bailout was needed to keep the plants from closing.

Energy Harbor’s three nuclear power plants – Davis-Besse and Perry in Northern Ohio, as well as Beaver Valley in Pennsylvania – will become part of a newly-formed Vistra subsidiary called “Vistra Vision,” according to the release.

The bailout was later repealed after Householder and his co-defendants were arrested in July 2020.

Energy Harbor executive chairman John Kiani stood to make $100 million if the two nuclear plants were sold, according to court testimony from Cespedes, a FirstEnergy Solutions lobbyist who helped lead efforts to get HB6 passed. Cespedes said Kiani knew about FirstEnergy Solutions’ aggressive, $35 million campaign to block an HB6 repeal effort, which included secretly funded ad buys, bribing anti-HB6 petition signature collectors, and hiring private investigators to tail signature gatherers.

It wasn’t immediately clear how much Kiani – who has been accused of no crime to date – stands to make from Vistra’s purchase of Energy Harbor.

The Plain Dealer/ has reached out to an Energy Harbor spokesman about how much Kiani will make from the Energy Harbor’s sale to Vistra.

Cespedes also testified Vistra was one of the energy companies that funded efforts to stage a statewide referendum to repeal HB6. That effort failed after anti-HB6 petition gatherers, facing physical intimidation and bribe offers from pro-HB6 forces, were unable to get enough petition signatures for a repeal measure to make the November 2019 ballot.

“In some ways, it’s kind of funny and poetic that Vistra is buying these plants,” said Neil Waggoner, federal deputy director of energy campaigns for the Sierra Club, in an interview on Monday.

The sale, Waggoner said, also illustrates how financial fortunes have changed for the Davis-Besse and Perry plants since 2019.

When HB6 was passed, the plants were seen as money losers that needed a bailout to become financially attractive. But now, he said, energy prices have gone up because of the war in Ukraine, a number of coal plants in the region are set to close, the Inflation Reduction Act offers a variety of tax credits and incentives for nuclear plants, and President Joe Biden’s administration is looking for ways to reduce carbon emissions.

“The big thing is just seeing how dramatically the world has changed since 2019,” Waggoner said.

Sunday, March 5, 2023

Podcast is up

 Hi Eric,

The podcast with your story about Three Mile Island is up on SoundCloud and other platforms. I hope you like it!

Thanks again for being our guest on Green Street News!

Doug Wood
Associate Director
Grassroots Environmental Education

Saturday, March 4, 2023

NRC Seeks Comment on Proposed Revision to Generic Environmental Impact Statement for Renewing Reactor Licenses

Nuclear Regulatory Commission - News Release
No: 23-016 March 3, 2023
CONTACT: Scott Burnell, 301-415-8200
NRC Seeks Comment on Proposed Revision to Generic Environmental Impact Statement for Renewing Reactor Licenses
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has published a proposed rule that would update the license renewal Generic Environmental Impact Statement used by the agency when considering applications to renew operating reactor licenses.
The proposed rule is in response to a 2022 Commission order that concluded the license renewal GEIS did not analyze the environmental impacts of a subsequent license renewal term (from 60 to 80 years of operation). The proposed rule amends the relevant rule language to account for intial license renewal and one term of subsequent license renewal, redefines the number and scope of the environmental issues that must be addressed during the review of each application for license renewal, and updates related guidance to fully address subsequent renewal.
The GEIS covers environmental topics relevant to all nuclear power plant licensees seeking renewed licenses. The revised document accounts for new or revised environmental impacts, changes in regulations or guidance, and applies what the agency has learned during previous license renewals.
The NRC will hold hybrid public meetings to gather comments before finalizing the rule and GEIS for Commission consideration. The first two meetings will be March 16 at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel and Conference Center, 5701 Marinelli Road in Rockville, Maryland, from 2-4 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. The staff will host a 30-minute open house prior to each meeting. In the near future, the agency will announce four additional public meetings across the country. The meetings are one method for submitting comments on the proposed rule before the May 2 deadline. Comments can also be submitted via under Docket ID NRC-2018-0296, via email to, or via U.S. mail to Secretary, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555-0001, ATTN: Rulemakings and Adjudications Staff.

NRC Issues Annual Assessments for Nation's Nuclear Power Plants

Nuclear Regulatory Commission - News Release
No: 23-019 March 3, 2023
CONTACT: Scott Burnell, 301-415-8200 

NRC Issues Annual Assessments for Nation’s Nuclear Power Plants
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued annual letters to the nation’s operating commercial nuclear reactors assessing their 2022 performance.
Of the 93 reactors currently in the agency’s Reactor Oversight Process, 87 reached the highest performance category in safety and security. Those reactors (including Vogtle Unit 3, which was authorized for operation last year) remain under the NRC’s “baseline” inspection program, involving thousands of inspection hours for each reactor.
Six reactors were in the second performance category, as they need to resolve one or two items of low safety significance. For this performance level, regulatory oversight includes additional inspection and follow-up of corrective actions. Plants in this category are Calvert Cliffs 1 (Maryland), Davis-Besse (Ohio), Peach Bottom 2 (Pennsylvania), Quad Cities 2 (Illinois), V.C. Summer (South Carolina) and Waterford (Louisiana).
There were no reactors in the third and fourth performance categories.
Later this spring and summer, the NRC will host a public meeting or other event for each plant to discuss the annual assessment results. A separate announcement will be issued for each public assessment meeting. In addition to the annual assessment letters, plants also receive an NRC inspection plan for the coming year.
The NRC’s website outlines oversight of commercial nuclear power on the Reactor Oversight Process page. The NRC routinely updates each plant’s current performance and posts the latest information as it becomes available to the action matrix summary. Assessment letters are posted on the NRC website (click on “2022006” for each plant). Annual construction oversight assessments for new reactors at the Vogtle units 3 and 4 sites are also on the NRC website.

Friday, March 3, 2023

Annual Assessment Letter for Susquehanna Steam Electric Station, Units 1 and 2 (Reports 05000387/2022006 and 05000388/2022006)

Annual Assessment Letter for Susquehanna Steam Electric Station, Units 1 and 2 (Reports 05000387/2022006 and 05000388/2022006)

ADAMS Accession No. ML23059A047

Annual Assessment Letter for Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station, Units 2 and 3 (Reports 05000277/2022006 and 05000278/2022006)

Annual Assessment Letter for Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station, Units 2 and 3 (Reports 05000277/2022006 and 05000278/2022006)

ADAMS Accession No. ML23059A045

RI 2022 Annual Assessment Letter Peach Bottom & IP 22.pdf

NRC to Allow TMI-2 Cleanup to Proceed Without Radioactive Waste Disposal Plan; High-Level Waste to Remain On-Site Indefinitely, (March 2, 2023)

Three Mile Island To Become High-Level Radioactive Waste Site 

(Harrisburg, Pa) - The Nuclear Regulatory
Commission ruled against Eric Epstein's Petition  
just hours after getting TMI-2 Solutions Motion
to Strike Epstein's new contentions on water use.

Mr. Epstein has 25 days to file an appeal. He is  
studying his options. It is clear TMI-2 Solutions 
is not well suited for this endeavor, and water use
and radioactive water disposal remain unresolved. 

The plan to store TMI-2's debris, fuel and
waste at TMI-1 - a separate licensee - is discretionary
and just as precarious as TMI-1's rationing of water 
for the TMI-2 cleanup. TMI-2 Solutions is proposing
to "temporarily" store nine high-level radioactive
casks on-site. The contents were not disclosed at
the hearing.

Assuming there is a contract between TMI-1 and 
TMI-2, it was not disclosed the hearing, high-level
radioactive material from the TMI accident will
remain on site indefinitely.

If Constellation - which is in no hurry to clean up 
TMI-1 - is being reimbursed by the DOE  to store high-level  
radioactive  waste on the Susquehanna River, then there  
is no incentive to move the radioactive waste  off site. 
In fact it is profitable for Constellation -  which may  
not complete the TMI-1 cleanup  until 2075 - to make
Three Mile Island a high level radioactive waste site.

Contact: Eric Epstein.

NRC Grants "Timely Renewal" Exemption to Allow Continued Operation of Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant

Nuclear Regulatory Commission - News Release
No: 23-015 March 2, 2023
CONTACT: Scott Burnell, 301-415-8200

NRC Grants "Timely Renewal" Exemption to Allow Continued Operation of Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has granted an exemption to Pacific Gas & Electric Co. that would allow the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant to continue operating while the agency considers its license renewal application.
After evaluating the company’s exemption request, the NRC staff determined that the exemption is authorized by law, will not present undue risk to the public health and safety, and is consistent with the common defense and security. In addition, the staff determined Diablo Canyon’s continued operation is in the public interest because of serious challenges to the reliability of California’s electricity grid.
The current operating licenses for the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant, Units 1 and 2, expire on Nov. 2, 2024, and Aug. 26, 2025, respectively. The exemption granted today will allow those licenses to remain in effect provided PG&E submits a sufficient license renewal application for the reactors by Dec. 31, 2023. The NRC will continue its normal inspection and oversight of the facility throughout the review to ensure continued safe operation. If granted, the license renewal would authorize continued operation for up to 20 years.
NRC regulations allow a reactor’s operating license to remain in effect beyond its expiration date contingent upon the licensee submitting a sufficient license renewal application at least five years prior to expiration – a status called “timely renewal.” PG&E requires the exemption because it has not met that five-year requirement.
PG&E applied to renew the licenses in November 2009 but withdrew the application in 2018 and announced plans to cease operations and decommission the reactors when the licenses expire. After California enacted legislation last September to support continued operation, PG&E asked the NRC to resume its review of the previous application. In January, the staff informed the company that it would need to submit a new, up-to-date renewal application. That made the current exemption necessary to allow continued operation while the application is under review.
PG&E has said it will submit an application by the end of this calendar year. The NRC’s review of a license renewal application typically lasts 22 months.

NRC Names New Resident Inspector at Susquehanna Nuclear Power Plant

Nuclear Regulatory Commission - News Release
No: I-23-001 February 28, 2023
CONTACT: Diane Screnci, 610-337-5330
Neil Sheehan, 610-337-5331

NRC Names New Resident Inspector at Susquehanna Nuclear Power Plant

Nuclear Regulatory Commission officials in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, have selected Erin Brady as the resident inspector at the Susquehanna nuclear power plant in Salem Township (Luzerne County), Pennsylvania. She joins Senior Resident Inspector Chris Highley at the two- unit site, which is operated by Talen Energy.

“Erin’s experience in private industry, with the Navy and during her time training and in the field as an NRC inspector will serve the agency well as she begins this new role,” said NRC Region I Administrator Ray Lorson. “She stands ready to put what she has learned to use as part of our front-line inspection team.”

Brady joined the NRC in 2021 after working as a quality control and maintenance technician in private industry. Prior to that, she served for eight years as an enlisted nuclear electrician aboard Navy aircraft carriers. Since joining the NRC, she has served as acting resident inspector at the Peach Bottom nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania and completed NRC training qualifications.

She holds bachelor’s degrees in nuclear and electrical engineering from Thomas Edison State University in New Jersey.

Each operating U.S. commercial nuclear power plant has at least two NRC resident inspectors. They serve as the agency’s eyes and ears at the facility, conducting inspections, monitoring safety-significant work projects and interacting with plant workers and the public. Resident inspectors can serve at a reactor site for up to seven years.