TMI Update: Jan 14, 2024


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CONSTELLATION ENERGY GENERATION, LLC, THREE MILE ISLAND NUCLEAR STATION, UNIT 1 - NRC INSPECTION REPORT NO. 05000289/2023006
 
ADAMS ACCESSION No. ML24022A131
 
MEDIA ADVISORY
January 30th 1:30pm 
 
Contacts:  Connie Kline (440) 946-9012, David Hughes (412) 421-4163
 
NRC Atomic Safety and Licensing Board to Hold Oral Argument
on Perry License Renewal 1:30pm - 3:30pm ET on Tuesday January 30, 2024
 
The public will have listen-only access to the oral argument by dialing (301)576-2978 and
entering the passcode 510 048 948, followed by the “#” sign.
 
A Nuclear Regulatory Commission Atomic Safety and Licensing Board will hold oral
argument virtually on Jan. 30 on a petition requesting a hearing on Energy Harbor Nuclear
Corp.’s application to renew the operating license of Perry Nuclear Power Plant, near Perry,
Ohio, for an additional 20 years.
 
The oral argument, scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m. Eastern time, will allow the Board to
ask questions about the admissibility of two proposed contentions from petitioners Ohio Nuclear
Free Network and Beyond Nuclear challenging safety and environmental aspects of the application.
The Board will hear argument from representatives for the petitioners, Energy Harbor Nuclear, and the NRC staff.
 
Access to the listen-only telephone connection can be obtained by dialing (301) 576-
2978 and then entering the passcode 510 048 948, followed by the “#” sign.
 
MEMORANDUM
(Information Regarding Telephone Listen-Only Access for the Public to the Initial Prehearing Conference)
 
The Ohio Nuclear Free Network and Beyond Nuclear Petition for Leave to Intervene can be viewed here:
 
Ohio Nuclear Free Network and Beyond Nuclear brought forward three Contentions.  Because Contention 1: 'The Severe Accident Mitigation Analysis Is Inadequate' is currently an issue at Perry with the existing license, Intervenors have been directed to NRC 2.206 Petition.
 
Contentions which will be heard:
 
CONTENTION 2: The power generated by Perry is redundant; the plant can be permanently shut down without consequence to regional power availability. Energy Harbor exaggerates and misrepresents the importance of Perry as part of the post-2026 energy mix by:
  • failing to provide projections, pricing information or assessment of incoming new generation resources; 
  • failing to provide statistical or factual analyses of electric overcapacity within Ohio, or from multiple neighboring states; 
  • neglecting to consider that Perry's generation is and will be too expensive; and 
  • failing to offer its customers voluntary energy efficiency programs. 
CONTENTION 3:  Perry's Tritium Problem
 
Tritium is radioactive hydrogen.  It bonds easily with oxygen to form radioactive water.  Once tritium becomes part of the water molecule, it cannot be removed. Tritium readily crosses the placental barrier, resulting in significant biological consequences, including:
  • damage to DNA; 
  • impaired physiology and development; 
  • reduced fertility and longevity; and 
  • can lead to elevated risks of diseases including cancer. 
     Yet over the proposed 20-year extension, Perry will routinely release all tritium in the primary coolant to the environs, either as water vapor or gas to the atmosphere. In addition, there have been numerous tritium spills and leaks of considerable concern over the past decade. 
 
The Contention which will not be heard and directed to NRC 2.206 Petition below.
 
CONTENTION 1: The Severe Accident Mitigation Analysis Is Inadequate. The Declaration on Perry Geological Problems by Julie Weatherington-Rice shows immediate as well as future risk due to: 
 
  • failure to undertake a thorough level of review of the structural integrity of the facility;  
  • an outdated geotechnical analysis of the Perry site that is not predictive of actual site conditions including earthquakes, lake erosion, and leaks from wet and dry storage moving to the lake; 
  • heat from the plant that could expand underlying shale and structurally undermine the facilities; 
  • solution of the underlying Salina (salt) Formation that could destabilize the entire site; on 
  • landslides developing behind the rock shield of the bluff, dumping the rocks into the lake and exposing new faces of the bluff; 
  • known and unknown oil/gas and water wells threatening the integrity of nearby rock and soils. 
The Petition for Leave to Intervene can be found here:
 
 
 
--- end ---

NRC nominee’s demise stokes fears about nuclear oversight
By Nico Portuondo | 01/23/2024 06:25 AM EST

Jeff Baran.
Then-Nuclear Regulatory Commission member Jeff Baran testifies before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Capitol Hill on May 10, 2023. Francs Chung/POLITICO


The White House’s decision not to renominate a former Nuclear Regulatory Commission member has some worried that the agency may be ill prepared to live up to its high safety standards.

The White House gave up on the nomination of Jeff Baran, a longtime commissioner whose term ended last June, because of bipartisan opposition in the Senate, a person familiar with the situation told E&E News on condition of anonymity.

Every Republican senator would have opposed the nomination, and some others like Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.), who caucuses with Democrats, also refused to promise their support. HuffPost was first to report the development.

While many industry backers cheered the White House’s decision, other advocates point to Baran as a strong voice on the commission and argued that he enacted tough but reasonable standards during his eight-year tenure on the panel. He was also key in the agency’s environmental justice work.

“Baran was a champion of environmental justice who also understood that nuclear energy can be an important tool to address climate change and air pollution, and the withdrawal of his nomination is a loss,” said Jackie Toth, deputy director of the Good Energy Collective, a pro-nuclear group.

The Senate sent back several nominees at the end of the year because they didn’t get up or down votes. The White House swiftly renominated many of them — but remained silent on Baran.

Toth raised concerns about the immediate future of the regulatory agency, which will soon have another slot to fill with Chair Christopher Hanson. His term ends June 30.

“We urge President [Joe] Biden to renominate Chris Hanson and another Democratic nominee as soon as possible and for the Senate to prioritize their confirmations, so that the NRC can return to a full complement of five commissioners as it makes key decisions about the regulation of nuclear reactors and materials going forward,” she said.

The agency is scheduled to soon decide on critical nuclear regulatory moves like the upcoming Part 53 rulemaking, which will govern how future advanced reactors are regulated.

Edwin Lyman, director of Nuclear Power Safety at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said Baran was rightly dedicated to the agency’s safety mission and that he was eventually pushed out because he didn’t coddle to nuclear industry interests.

“The nuclear industry’s disgraceful torpedoing of Jeff Baran’s reappointment to the NRC is a great loss for the agency and for public health,” Lyman said.

“He was a tireless advocate for maintaining robust standards in the face of a massive industry campaign to weaken the NRC’s rules for nuclear safety, security and environmental protection.”

Republicans, led by Senate Environment and Public Works ranking member Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), have consistently attacked Baran’s voting record as a microcosm of why the NRC has long been viewed as too heavy-handed to allow nuclear energy to become a bigger part of the country’s energy mix.

Democrats are also behind legislative measures to streamline regulations at the NRC and overhaul licensing procedures for future reactors.

The Breakthrough Institute — an environmental think tank that advocates for nuclear — said the development represented a “watershed moment” in nuclear politics.

“[Baran] very clearly has been an obstructionist in the growth of the nuclear industry,” said Ted Nordhaus, the group’s executive director and founder.

“It shows Congress has realized the NRC should account for and value the benefits of nuclear, including public health and environmental outcomes.”

Is this the year for bipartisan action on advanced nuclear?
House and Senate negotiators are trying to come up with a compromise package to ease regulations on advanced reactors. Pitfalls abound.

Avatar of Nico Portuondo
BY: 

 Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.).
Senate Environment and Public Works ranking member Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), lead sponsor of bipartisan nuclear legislation, at the Capitol this week.Francis Chung/POLITICO

E&E DAILY | Last year was a big disappointment for backers of nuclear energy, but lawmakers now think 2024 could be their best chance to deliver transformative regulatory overhaul legislation to the president's desk.

That's because bipartisan leaders in the House and Senate are doing something rare these days: working together across chambers.

Policy staffers on the House Energy and Commerce and Senate Environment and Public Works committees are in active discussions to come up with a compromise package between their respective nuclear energy bills: the "Atomic Energy Advancement Act," H.R. 6544, and the "Accelerating Deployment of Versatile, Advanced Nuclear for Clean Energy (ADVANCE) Act of 2023," S. 1111.

The bills are designed to encourage and augment the new build-out of the next generation of nuclear reactors, known as advanced reactors.

"A lot of the same elements that are in our nuclear package are in the House package," said Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. "So we're in active discussions, trying to see what package we could put together that would go forward."

Indeed, both bills would accomplish similar goals to limit the regulatory burden on new and existing nuclear plants through streamlining of environmental regulations and incentives to make licensing less expensive. In some cases, provisions in the two bills would enact the exact same policies.

The technology could use some good news. Last year, one of the Biden administration’s flagship advanced nuclear projects from NuScale Power was scrapped due to budget and timeline concerns, raising questions over whether advanced reactors will ever play a large role in the power sector.

Nuclear boosters on Capitol Hill are undeterred.

"We're having good, bipartisan conversations at the member level and at the staff level," said Tom Carper, chair of EPW and leader of the "ADVANCE Act" alongside Capito. "There's more than a little bit of common ground ... and I'm encouraged."

Pro-nuclear lawmakers have long had reason to be encouraged. Both Democrats and Republicans have overwhelmingly voted in favor of nuclear energy in recent months, and the Biden administration made a commitment at COP28 to help triple world nuclear capacity by 2050.

The bills have also attracted wide, bipartisan support. Climate hawks Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) are supporters of the Senate bill, as is Energy and Natural Resources ranking member John Barrasso (R-Wyo.).

Moreover, key proponents from both parties will be leaving Congress after this year and will be seeking to cement their legacies.

That being said, bipartisan momentum for nuclear regulatory reform hasn't so far resulted in major legislation getting to the president's desk, and lawmakers will once again fight against the current political climate in the hopes of finally getting something done.

"An election year always makes policy more difficult, but we have more overlapping interests than ever before," said Capito. "Therein lies the key, we have to light a fire and get the urgency going."

Big differences remain

The first step in getting a nuclear package through Congress is for House and Senate lawmakers to hammer out differences between the two packages.

In general, the House's "Atomic Energy Advancement Act" has broader provisions than the Senate package.

For example, the House bill would expand the Price-Anderson Act — a pivotal law that shields nuclear reactors from full financial liability in the case of an accident — for 40 years compared to the Senate bill's 20.

The House legislation also asks the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to take a close look at how it implements the National Environmental Policy Act in regard to the reactors it regulates. Any changes to NEPA has been a sore sport for Democrats in the House and Senate.

Right now, staff members in Energy and Commerce and in Environment and Public Works are negotiating on a very "preliminary basis" over these policy differences, according to a House Energy and Commerce aide.

But Energy, Climate and Grid Security Subcommittee Chair Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) and ranking member Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) — House sponsors of the "Atomic Energy Advancement Act" — are hopeful to quickly move to a regular order process after their bill passes the House floor.

They're even dreaming of a formal conference process between the two chambers, something uncommon in today's political world.

"Maybe we get a conference on the [Senate] bill with our bill," Duncan said. "Get something that's really transformational for this nation."

Reps. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) and Diana DeGette (D-Colo.).

Reps. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) and Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) at the Capitol last year. | Mariam Zuhaib/AP

'It probably will need a vehicle'

Outside of the difficulty of passing bills during an election year, lawmakers will also have to deal with a House that has struggled to pass anything of substance.

That's a reality of any legislative effort in this Congress, which has to navigate a razor-thin House Republican majority and constant drama around the decisions of Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.). Big, bipartisan bills — minus spending deals — have been a rarity.

Duncan and DeGette are hopeful to get a floor vote on the "Atomic Energy Advancement Act" — which has only passed through committee — in the spring or summer, after they deal with jurisdictional issues with other committees like Foreign Affairs.

Even though Carper and Capito are open to going through regular order, the environment is not favorable for convening a formal conference and passing a compromise bill individually through the House and Senate.

"It probably will need a vehicle," Capito said. "We want to put it in the best place to get all the way across the finish line."

Critical bills for nuclear, like the Energy Act of 2020 and last year's Nuclear Fuel Security Act, have passed by being included in larger, must-pass legislative vehicles like omnibus spending packages and the annual defense policy bill.

The process in this scenario would entail coming up with a compromise package through informal negotiations between the committees and then attaching it to some upcoming bill to get it through both floors.

But using such a strategy may provoke significant resistance from House lawmakers, who have been adamant to work only through regular order.

Last year, House lawmakers removed the "ADVANCE Act" from the National Defense Authorization Act because of such procedural concerns.

"I'm more of a single-subject type guy for legislation," said Duncan. "I've always had a lot of heartburn with [attaching bills onto vehicles]."

With Duncan and Carper both retiring from Congress this year, it's possible that both see passing a compromise nuclear regulatory reform as a legacy item.

That might be enough to get regular order concerns out of the way and give the bill its best shot at being passed through Congress sometime this year.

"I know how this place operates. I'm not going to buck if that's what it comes down to," Duncan said.

This story also appears in Energywire.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission - News Release
No: 24-007 January 24, 2024
CONTACT: Scott Burnell, 301-415-8200
 
NRC Seeks Public Comment on Scope of Environmental Review for Diablo Canyon License Renewal Application
 
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will hold two scoping meetings in February to discuss the environmental evaluation and review process for the license renewal application of the two-unit Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant in Avila Beach, California.
 
Plant operator Pacific Gas & Electric filed the application in November 2023, requesting to renew the licenses for an additional 20 years of operation. Diablo Canyon’s operating licenses expire in November 2024 for Unit 1, and in August 2025 for Unit 2.
 
The NRC staff will conduct a virtual meeting from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Pacific time on Feb. 1.
 
The second meeting, which will be in-person only, will be held from 6-9 p.m. Pacific time on Feb. 8 at the Embassy Suites San Luis Obispo, 333 Madonna Rd. in San Luis Obispo, California. Before the meeting, the staff will hold an “open house” from 5-6 p.m. Pacific time for informal discussions and to answer questions from members of the public. Individuals seeking accommodations or special equipment to attend, or who plan to provide comments, should contact Kim Conway by Jan. 31 through email at kimberly.conway@nrc.gov or by phone at 301-415-1335.
 
At both meetings, the staff will seek the public’s input in identifying potentially significant issues that the staff should address in its environmental review of the plant’s application.
 
A Federal Register notice details the following methods for submitting written comments: Filing on the federal rulemaking website, regulations.gov, under Docket ID “NRC-2023-0192”; emailing to DiabloCanyonEnvironmental@nrc.gov; or mailing to Office of Administration, Mail Stop TWFN-7-A60M, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, D.C. 20555-0001, ATTN: Program Management, Announcements and Editing Staff. Comments are due by Feb. 23.
 
A copy of the Diablo Canyon license renewal application is available for public review at the San Luis Obispo Library, 995 Palm St. in San Luis Obispo. More information about the plant’s application also is available on the NRC website.
 
 
 

Image: Argonne National Laboratory/Lee Walston. An Argonne scientist surveys for pollinators at a utility-scale solar facility.
 

Putting solar farms on agricultural land can not only create hubs for insect biodiversity but also help to mitigate the rising conflict of land use change, new research says.

The five-year, US-based study found planting native grasses and flowers under solar panels helps insect populations to massively improve – by up to 20 times in the case of native bee populations. 

Researchers from the US Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory planted native grasses and flowers at Enel Green Power North America’s Atwater and Eastwood solar farms, in southern Minnesota.

From 2018 to 2022, researchers conducted 358 observational surveys at the two sites to map flowering vegetation and insect communities.

“The effort to obtain these data was considerable, returning to each site four times per summer to record pollinator counts,” said Heidi Hartmann, manager of the land resources and energy policy program in Argonne’s Environmental Sciences division, and one of the co-authors of the study, published in Environmental Research

​“Over time we saw the numbers and types of flowering plants increase as the habitat matured. Measuring the corresponding positive impact for pollinators was very gratifying.”
 

The results show that insect abundance tripled and diversity rose by 150 per cent. 

The team saw increases in the abundance and diversity of native insect pollinators and agriculturally beneficial insects such as honeybees, native bees, wasps, hornets, hoverflies, other flies, moths, butterflies and beetles.

These insects were also seen on neighbouring soy beans farms.

“This research highlights the relatively rapid insect community responses to habitat restoration at solar energy sites,” said Argonne landscape ecologist and environmental scientist Lee Walston.

“It demonstrates that, if properly sited, habitat-friendly solar energy can be a feasible way to safeguard insect populations and can improve the pollination services in adjacent agricultural fields.”

 

Even bees have got to eat

Global insect biodiversity has been in decline due to habitat loss, pesticides and climate change but pairing restoration efforts with renewable energy developments could help reverse the course.

Sites with the biggest solar-pollinator habitat potential are likely to be those that have been ecologically compromised, such as marginal farmland, former industrial or mine lands, and other disturbed sites.

But even on lush farmland, the research suggests that well-sited solar farms can play a big role in protecting and conserving biodiversity and pollinator habitats and mitigate land-use conflicts associated with the conversion of farmland for solar energy production. 

In Australia, that conflict is well entrenched with complaints against new solar farms often including the fear that more prime agricultural land is being removed in the name of energy production. 

But the swift and sudden embrace of agrisolar, where animals share paddocks with solar panels, is creating a new way for farmers keen on solar to fend off complaints from that direction.

By adding pollinator habitats to the concept of agrivoltaics – an essential service in a country where bees are trucked around rural areas to pollinate major crops from mango through to avocado, blueberry, macadamia and almond – improves a site’s land use efficiency and ecosystem services output, the US study says.

“The United States has lost over 12 million acres of agricultural land since 2015, increasing the pressure on the remaining agricultural lands for food production,” the study notes.

“Solar energy development may contribute to further declines in farmland, as approximately 80 per cent of future ground-mounted solar energy development could occur on agricultural lands.

“Rather than exacerbate the effects of these land use tradeoffs, these effects can be alleviated through the proper siting of solar energy developments and pairing with solar-pollinator habitat or other agrivoltaic dual land uses.”

The White House won't renominate the Nuclear Regulatory Commission pick on whom the Senate previously refused to hold a vote, HuffPost has learned.
Alexander C. Kaufman
Jan 22, 2024, 02:05 PM EST
 

The Byron Nuclear Generating Stations running at full capacity in Byron, Illinois.

The Byron Nuclear Generating Stations running at full capacity in Byron, Illinois.
JEFF HAYNES VIA GETTY IMAGES

President Joe Biden is dropping his pick to fill the open seat on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission after a handful of Democrats joined Senate Republicans to block the nomination last year, HuffPost has learned.

Jeff Baran had held a seat on the five-person federal panel overseeing atomic energy and radiation safety since former President Barack Obama first named to the position in 2014. The Democratic commissioner easily won Senate approval when former President Donald Trump renominated him in 2018.

But pro-nuclear advocates angry over what they saw as Baran’s unwillingness to overhaul the regulatory process in favor of building new types of reactor technologies launched a campaign against the commissioner last year. With Republicans opposed to the nomination, the Biden administration needed almost every Democrat in the Senate to vote for Baran ― or leave the NRC without a tie-breaker for party-line votes between the four current commissioners.

Jeff Baran in Washington on April 2, 2019.
Jeff Baran in Washington on April 2, 2019.
MARTIN H. SIMON/CNP/ABACAPRESS/ALAMY

The White House had wanted the Senate’s narrow Democratic majority to reconfirm Baran before his term ended last July. But as many as four senators on the Democratic side, including Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.), either planned to come out against Baran or refused to pledge their votes, according to a source with knowledge of the process. Neither senator’s office immediately responded to emails requesting comment on Monday.

When the Senate ended 2023 last month without a vote, the nomination automatically went back to the White House.

The NRC directed HuffPost’s questions about when the administration would name its nominee for the open commission seat to the White House, which did not respond to a request for comment.

But three sources with knowledge of the plans confirmed to HuffPost that the Biden administration does not plan to nominate Baran again. Two spoke to HuffPost on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment publicly. The third claimed Baran’s loss as a victory.

“We killed this nomination,” said Ted Nordhaus, executive director of the Breakthrough Institute, a California-based climate think tank that advocates for more nuclear energy.

He was among the most vocal opponents of Baran’s nomination, and helped drum up votes against the Democratic commissioner. Nordhaus had cast Baran as a holdover from an earlier era of liberal regulators who saw their job primarily as safeguarding the public against the atomic energy industry.

“It is my job to focus on nuclear safety and security,” Baran said in 2017 at his reconfirmation hearing before the Senate Environment and Public Works committee. “It is not my job to weigh in on the pros and cons of the merits of nuclear power.”
 

That view, Nordhaus said, was common among Democrats for decades. But a modern outlook on nuclear safety has to consider not only the threats of using atomic energy, but the risks that not doing so increases pollution from fossil fuels that damages lungs and traps heat in the planet’s atmosphere.

“Everyone went into this just assuming everybody would line up behind Baran, that this is just the kind of guy Democrats put on the commission,” Nordhaus said.

“The fact that enough Democratic senators were willing to say we’re not going to vote for this guy,” he added, “it’s pretty clear that for the first time in maybe ever a bunch of Democrats now recognize that we need reform at the NRC, that something has to change, that the technology can’t succeed if the NRC continues to approach this in the way it historically has.”

But Baran had defenders. The progressive pro-nuclear group Good Energy Collective previously told HuffPost Baran had a strong record of fighting for environmental justice and building relationships with communities saddled with radioactive pollution from the past.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission - News Release
No: IV-24-004 January 22, 2024
CONTACT: Victor Dricks, 817-200-1128
 
NRC to Hold a Regulatory Conference with International Isotopes on Jan. 30 to Discuss Two Proposed Violations
 
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will hold a regulatory conference on Jan. 30 with officials from International Isotopes of Idaho Falls, Idaho, to discuss the safety significance of two proposed violations.
 
The proposed violations, identified in a December 2023 inspection report, involve importing, receiving and transferring radioactive material without appropriate authorization in NRC licenses. The company uses radioactive materials in the manufacture of devices for medical and industrial applications.
 
The meeting will be held at the NRC’s Region IV office at 1600 East Lamar Blvd., Arlington, Texas, beginning at 8 a.m. Central time. The meeting notice has information detailing how the public can participate in the meeting by phone or online.
 
Members of the public will have an opportunity to ask questions of the NRC staff or make comments about the issues discussed following the business portion of the meeting; however, the NRC staff is not soliciting comments pertaining to regulatory decisions.
 
During the enforcement conference, company representatives will have the opportunity to provide their perspective or additional information, including any actions planned or completed to prevent recurrence of the issues, before the agency makes its final enforcement decision.
 
No decisions on the final safety significance or any potential NRC actions regarding the proposed violations will be made at the meeting.

When evaluating nuclear energy, the industry generally ignores the human or monetary costs.  The front end of the nuclear cycle is the mining and milling of uranium.  This dirty operation spreads radioactive contamination which has resulted in entire towns being bulldozed into oblivion.  Miners have contracted a host of serious medical problems and many have died of cancer.  Read The Uranium Widows which tells the story.  https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2010/09/13/the-uranium-widows

Last year was a bumper year for renewable energy according to Canary Energy.  Altogether, the world added more than 500 GW of wind, solar, hydro, and other renewable electricity generating capacity.  And we will do it again next year and the year after.
 
 
 
By contrast, according to USEIA, the world has a TOTAL of 376 GW of nuclear generating capacity.
 

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