MR. LINGAM: I am Siva Lingam. I am the Petition Manager for this. I would like to thank everyone for attending this meeting. We are here today to allow the Petitioners from Beyond Nuclear, represented by Mr. Paul Gunter and Mr. Kevin Kamps; and Co-petitioners from Pilgrim Watch, represented by Ms. Mary Lampert; New England Coalition represented by Mr. Raymond Shadis; GE Stockholders' Alliance represented by Ms. Patricia Birnie; and Nuclear Energy Information Service, represented by Mr. David Kraft, to address the NRC Petition Review Board, also referred to as the PRB, regarding the 2.206 petition dated April 13, 2011, and the co-petitions dated May 14, 2011, May 18, 2011, May 27, 2011, and May 31, 2011, respectively. I am the Petition Manager for this petition, and Mr. Robert Nelson is the Petition Review Board Chairman.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

NRC Commissioners Recently Voted to Reduce Safety, Including Nixing “Near-site” Disaster Command Centers and Increasing Risk from Heightened Reactor Activity

WASHINGTON (June 29, 2011) – The risks to nuclear power plants in Nebraska due to flooding and the wild-fires in the southwest highlight the inadequacy of current regulations and risk assumptions in the face of extreme weather events that may be exacerbated by climate change, Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) asserted today. These incidents, coupled with an unusually active series of tornadoes earlier this spring, highlight the potential for severe weather to cause disasters at nuclear reactors, and the need to update risk assessments and safety regulations following the Fukushima nuclear meltdown in Japan. Rep. Markey also said that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission had taken steps over the last two years to decrease safety at nuclear plants.

The Los Alamos fires that threaten 30,000 barrels of stored plutonium fuel also highlight the need for the Department of Energy, which owns the facility, to consider updating their safety requirements at nuclear labs and other nuclear facilities.

“The floods, fires and tornadoes that have ravaged America this year demonstrate the need to update our nuclear safety regulations, even before the events at Fukushima are considered,” said Rep. Markey, the top Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee. “The steps taken by nuclear regulators at Fort Calhoun show that increased vigilance is the necessary price of safety, but much more must be done to account for the increasingly wild weather that has recalibrated our collective understanding of potential risk. The prudent steps NRC had taken at Fort Calhoun have prevented any serious harm from occurring thus far. They should continue those efforts at facilities nationwide.”

In March 2010, following earlier correspondence with the NRC in which then-chairman Dale Klein dismissed Rep. Markey’s concerns related to the ability of nuclear reactors to prepare for the potential impacts of global warming, Rep. Markey sent a letter to GAO requesting a comprehensive investigation into the adequacy of NRC regulations, including NRC actions taken to prepare for earthquakes, flooding, hurricanes and tornadoes, and other effects of global warming. Many of these effects relate to the loss of off-site electricity, the failure of emergency backup power supplies, and the loss of cooling capabilities, all of which led to the meltdowns and explosions at the nuclear reactors in Japan.

Rep. Markey also released a report in May detailing the regulatory loopholes that have left U.S. nuclear facilities ill-prepared to respond to a catastrophic event involving a loss of off-site power, which include:

  • Widespread malfunctions and inoperability of emergency diesel generators at nuclear power plants.
  • The absence of emergency back-up power requirements at some spent fuel pools.
  • The absence of requirements to prevent hydrogen explosions at reactors and spent fuel pools.
  • Outdated seismic safety requirements, even as applications for new licenses and license extensions for many nuclear reactors continue to be processed by the NRC.

Yet, despite the existence of these loopholes, the NRC has continued to approve applications to extend the licenses of several nuclear power plants without first incorporating the lessons of Fukushima into their requirements, and without following the environmental law that requires any “new and significant” information regarding the environmental consequences of operating the nuclear reactor be included in the application.

Additionally, the Obama administration has yet to implement Rep. Markey’s 2002 law to require the distribution of potassium iodide, an inexpensive medication that has been found to protect individuals, especially children, from the cancer-causing releases of radioactive iodine, to those located within 20 miles of all operating nuclear reactors. A recent Associated Press analysis showed that populations around nuclear power plants have swelled by as much as four and a half times since 1980, highlighting the need to revisit the emergency evacuation plans and 10 mile emergency planning zones that are currently in place at these facilities.

Moreover, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has recently voted 4-1 (with Chairman Jaczko as the dissenting vote) to weaken nuclear reactor safety:

“Near-site” Emergency Operations Facilities are supposed to be command and control centers for nuclear reactor accidents. In 2004, then-Commissioners Jaczko and McGaffigan voted against a request by Southern Company to put one of these facilities more than 200 miles away from each of the reactors it would serve and require coordination between as many as four different states.  But in September of 2010, the NRC voted 4-1 to stop separately considering nuclear reactor licensees’ requests to be exempted from the requirement to locate their emergency facilities near the nuclear reactors where the facilities would be needed.

The NRC has approved “power up-rates” for twenty-two nuclear reactors to produce more electricity.  But “power up-rates” also means more radioactive materials, hotter reactor cores, and higher pressures, all of which can make a meltdown more likely in the case of an accident.  On February 17, 2011, the NRC’s Advisory Commission on Reactor Safeguards said that the NRC shouldn’t just assume that safety measures to address these riskier conditions were in place and would work.  But on March 15, 2011 – 4 days after the Japanese earthquake - the NRC announced a 4-1 Commission vote to ignore its technical advisory group, even though in his dissenting vote, NRC Chairman Jaczko noted the need for a risk analysis that includes the possibility of fires and earthquakes that breach the containment of the reactors.

“With floods, fires and storms that now approach biblical proportions, the NRC should be voting to upgrade safety and improve emergency response capabilities,” said Rep. Markey. “Instead, it appears that a majority of Commissioners are turning a blind eye to the risks these reactors face.”

Markey also noted that recent press reports have raised concerns about whether the Las Conchas wildfire burning in New Mexico could adversely affect nuclear waste and hazardous materials stored at the Los Alamos nuclear weapons laboratory, saying “Energy Secretary Chu needs to ensure that this wildfire does not result in any release of radioactive or hazardous materials.”
 

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From MSMBC:

The nation's top nuclear power regulator said Monday that both of Nebraska's nuclear power plants have remained safe as they battle floodwaters from the bloated Missouri River.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko visited both Fort Calhoun and Cooper nuclear power plants in eastern Nebraska this week to see how the utilities that run them are coping with the flooding. Both plants sit on the river.

The Omaha Public Power District's Fort Calhoun is the subject of more public concern because the floodwaters have surrounded that plant and forced workers to use elevated catwalks to access the facility. Nebraska Public Power District's Cooper plant is more elevated.

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Exelon Generation Company, LLC – Threshold Determination Under 10 CFR 50.80 – Request for Additional Information
 
ADAMS Accession No.: ML111670731

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From ABC News:

Three U.S. senators, alarmed by findings of an Associated Press investigation about aging problems at the nation's nuclear power plants, asked Thursday for a congressional investigation of safety standards and federal oversight at the facilities.

The request by Democrats Barbara Boxer of California and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and independent Bernard Sanders of Vermont builds on increased public concern about nuclear safety in recent months — an outcry unlike anything since the Chernobyl nuclear accident in 1986.

Public interest first spiked after the March accident at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in Japan. Concern has been heightened this week as the AP began releasing the results of a yearlong investigation into aging related safety problems at the 104 reactors operating in the United States.

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From Kyodo News:

Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Wednesday it expects to pay 88 billion yen ($109 Billion USD) in compensation to around 150,000 nuclear crisis evacuees for their mental distress.

The compensation from the operator of the troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant will cover the period between March 11, when the quake-tsunami disaster crippled the complex, and mid-January, the target date for TEPCO to achieve a cold shutdown of the damaged reactors.

TEPCO's estimate was revealed after a government panel presented guidelines forcompensation payments, under which evacuees in temporary housing or apartments will receive 100,000 yen per month ($1242.70 USD) for six monthsfrom March and those staying in shelters will receive 120,000 yen a month ($ 1491.24 USD).

The utility will include the 88 billion yen as an extraordinary loss in its April-June consolidated financial results.

Six months into the crisis, the payments will be uniformly cut to 50,000 yen per month. ($ 621.35  USD)A compensation plan covering payments a year after the crisis will be decided once the situation at the Fukushima plant is brought under control.

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From the Santos Republic:

Radioactive materials spewed out from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant reached North America soon after the meltdown and were carried all the way to Europe, according to a simulation by university researchers.

The computer simulation by researchers at Kyushu University and the University of Tokyo, among other institutions, calculated dispersal of radioactive dust from the Fukushima plant beginning at 9 p.m. on March 14, when radiation levels around the plant spiked.

The team found that radioactive dust was likely caught by the jet stream and carried across the Pacific Ocean, its concentration dropping as it spread. According to the computer model, radioactive materials at a concentration just one-one hundred millionth of that found around the Fukushima plant hit the west coast of North America three days later, and reached the skies over much of Europe about a week later.

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From the Associated Press:

Radioactive tritium has leaked from three-quarters of U.S. commercial nuclear power sites, often into groundwater from corroded, buried piping, an Associated Press investigation shows.

The number and severity of the leaks has been escalating, even as federal regulators extend the licenses of more and more reactors across the nation.

Tritium, which is a radioactive form of hydrogen, has leaked from at least 48 of 65 sites, according to U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission records reviewed as part of the AP's yearlong examination of safety issues at aging nuclear power plants.

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From Reuters:

Steps to boost atomic safety after Japan's Fukushima accident must be "cost-effective," an industry body said on Tuesday, a day after the UN nuclear chief suggested power firms could help pay for expanded safety checks.

John Ritch, director general of the World Nuclear Association, said the industry had been struggling in the last decade to limit capital costs while building a new generation of reactors.

In this context, it is crucially important that regulatory actions taken in response to Fukushima have demonstrable benefit arising from any increased costs," he told a major international safety conference, according to a copy of his speech.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Lawmakers release nuclear safety investigation in wake of media report that 75% of nuclear reactor sites have leaky pipes
 
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressmen Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee and Ranking Member on the Natural Resources Committee, and Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Chief Deputy Democratic Whip and member of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform,  released a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report entitled “Nuclear Regulatory Commission: Oversight of Underground Piping Systems Commensurate with Risk, but Proactive Measures Could Help Address Future Leaks”.  The report concludes that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and licensees “cannot be assured that underground safety-related pipes remain structurally sound without having information about degradation that has occurred. Without such assurance, the likelihood of future pipe failures cannot be as accurately assessed, and this increases the uncertainty surrounding the safety of the plants.” Buried pipes at nuclear power plants carry water necessary to cool nuclear reactors. Other buried pipes carry diesel to fuel the emergency generators that power cooling systems in case of a blackout.
 
A story published today by the Associated Press found that tritium, a radioactive form of hydrogen, has leaked from at least 48 of 65 nuclear sites, according to NRC records. Leaks from at least 37 of those facilities contained concentrations exceeding the federal drinking water standard, up to hundreds of times the limit.
 
“Just as a power outage was the root cause of the core meltdowns at Fukushima, a failure of buried pipes that carry cooling water to the reactor cores could lead to a similar emergency here in the U.S.,” said Rep. Markey. “There would be no warning because no one ever checks the integrity of these underground pipes. These pipes have more leaks than the Vancouver Canucks goaltending. The NRC must require inspections of these pipes before they deteriorate instead of its current policy of crossing fingers and hoping for the best.”
 
In a May 2009 letter to the NRC, Rep. Markey and then-Rep. John Hall questioned the NRC’s process for inspecting buried pipes and asked what assurance the NRC could give the public that underground pipes would withstand an earthquake, terrorist attack or other event. On February 16, 2009, a 1.5-inch hole that had already leaked more than 100,000 gallons of water was discovered in a buried cooling water pipe at the Indian Point nuclear power plant near New York City. According to media reports, the broken pipe had not been inspected since 1973, when the reactor was built. The broken pipe was part of the primary cooling system, which must cool the reactor during any unexpected shutdown.
 
The GAO report Representatives Markey and Welch released today includes the following findings:
 

  • The occurrence of leaks at nuclear power plants from underground piping systems is expected to continue as nuclear power plants age and their piping systems corrode.
  • The pressure and flow tests NRC currently requires do not provide information about the structural integrity of an underground pipe, such as whether the pipe has degraded to the point that the thickness of its wall could hinder the pipe’s future performance.
  • Limitations in the industry’s ability to measure the wall thickness of an underground pipe without excavation prevent licensees from determining the structural integrity of underground piping systems. Without being able to identify that an underground piping system’s structural integrity has not been compromised by corrosion, the risk to public health and safety is increased. In this context, licensees at nuclear power plants cannot assure that a safety-related pipe will continue to function properly between inspection intervals, thereby protecting the public’s health and safety.

 
The GAO also recommended that the NRC should:
 

  • Determine whether the agency should expand its groundwater monitoring requirements.
  • Determine whether it should expand licensees’ inspection requirements to include structural integrity tests for safety-related underground piping.

 
A copy of the GAO report, “Nuclear Regulatory Commission: Oversight of Underground Piping Systems Commensurate with Risk, but Proactive Measures Could Help Address Future Leaks” can be found HERE and HERE.
 
 
 
Michal Ilana Freedhoff, Ph.D.
Policy Director
Office of Congressman Edward J. Markey (D-MA)
2108 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
202-225-2836

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