Pa. kayaker finds ancient tree fossil

From UPI.com:

A Pennsylvania man kayaking on a local river found a tree fossil embedded in a rock at the river's side that experts say is almost 300 million years old.

Shaun Blackham of Demont, Pa., was paddling his kayak on the Kiskiminetas River in Armstrong County in July when he spotted the fossil imprinted on the surface of a rock, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported.

"There it was, staring me right in the face," said Blackham, 45.

The plant fossil was 3 to 4 feet long and 10 to 14 inches wide.

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Crack at Crystal River Nuclear Power Plant explained

From the St. Petersburg Times:

From the start, one question especially has concerned the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission: Why Crystal River?

Why did a 42-inch-thick wall at that nuclear plant separate into two layers during a big maintenance project last fall? Other nuclear plants have done similar jobs 26 times around the country, but no one ever saw a crack like Crystal River's — a crack that has kept the plant off-line for 11 months and piled up nearly a quarter of a billion dollars in outage costs.

On Thursday, NRC officials said they think they know the answers to that question and others.

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Saving Japan's Nuclear Reactor Industry

From Japan Inc:

Japan is a world leader in nuclear reactor technology. That lead, however, is threatened by China, France, Korea and Russia. Moreover, failure in the American State of Texas might be the end for Japanese vendors of commercial nuclear reactors; companies which have been spearheading expansion of Japan’s globe-leading industries. This failure is threatened not by mistakes by the companies themselves, but rather by the lack of political will and foresight of the U.S. Government, a government that has lacked the leadership to pass a carbon tax and not had the vision to appropriate adequate financing for nuclear power. Fortunately, there still is time for the Japanese nuclear industry to act to save itself, and, ironically, to save America as well from its short-sighted ways.

The solution isn’t complicated—but it is not inexpensive either. It will require Japanese vendors to take the lead and secure financing for plant construction and commitments for the power produced. Only by making sure these plants are constructed as planned will Japan secure its future in this developing industry. What’s more, if the world market for carbon-free energy continues to develop as anticipated, an added benefit of a commitment to take the output of these plants may be a nice additional profit in the merchant energy market.

This article will summarize the Who, What and How the Texas projects have failed or are likely to fail and steps that can still be taken to alter the current trajectory. Japanese companies had started down the right path, and they thought they had closed sales on three nuclear projects proposed to be built in Texas. Celebration of these deals may have been premature as one project is dead, another project was ordered by a company that now lacks the balance sheet to complete it, and the last project developer appears unlikely to be able to secure financing. Having recently lost out on nuclear projects in the middle east, Japan’s success in the U.S. market is critical to demonstrating it can deliver nuclear projects in a world market and compete effectively against the Chinese, French, Koreans and Russians.

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Exelon hopes Schuylkill River project becomes permanent

From the Pottstown Mercury:

Grants for projects aimed at improving the quality of water in the Schuylkill River were announced Monday — four days before a quasi-federal agency meets to consider the fate of a nuclear power plant project which some argue could degrade the quality of that same river water.

The project, which adds water to the river from an upstream mine pool and reservoir, has been running on a trial basis for seven years.

Permission to make the practice permanent is being requested by Exelon Nuclear — which contributed $224,441 to the Schuylkill River Watershed Restoration fund this year — for use at its Limerick Generating Station.

With an additional $100,000 coming from the Philadelphia Water Department — contributing for the first time this year — the $324,441 fund is administered by Pottstown-based Schuylkill River Heritage Area and was divided among four watershed improvement projects — one in Schuylkill County, one in Berks County, one in Montgomery County and one in Philadelphia.

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Entergy drills more tritium monitoring wells at Vermont Yankee

From the Times Argus:

Entergy Nuclear is drilling four additional monitoring wells outside the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant to better define the plume of underground radioactive contamination, the company said Thursday.

Drilling of the wells is being delayed for about two weeks because Entergy engineers need to review and sign off on the project, said Larry Smith, spokesman for Entergy Nuclear.

Levels of tritium continue to rise in the well closest to the Connecticut River and within the mapped plume. Smith said that well, GZ14-S, was shallow and about 60 feet from the river. Tritium was measured at 370,000 picocuries per liter last week, up from 353,000 picocuries per liter on Aug. 16. That level of radioactivity is similar to water inside the reactor.

A new extraction well is being drilled near GZ14-S, according to the Department of Health, and new equipment will allow Entergy to withdraw higher concentration groundwater.

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TMI: Mid-Cycle Performance Review and Inspection Plan

Three Mile Island:  Mid-Cycle Performance Review and Inspection Plan

Download ML102440717 (PDF)

Peach Bottom: Mid-Cycle Assessment Letter

Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station Units 2 and 3:  Mid-Cycle Performance Review and Inspection Plan

Download ML102440413 (PDF)

Peach Bottom: NRC Inspection Report

PEACH BOTTOM ATOMIC POWER STATION, UNIT 1 - NRC INSPECTION REPORT NO. 05000171/2010007

Download ML102450036 (Inspection Letter)
Download ML102450061 (Inspection Report)

NRC Finalizes License Transfer for Zion Nuclear Power Station

NRC News
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
No. III-10-035

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has finalized the transfer of the possession license for the Zion Nuclear Power Station from Exelon Generating Company LLC to ZionSolutions LLC. The license transfer is effective as of today. The two unit plant is located about 40 miles north of Chicago.

The Zion station has been shut down since 1998. The NRC modified the original operating and possessing of radioactive materials license to a possession-only license for the purposes of storage and decommissioning activities.

On Jan. 25, 2008 Exelon submitted an application to the NRC requesting approval for a transfer of the possession license, management authorities and decommissioning trust fund to ZionSolutions, a subsidiary of EnergySolutions LLC. ZionSolutions was formed for the purpose of decommissioning the Zion site.

On May 4, 2009 NRC staff issued an order approving the license transfer. Some of the major issues NRC staff reviewed included financial qualifications, license procedures, transfer and maintenance of decommissioning funds and the assurance of dedicated disposal space.

“The NRC will continue its regulatory oversight of the decommissioning activities, from start to finish,” said NRC Region III Administrator Mark Satorius. “NRC staffers will conduct frequent inspections, review the performance of activities and help ensure the high safety standards set forth by the agency are maintained by the company.”

Under the license transfer, Exelon will retain ownership of the real estate and spent nuclear fuel. ZionSolutions will construct a dry cask storage facility and transfer the spent fuel to dry cask storage as part of the decommissioning plan. Following decommissioning, currently scheduled for 10 years, the license for the spent fuel will be transferred back to Exelon.

Nuclear Plant's Tear-Down Is Template

From the Wall Street Journal:

Exelon Corp. shut its Zion nuclear power plant 12 years ago rather than make costly repairs. Now, after spending more than $132 million babysitting it on the shore of Lake Michigan, the big nuclear operator is ready to have it torn down.

On Wednesday, Chicago-based Exelon, the nation's largest owner of nuclear plants, is expected to transfer its Zion nuclear licenses to EnergySolutions Inc., a nuclear waste storage and services firm in Salt Lake City, Utah, giving it full control of the Illinois site so it can oversee the demolition.

Both companies say the arrangement could provide utilities with a template for disposing of nuclear plants past their useful lives. It lets a utility focus on its business and puts a contractor in charge of demolition. The contractor receives government-mandated funds set aside years ago for plant closures.

Most of the recent focus on nuclear energy has concerned the cost of building new plants. But there's anxiety about dealing with old plants, too. Plant demolition poses a challenge because some equipment is radioactive and requires special handling. Radioactive waste must be sent to licensed sites or put in special storage, at the site.

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