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DEP Newsroom

Dept. of Environmental Protection

Commonwealth News Bureau
Room 308, Main Capitol Building
Harrisburg PA., 17120

Deb Klenotic, DEP
DEP Lifts Drought Watch or Warning for 20 Counties, Three Counties Remain on Watch
Harrisburg, PA – After a meeting of the Commonwealth Drought Task Force, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) today lifted drought watch or warning for 20 counties, returning them to normal status. Three counties remain on drought watch.
Drought watch or warning has been lifted for Bradford, Cameron, Columbia, Cumberland, Elk, Forest, Jefferson, Juniata, Lycoming, McKean, Montour, Northumberland, Perry, Potter, Snyder, Sullivan, Tioga, Union, Warren, and Wyoming counties.
Centre and Clearfield counties remain on drought watch. Clinton County is also on drought watch, having improved from drought warning conditions.
“We’re getting close. Recent rainfall brought good news for many counties,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “But three counties have a little ways to go to return to normal conditions. We ask all water consumers on drought watch to remain mindful and continue to reduce their water use a modest amount.”
Consumers on drought watch are asked to reduce their individual water use 5-10 percent, or three to six gallons of water per day.
DEP has notified water suppliers in Centre, Clearfield, and Clinton counties of the need to monitor their supplies and update their drought contingency plans as necessary. Varying localized conditions may lead water suppliers or municipalities to ask residents for more stringent conservation actions.
Several public water suppliers in these counties are requiring consumers to reduce their water use or requesting voluntary reductions. Suppliers in a few other counties are still asking for voluntary reductions as water levels recover. Find the list at www.dep.pa.gov/drought
There are many ways to reduce water use indoors, including:
• Don’t let the faucet run while brushing your teeth or shaving. Shorten the time you let the water run to warm up before showering. Use a bucket to catch the water and reuse it to water your plants.
• Run the dishwasher and washing machine only with full loads.
• Repair household leaks. For example, a leaking toilet can waste up to 200 gallons of water daily.
• Sweep your sidewalk, deck, or driveway, rather than hosing it off.
• Replace older appliances with high-efficiency, front-loading models that use about 30 percent less water and 40-50 percent less energy.
• Install low-flow plumbing fixtures and aerators on faucets.
Find more tips to save water at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
DEP makes drought watch, warning, or emergency declaration recommendations based on four numeric indicators. The agency gets stream flow and groundwater level data from a statewide network of gauges maintained by the U.S. Geological Survey. In addition, DEP monitors precipitation and soil moisture. DEP also factors in information it receives from public water suppliers.
There are normal ranges for all four indicators, and DEP makes its drought status recommendations after assessing the departures from these normal ranges for all indicators for periods of 3-12 months. Declarations are not based on one indicator alone. For details on indicator monitoring, see this fact sheet: Drought Management in Pennsylvania.
DEP shares these data and its recommendations with other state and federal agency personnel who make up the Commonwealth Drought Task Force. Drought watch and warning declarations are determined by DEP, with the concurrence of the task force. Drought emergency declarations follow the same process, with final approval by the Governor.
A drought emergency has not been declared for any county.
The next Drought Task Force meeting will be held on Thursday, January 21, 2021.

DEP Newsroom
Dept. of Environmental Protection

Commonwealth News Bureau
Room 308, Main Capitol Building
Harrisburg PA., 17120

Deb Klenotic, DEP
April Hutcheson, DOH
Students Encourage Pennsylvanians to Test Their Homes for Radon During National Radon Action Month
Harrisburg, PA – Three students who won a poster contest are helping the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Department of Health encourage Pennsylvanians to test their home for radon in January, National Radon Action Month. Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that enters homes from the ground and is the second leading cause of lung cancer.
“Because of our geology, Pennsylvania has some of the highest radon gas levels in the country,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “Nearly all homes have radon, and 40 percent of Pennsylvania homes have more radon than the federally recommended guideline. Since you can’t see or smell this gas, doing a simple radon test is one of the practical actions Pennsylvanians can take to keep their home a healthy place.” 
“As Pennsylvanians spend more time at home due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, a radon test is yet another effort that individuals can take to keep their homes healthy,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “Actions like sanitizing frequently touched surfaces, installing a smoke detector, and purchasing a radon test kit are simple steps to take to protect your home and family’s health.” 
DEP coordinated a school poster contest in the fall, inviting students to submit artwork that educates the public about radon. Jocie Wert, a student at Sacred Heart School in Lewistown, Mifflin County, earned first place. Her poster will be entered into a national radon poster contest. 
Mohd Iftakhar Murshaed Tarunno, a student at Beverly Hills Middle School in Upper Darby, Delaware County, earned second place. Kylee Jo Ware, a student at North Star Middle School in Stoystown, Somerset County, earned third place. See the three winning posters on the DEP radon website.
Radon gas results from the breakdown of uranium in the ground and enters homes through cracks in the foundation or other openings. A map from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) shows radon levels by county.
Radon tests are available at hardware stores for about $20 and are simple to use, requiring only that the cannister be opened and placed in the basement for a few days, and then mailed to a lab. Alternatively, you can hire a certified radon tester. Although a radon test can be done any time of year, winter is ideal because doors and windows are closed, providing more accurate results. A video on the DEP website provides radon testing instructions.
EPA identifies 4 picocuries of radon per liter of air as a guideline. If a home’s radon level is higher than this, EPA and the U.S. Surgeon General recommend having a radon reduction system, with a pipe and exhaust fan, professionally installed to vent the gas outside. The cost is generally in line with that of other home improvements, such as replacing a water heater. 
Having a radon reduction system installed also makes the sale of a home easier. Pennsylvania law requires anyone selling a home to disclose the results of any known radon testing. The DEP website lists radon testing options for real estate transactions
For more information, contact the DEP Radon Division:
• Radon hotline: 800-237-2366
• Phone: 717-783-3594 

Three Mile Island Nuclear Station, Unit 1, NRC Inspection Report No. 07200077/2020002
Nuclear Regulatory Commission - News Release
No: 21-001 January 4, 2021
CONTACT: Office of Public Affairs, 301-415-8200
Chairman Kristine Svinicki Announces Her Intent to Depart The NRC
Today, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Kristine L. Svinicki announced that she intends to leave the NRC on Jan. 20, 2021. Chairman Svinicki issued the following statement:
“I have greatly cherished the opportunity to serve the nation over the course of my long federal career, including the honor of having been nominated to serve as a Commissioner of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission by three successive Presidents of the United States – President Bush in 2007, President Obama in 2012, and President Trump in 2017. I am grateful to the many Senators and Congressmen who have worked with me on tough issues over the years and who, agreeing or disagreeing on the substance, acknowledged we were, for the most part, trying to achieve complementary aims. Thank you for your support of the agency’s important work.
“I was humbled when President Trump designated me NRC Chairman on Inauguration Day four years ago. After nine years of service as a Commissioner, I hope I put my prior experience to good effect and that my work as Chairman has fulfilled, in some small measure, the confidence the President expressed in my capabilities in offering me this opportunity to lead.
“It is a rare thing in Washington to have continued so long in a political appointment, and they tell me I am the longest serving member of our Commission in the agency’s history. I am not sure I know how that happened, but I would certainly attribute a fair portion of it to two things. First, I was exceedingly fortunate to serve with such fine fellow Commissioners over the course of the years. I learned a lot from the colleagues that the system happened to send my way. The second thing is something that you would have to have worked here to understand; but the NRC culture, and the people who make it the welcoming and wonderful place it is, are truly unique in government. This includes the small team of advisors I had around me for all these years – each drawn from the existing NRC career staff and all exemplars of the devoted professionals who make up the NRC.
“When I speak to college students and young professionals, I tell them that public service is a calling. If it calls to you, you should heed it and, if you do, you will not regret a single day. As I look back on 30 years of federal service, I know this to be as true as ever. I sincerely wish the women and men of the NRC staff every continued success as they build upon the proud legacy of their predecessors, while transforming the NRC into a modern, risk-informed regulator ready to address the nuclear technologies and challenges of tomorrow.”
Eric Epstein: Three Mile Island cleanup must be fully funded

Eric Epstein

ERIC EPSTEIN | Saturday, December 26, 2020 7:00 p.m.


The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) recently granted approval for the transfer of the license of Three Mile Island Unit-2 (TMI-2) from FirstEnergy, a public utility, to TMI-2 Solutions, a limited liability corporation based in Utah. The NRC approved the license transfer without holding a hearing. TMI-Alert speaks in opposition to such a move.

Why should you be concerned about the transfer of a license from a damaged nuclear power plant? The reality is that there is not enough money to clean up Three Mile Island. Any shortfall will require a bailout from Pennsylvania taxpayers. TMI’s underfunded cleanup fund should serve as a cautionary tale for taxpayers in Western Pennsylvania.

Three Mile Island Unit-2 was built at a cost to ratepayers of $700 million. The plant was over budget and behind schedule. The planned operating life of the plant was 40 years. At the time of the core melt accident on March 28, 1979, TMI had operated for just 90 days. There were no decommissioning funds set aside.

In 1982, Gov. Richard Thornburgh cobbled together a $1 billion fund to pay for the removal of the damaged fuel. But funding problems did not go away.

Following the accident at TMI-2 , the NRC created the TMI-2 Advisory Panel. The Advisory Panel met 78 times in the vicinity of TMI-2, and met regularly with NRC commissioners. Inadequate funding for TMI-2’s future closure was a constant concern expressed by the advisory panel.

These concerns have become reality. On March 26, 2018, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission estimated the decommissioning price tag for TMI-2 to be $1.266 billion. The cost to clean up TMI-2, based on FirstEnergy’s most recent estimates, is $1.4 billion. That amount doesn’t cover the cost to remove radio­active waste from the island.

The NRC recently granted FirstEnergy approval, without a hearing, to transfer TMI-2’s license. The new owner, TMI-2 Solutions, is a limited liability corporation from Utah with no assets. The problem remains the same, except the underfunded cleanup plan has been handed off from a public utility to a private venture.

There is approximately $900 million in the cleanup fund, which is $500 million less than is needed to get the job done. Still, in defiance of logic, the NRC granted the license transfer to TMI-2 Solutions. What happens if TMI-2 Solutions runs out of money? You can bet it will not be a limited liability company picking up the tab.

Regardless of anyone’s position on nuclear power, or party affiliation, funding should be in place to accomplish a complete cleanup, and ensure removal of high-level radioactive waste from Three Mile Island.

The TMI cleanup funding dilemma is a warning for taxpayers in Western Pennsylvania. Beaver Valley Nuclear Station, like TMI-2, was owned by FirstEnergy.

In 2018, FirstEnergy Solutions filed for bankruptcy and announced it would deactivate Beaver Valley. In bankruptcy documents filed in 2019, FirstEnergy estimated it would cost $380 million to decommission Unit 1, and an additional $367 million to decommission Unit 2.

Beaver Valley was on the verge of closing in 2021. Its new owner, Energy Harbor, emerged out of the FirstEnergy Solutions bankruptcy. 

What’s next? Who pays to clean up Beaver Valley when the decommissioning funds come up short?

Eric Epstein is chairman of Three Mile Island Alert Inc. (www.tmia.com).

Subject:  Peach Bottom Units 2 and 3 - Request for Additional Information - TSTF-505 (EPID L-2019-LLA-0120)

ADAMS Accession No. ML20357A097
Nuclear Regulatory Commission - News Release
No: 20-061 December 22, 2020
CONTACT: Office of Public Affairs, 301-415-8200
NRC Names Mirela Gavrilas Director, Office of Nuclear Security and Incident Response
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission today announced the appointment of Mirela Gavrilas as director, Office of Nuclear Security and Incident Response, effective with the retirement of Brian Holian on Dec. 31, 2020.
Gavrilas, who joined the NRC in 2004 as a reactor systems engineer in the Office of Nuclear Reactor Research, currently serves as the deputy office director for Reactor Safety Programs and Mission Support in the Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation. She is recognized for her many accomplishments, including the review of the construction permit for the SHINE Medical Technologies facilities, leading the development of the agency’s accident tolerant fuel plan and modernizing NRR’s workload management processes and metrics.
She has held several senior management positions in NRR, including serving as deputy director, Division of Policy and Rulemaking; deputy director, Division of Risk Assessment; and director, Division of Safety Systems. She also has expertise in international risk assessment and safety analysis.
Prior to joining the NRC, she served on the University of Maryland faculty, having led the first Nuclear Energy Agency/Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development international standard problem for computation fluid mechanics.
Gavrilas earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Nuclear Engineering from the University of Maryland and a Ph.D. in Nuclear Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is a graduate of NRC’s 2014 Senior Executive Service Candidate Development Program.