State rips Vermont Yankee

From the Burlington Free Press:

The Douglas administration blasted Vermont Yankee on Thursday, saying the company repeatedly denied last year that the Vernont nuclear power plant had underground pipes that contain radioactive fluid.

This week -- in revelations that prompted a call Thursday for a federal investigation -- it became clear the plant had such pipes after a leak of radioactive tritium was traced to them.

"For us, this is a real problem," said Public Service Commissioner David O'Brien. "The governor feels this has been a breach of trust."

Vermont Yankee owner Entergy Corp. revealed last week that elevated levels of radioactive tritium were found in a groundwater monitoring well at the plant and confirmed this week that underground piping was among the possible sources of the contamination. Officials initially reported the level of tritium released was not a health threat, but they continue to monitor whether the leak has spread.

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Reps. Markey, John Hall And Adler Request Investigation Into Leaky Pipes at Nuclear Plants

For Immediate Release
January 14, 2010
http://markey.house.gov

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Representative Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Chairman of the Energy and Environment Subcommittee, Rep. John Hall (D-N.Y.), and Rep. John Adler (D-N.J.) sent a letter yesterday to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) requesting an investigation into the integrity, safety, inspection, maintenance, regulations and enforcement issues surrounding buried piping at our nation’s nuclear power plants. These pipes serve critical functions within power plants.  In some cases, these buried pipes carry the water which would cool the reactor core in the event of an unexpected plant shut-down.  In other cases, the pipes carry diesel fuel to emergency generators. Despite the critical importance of these pipes, most have never been inspected. After decades underground, neither the NRC nor the plant operators can be absolutely certain that the pipes are intact.

The letter to the GAO was prompted by a rash of recent failures in the buried piping systems of nuclear reactors.  For example, just one week after the 40-year-old Oyster Creek (NJ) reactor’s license was extended for another 20 years, plant workers discovered standing water in an on-site cable vault.  This water, apparently leaking from two different buried pipes, was contaminated with the radioactive isotope tritium.

A similar leak at the Indian Point (NY) reactor occurred last February in pipes that are part of the primary backup cooling system, which cools the reactor during any unexpected shutdown.  The pipes at the Indian Point reactor had not been inspected since 1973 – when the plant was built.  These cases are not isolated incidents.  Other known or suspected leaky buried piping systems at our nation’s nuclear power plants were found in Ohio, California and Illinois.

“Under current regulations, miles and miles of buried pipes within nuclear reactors have never been inspected and will likely never be inspected,” said Markey. “This is simply unacceptable.  As it stands, the NRC requires – at most – a single, spot inspection of the buried piping systems no more than once every 10 years. This cannot possibly be sufficient to ensure the safety of both the public and the plant.”

"Recent leaks at Indian Point indicate a serious potential for disaster that must be understood and sufficiently monitored to prevent problems," said Rep. Hall, whose Congressional District includes Indian Point. "The aging buried infrastructure at Indian Point should not be ignored and needs to be a major consideration in Indian Point's re-licensing process. With eight percent of the U.S. population living within 50 miles of Indian Point, any breakdown there would be catastrophic."

In their GAO request, the Congressmen lay out their questions about the NRC’s buried pipe inspection processes, current relevant regulations, and whether they are both adequate and enforced in a manner that is sufficiently protective of reactor and public safety.

A copy of the letter can be found here http://markey.house.gov/docs/gao_buried_pipes.pdf

Vt. Yankee says didn’t mean to mislead lawmakers

From the Nashua Telegraph:

Vermont Yankee officials were put on the defensive again Wednesday, saying no one meant to mislead lawmakers about underground piping at the plant last year but “should have been more thorough” in answering a legislative panel’s questions.

The reactor on the Connecticut River in Vermont’s southeast corner has been in the spotlight as Entergy Nuclear tries to win legislative approval for a 20-year extension on a license set to expire in 2012. Vermont is the only state that gives its Legislature a say on the license; other states leave it up to state utility regulators and the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

“The fact that they admitted they misled people, yeah, that’s not going to help Yankee,” said Rep. Patti Komline of Dorset, the House Republican leader. “And it just gives the politicians more fodder” to criticize the plant, she said.

Meanwhile, hundreds of demonstrators descended Wednesday on the Statehouse to demand that Vermont Yankee be shut down. A handful of them marched 126 miles from the plant’s corporate offices in Brattleboro.

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Stakeholders put Nuclear Regulatory Commission on notice over nuclear reactor renewals

PILGRIM WATCH

January 12, 2010

What’s  New

 

Pilgrim Watch, joined by nine state and national organizations, filed comments today on the proposed revision to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) on reactor license renewal.

In order to “streamline” the process of relicensing nuclear reactors for an additional 20 years, the NRC has created a “generic” framework of issues they will consider, applicable to all reactor sites. The original version was created in 1996 and since that time, over 50 reactors have been re-licensed in the U.S.; NRC has not denied any application to date. Pilgrim’s process that began in 2006 continues.

Public Input: The NRC held only six meetings nationwide to allow public input to this process.  The meeting for Region 1 was held in Newton Massachusetts. However the (2) reactors remaining for license renewal in Region 1 are located in Seabrook NH and Pennsylvania. Therefore it was not surprising that only 3 citizens attended the meeting.

What’s wrong: Pilgrim Watch contends that the Draft incorrectly determined contrary to NRC’s own definition of “small impact” that the environmental impact of some issues was “small” when it clearly should have been “moderate to large;” and wrongly categorized several issues as Category 1 instead of Category. These include, for example: human health; solid waste management, onsite storage of spent nuclear fuel and low-level waste storage and disposal; postulated and severe accidents; radionuclides released to groundwater; and decommissioning.

NRC justified their conclusions of a “small impact” and Category 1 designation by: (1) totally ignoring or mischaracterizing new and significant information that provided contrary evidence or “Inconvenient Truths” (example, NRC’s mischaracterization of meteorology, climatology and the National Academies’ BEIR VII report on the health effects of low dose radiation exposure); (2) referencing  guidance or industry practices, without demonstrating that they, in fact, provide “reasonable assurance” (example, SAMA and Applicant’s use of outdated computer code and uses ATMOS); and (3) referencing “safeguard” information unavailable for independent scrutiny (example on site storage spent fuel, NRC’s Updated Waste Confidence Rule).

Further, and of considerable importance, NRC incorrectly determined that emergency planning and security were outside the scope of review. They both have a potentially large impact and are site specific.

Pilgrim Watch also discussed procedural issues that impede public participation and fairness in the license renewal process.

In sum, Pilgrim Watch concluded that the Draft is a second rate job and the research analysis performed to support conclusions is third rate; thereby confidence in the NRC and this process is undermined.
 

Nuclear Power: The Critical Question now available for order

Nuclear Information and Resource Service

6930 Carroll Avenue, #340, Takoma Park, MD 20912

301-270-6477; nirsnet@nirs.org; www.nirs.org

 

January 12, 2010

 

Dear Friends,

 

Many people expressed interest in obtaining printed copies of our recent special issue of the Nuclear Monitor, Nuclear Power: The Critical Question; First Hand Reports from the Frontline of the Nuclear Fuel Chain. This book was first published in German by Women in Europe for a Common Future (WECF) and produced in English by our colleagues at WISE.

We’re pleased to tell you that we’ve arranged for a limited number of these beautiful full-color books to be shipped to us so we can now make them available to you.

We’ve set up a new NIRS Storefront for this book, as well as for our 2007 book, False Promises, and hopefully for future items as well.

To order your copy(ies) of Nuclear Power: The Critical Question, just go here: https://org2.democracyinaction.org/o/5502/t/5846/shop/shop.jsp?storefront_KEY=234

 

For a peaceful, beautiful 2010,

 

Michael Mariotte

Executive Director

Nuke plant security improves

From the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader:

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced Friday that a follow-up inspection of the nuclear plant in Salem Township found that security issues from a previous inspection had been corrected, though the NRC and the operator wouldn’t elaborate on what those issues were and how they were addressed.

The announcement brings attention to a double-edged concern with nuclear power, which is poised to increase in the country as greenhouse-gas-producing, fossil-fuel-burning plants are phased out.

“We don’t provide details on security inspection findings because that information could be useful to an individual or group intent on attacking a nuclear power plant,” NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan wrote in an e-mail.

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Oglethorpe Power General Counsel Named to Nuclear Legal Committee

From PR Newswire:

TUCKER, Ga., Jan. 8 /PRNewswire/ -- Charles W. "Chuck" Whitney, senior vice president and general counsel for Oglethorpe Power Corporation, has been appointed to the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) Lawyers Committee. The Nuclear Energy Institute is the policy organization of the nuclear energy and technologies industry and works to promote the beneficial uses of nuclear energy and technologies in the United States and around the world. The Lawyers Committee develops policy recommendations on various legal issues arising from the construction and operation of nuclear power plants.

Thomas A. Smith, president & CEO of Oglethorpe Power, said Whitney's appointment to the NEI group will be very beneficial to the corporation as licensing and construction proceed on two new units of the Alvin W. Vogtle Nuclear Plant near Waynesboro. Oglethorpe Power has a 30 percent interest in the new units as well as the two units of the plant that are already operational.

"While we have been a member of NEI for many years and enjoy an excellent relationship with them, Chuck's participation on this committee will provide us with a direct opportunity to be involved in nuclear energy policy-making at the national level while staying abreast of the latest developments within the industry," Smith said.

Whitney joined Oglethorpe Power in August 2009 from Duane Morris LLP, where he had served as a managing partner of the Atlanta office since 2000 and as head of that firm's Nuclear Energy Practice Group. Prior to joining Duane Morris, Whitney served in a variety of senior executive positions for Southern Company subsidiaries, including an assignment as president & CEO of Southern's European international energy subsidiary. Additionally, he has had major responsibilities for nuclear and fossil plant construction and operations both as a lawyer and a senior manager.

He graduated with high honors with B.S. and B.A. degrees from Wright State University, received a J.D. degree from Case Western Reserve University and completed the Harvard Business School advanced management program.

NRC: Inservice Testing of Safety Relief Valves at Susquehanna Steam Electric

SUBJECT:    SUSQUEHANNA STEAM ELECTRIC STATION, UNIT 1 RE: RELIEF REQUESTS RR-07 AND RR-08 FROM THE REQUIREMENTS OF THE OM CODE RE: INSERVICE TESTING OF SAFETY RELIEF VALVES (TAC NOS. ME2629 AND ME2888)

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NRC: "White Security Finding" at PPL's Nuclear Power Plant

SUBJECT:    SUSQUEHANNA STEAM ELECTRIC STATION, UNITS 1 AND 2 - SUPPLEMENTAL INSPECTION FOR A WHITE FINDING, INSPECTION REPORT NOS. 05000387/2009406 AND 05000388/2009406

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Cooling towers required for Oyster Creek nuclear plant may force its closure

From NJ.com:

New Jersey environmental officials are requiring the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station in Ocean County -- the nation’s oldest nuclear plant -- to install cooling towers. The design change is considered environmentally-friendly, yet costly, and one the plant operators say will force them to shut down.

The state Department of Environmental Protection is requiring the installation of a "closed-cycle cooling system," which involves mostly air-cooling the plant using one or two towers.

The plant currently cools its system by pumping in about 662 million gallons of water from the Barnegat Bay each day, and pumping in another 748 million additional gallons per day to dilute that heated water before it all is discharged back into the bay, according to Nancy Whittenberg, assistant commissioner for environmental regulation,

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