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Beyond Nuclear Bulletin

From Beyond Nuclear:

Background: Despite assuring the State of Vermont for more than a year that it had no buried pipes carrying radioactivity, Entergy Nuclear’s Vermont Yankee reactor has revealed it is leaking radioactive tritium, almost certainly from underground pipes that it now admits do exist. In fact, Vermont Yankee has even announced the discovery of “highly radioactive water,” 50 times more radioactive than would be allowed in drinking water by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Nuclear expert Arnie Gundersen has made clear that Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee has indeed lied about the existence of buried pipes over the course of many months.

Our View: Entergy Nuclear has betrayed the trust of the lawmakers, regulators, and citizens of Vermont. Simultaneous with its revelation of radioactivity leaks on site, Vermont Yankee spokespeople engaged in a predictable campaign to downplay the health and safety risks of tritium. However, tritium can impact the human body right down to the DNA level, and can cross the placenta from mother to fragile fetus. At such intimate levels, tritium can and does damage human health, leading to cancer, genetic damage, birth defects, and other maladies. The National Academy of Science has reported consistently over the decades that any exposure to radioactivity, no matter how low the dose, still carries a health risk. As reactors age – and Vermont Yankee is nearly 40 years old – its systems, structures and components degrade, worsening tritium leaks from buried piping. Vermont Yankee’s license should not be extended 20 additional years.

What You Can Do: If you live outside Vermont, contact Vermont’s Governor, Jim Douglas, and let him know that the safety, security, health and environmental risks of Vermont Yankee could carry with them radioactive stigma effects, impacting Vermont’s tourism industry and agricultural products. If you live inside Vermont, contact your legislators and urge that they vote against the 20 year license extension at Vermont Yankee when the issue comes up for legislative action in the next few months.

Much Higher Tritium Level Found at Nuclear Plant

From ABC News:

State officials said Wednesday more radioactive tritium had been found at the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant — at levels more than 90 times higher than found in a test well nearly two weeks ago.

William Irwin, the state's radiological health chief, said readings of 1 million to 2 million picocuries per liter of the isotope were found in a concrete trench several hundred feet from the test well where tritium was first reported Jan. 7. A spokesman for the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission put the number at "about 2 million."

That previous high reading turned up a sample of 22,300 picocuries per liter of tritium at a test well Tuesday, officials at Vermont Yankee said. But they downgraded that reading to 19,500 on Wednesday.

The Environmental Protection Agency safety standard for tritium in drinking water is 20,000 picocuries per liter.

Read more

RELEASE: Speaker Smith and Senator Shumlin Express Concerns Regarding Misinformation from Entergy Louisiana

Alexandra MacLean
Aide to the Senate Pro Tem
Office: 802-828-3806
Fax: 802-828-1040
115 State St
Montpelier, VT 05633
amaclean@leg.state.vt.us
Alexandra Maclean 1/15/2010 12:16 PM >>>
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 15, 2009

 

CONTACT:
Alexandra MacLean, (802) 828-3806
Tom Cheney, (802) 828-2245

Montpelier, Vt – Speaker Shap Smith and Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin, today expressed their concerns regarding the fact that Entergy Nuclear misled Vermont’s Department of Public Service and the Legislature’s Oversight Panel.  

The Vermont Yankee Oversight Panel was formed in 2008 in order to conduct a comprehensive reliability assessment of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant.  The 19 month assessment concluded in March 2009 with a report delivered to the legislature.  The Department of Public Service has now made it clear that the Panel was repeatedly misinformed by several Entergy sources of the existence of underground piping at the plant.  These misrepresentations call the conclusions of the entire reliability assessment into question.  

“We would like to thank the Department of Public Service for their quick and strong action,” said Speaker Smith.  “The fact that the Department and the Legislature’s Public Oversight Panel have been given inaccurate information is disconcerting and frankly threatens the level of trust that Vermonters can have in Entergy Louisiana.”  

Senator Shumlin and Speaker Smith have asked the Oversight Panel to reconvene and reexamine the conclusions of their March 2009 Report due to the fact that the information provided by Entergy Louisiana can no longer be guaranteed.  The Legislative leaders authorized the Senate Finance and House Natural Resources Committees to assist the panel in their examinations.  

“The breach of the truth by Entergy Louisiana is extremely concerning and we will be taking steps to reexamine all of the information that we have been given by Entergy Louisiana.” said Senator Shumlin.  “In addition, we want to assure Vermonters that we will do everything in our power to make sure that the tritium leak is found and cleaned up as quickly as possible.”  

The legislative leaders have also engaged in conversations with Vermont’s federal delegation about the fact that Entergy Louisiana supplied the Department of Public Service and the Legislature’s Oversight Panel with misinformation.  

“We greatly appreciate the federal delegation’s rapid response and look forward to the conclusions of the NRC’s investigation,” said Speaker Shap Smith.”

Speaker Smith and Senator Shumlin’s letter to their appointed members of the Oversight Panel, Peter Bradford and Arnie Gundersen, is pasted below.

###

January 15, 2009

Dear Peter Bradford and Arnie Gundersen,

You both were notified yesterday by the Department of Public Service that the tritium found several weeks ago in a monitoring well on the Vermont Yankee site may also be present in many unreported radioactive underground pipes.  While the actual source of the leak has yet to be discovered, it now seems clear that either a buried pipe or tank containing radioactive material is leaking.  In your role as members of the Vermont Yankee Public Oversight Panel, you were informed in 2008 by several Entergy sources that there were no such pipes on the Vermont Yankee site.  That misrepresentation calls all of the Panel’s conclusions into question.

We are reconstituting the Vermont Yankee Public Oversight Panel to reexamine the conclusions of their March 2009 Report due to the fact that we can no longer guarantee the accuracy of information provided to the Legislature.  

The Legislature has been tasked with evaluating the reliability of Entergy’s Vermont Yankee Nuclear Plant.  As legislators, we cannot make a correct assessment if we have the wrong information.  We request that you examine the root cause of the misleading information provided to the Public Oversight Panel and the Legislature, look at whether other information may also be incorrect and present your findings to the Legislature no later then February 16, 2010.  We also request that the Public Oversight Panel be actively involved in discussions with the Department of Public Service, Nuclear Safety Associates and Vermont Yankee including requesting your own interviews and personal analysis of reports and drawings as you see appropriate.

Your active involvement in this process is appreciated.  Thank you for your work.  

Sincerely,

Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin             Speaker
Shap Smith

Alexandra MacLean
Aide to the Senate Pro Tem
Office: 802-828-3806
Fax: 802-828-1040
115 State St
Montpelier, VT 05633
amaclean@leg.state.vt.us

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.

Read more

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.

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