Agency needs new plan after Yucca decision

From the Las Vegas Review-Journal:

The agency will need to determine what environmental and safety issues might come into play if thousands of tons of radioactive spent fuel needs to be kept in steel and concrete containers at reactor sites across the country for extended periods, NRC official Jack Davis said at an agency conference.

Speaking with reporters earlier this week, NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko said nuclear fuel can be stored safely for long periods, and the NRC will "work to see what that time frame is really like -- 100 years, 200 years, 400," according to the New York Times.

NRC staff has indicated that waste-containing canisters can remain robust for another 50-60 years. On Wednesday, Davis, who heads a high-level waste technical review team, said the prospect of keeping highly radioactive material contained for longer periods raises a new set of issues the agency will need to tackle.

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FBI, nuclear agency investigate terrorism suspect

From CNN:

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is working with the FBI to determine whether a New Jersey man suspected of being an al Qaeda member had access to any sensitive areas of the nuclear plants where he once worked, a commission spokeswoman said Friday.

The FBI is investigating Sharif Mobley, a 26-year-old from Buena, New Jersey, said Rich Wolf, a spokesman at the agency's Baltimore, Maryland, office. He wouldn't comment further.

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Security - Worker Background Checks

Facility: HOPE CREEK

Event Number: 45761

 

PRESS RELEASE CONCERNING A FORMER PLANT EMPLOYEE

"This notification is being made pursuant to 10CFR50.72(b)(2)(xi) due to the issuance of a press release concerning an individual that previously performed work at Hope Creek Generating Station.

'PSEG Nuclear provided the following statement to Channel 6 News, the ABC-TV affiliate out of Philadelphia, which read as follows:

'Sharif Mobley previously worked as a laborer at PSEG Nuclear for a variety of contractors from 2002 to 2008 mainly during refueling outages for several weeks at a time. This individual satisfied federal security background checks required to work in the US nuclear industry as recently as 2008. While working here, he did routine labor work carrying supplies and assisting maintenance activities. He also worked at other nuclear plants in the region. We are cooperating with law enforcement as part of their investigation as well as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and other nuclear plant operators.'

"Sharif Mobley has been the focus of recent news stories due to his activities in the country of Yemen."

"Hope Creek Generating Station is currently operating at 100%. There is no indication that the individual compromised the security of the station."

The licensee will inform the State of Delaware and New Jersey, the Lower Alloways Creek Township and the NRC Resident Inspector.
 

Al Qaeda Suspect Worked at 5 U.S. Nuclear Plants

From Fox News:

Before he was rounded up in a sweep of suspected Al Qaeda terrorists in Yemen, Sharif Mobley was a laborer at five nuclear plant complexes in Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Authorities are investigating whether he might have had any access to sensitive information that would have been useful to terrorists.

Edwin Lyman, a senior staff scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, a watchdog of the nuclear power industry, said the case raises questions about security at the nation's nuclear power plants — even though Mobley has not been linked to any wrongdoing at any of them.

Some of the information used to give temporary workers like Mobley clearance comes from other nuclear power companies and is sometimes incomplete, Lyman said.

"The real question is: Was there information that the NRC or utilities could have seen that would have led to his disqualification?" Lyman asked.

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House Democrat asks GAO to investigate nuclear licensing process

From The Hill:

Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) is asking the Government Accountability Office to review the permitting process for nuclear plants as others in his party appear poised to offer lucrative incentives to revive the industry. Among his questions is whether the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has adequately weighed the risks earthquakes and severe weather may pose to nuclear power plants.

Markey, who co-sponsored climate change legislation that passed the House last June, notes that nuclear power generation, “has been offered by some as one answer to the escalating crisis of global warming as the operation of nuclear power plants results in lower carbon dioxide output than burring carbon-based fossil fuels.”

Markey has a number of concerns about nuclear power, despite its low emissions. A “catastrophic accident” poses a greater safety risk than “many orders of magnitude more severe than any other type of power plant,” the letter states.

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Don't buy Obama's greenwashing of nuclear power

From the Guardian:

On February 16, while President Obama was in Maryland announcing an $8.3bn taxpayer-backed loan guarantee for Southern Company to build two new nuclear reactors in Georgia, inspectors at the Vermont Yankee reactor were finding dangerously high levels of tritium, a radioactive cancer-causing chemical, in the groundwater near the plant.

The next week, the Vermont state Senate voted overwhelmingly to shut down Vermont Yankee when its current license expires in 2012.

Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas (R) called the timing of the nuclear loan guarantee announcement and the Vermont Senate's decision "ironic." More than just some coincidence, though, the Vermont Yankee situation demonstrates that from the mining of uranium ore to the storage of radioactive waste, nuclear reactors remain as dirty, risky, and as costly as they ever were. If President Obama's recent enthusiasm for nuclear reactors has led you to believe otherwise, you've bought in to the administration's greenwashing of nuclear.

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Leaky Nuclear Plants Versus States Rights

From the Epoch Times:

The people of Georgia may soon be neighbors to the first two new U.S. nuclear plants approved in decades, thanks to billions in loan guarantees just proposed by the Obama administration. But discontent in state legislatures is signaling that those new nuclear plants may not be warmly welcomed in every neighborhood.

Around the country, a problem-plagued nuclear industry is being met by public mistrust. Just last month, the Vermont senate voted 26–4 to block a license extension for Vermont Yankee, the state’s only nuclear power plant, when it reaches the end of its original 40-year license in 2012.

Also in February, West Virginia defeated a bill to repeal that state’s ban on new nuclear construction. And in Arizona, a bill to classify nuclear power as renewable energy was withdrawn.

The source of distrust is a fleet of 104 nuclear plants that isn’t aging well. Vermont Yankee and its owner Entergy Corporation, for example, seemed a shoe-in for a 20-year license renewal in 2012 until one of the plant’s cooling towers collapsed. Then radioactive tritium was discovered leaking into local groundwater from buried pipes that cannot be inspected (after Entergy claimed under oath that no such pipes existed).

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DPS: Yankee statements on piping are ‘flawed and indefensible'

From the Brattleboro Reformer:

In a letter to the Vermont Public Service Board, the Department of Public Service has alleged that Entergy is still not being totally forthcoming about the extent of underground and buried piping at Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon.

A filing submitted by Entergy on Jan. 24 has not been "sufficiently responsive" to clear up "inaccurate representations" made last year to the DPS, the PSB, Nuclear Safety Associates, which conducted a reliability assessment of the plant, and the Public Oversight Panel, which was tasked with reviewing NSA's report, wrote Sarah Hofmann, DPS' director of public advocacy in the letter, which was co-signed by John Cotter, DPS' special counsel.

The Entergy filing "is based on a flawed and indefensible reading of (Act 189) and appears to be part of an effort on the part of (Entergy) to minimize the significance of the original inaccurate disclosures ..." she wrote.

The reliability assessment was mandated by Act 189, which was approved by the Vermont State Legislature.

After learning about the "inaccurate representations" made last year, the DPS demanded that Entergy supply details about all underground pipes and systems at the plant.

The problem with Entergy's response to the demand, wrote Hofmann and Cotter, is that it relied on Entergy's definition of underground pipes -- only those that are "in direct contact with soil or concrete."

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Yankee focuses on leaky pipe elbow

From the Rutland Herald:

Workers at Vermont Yankee looking for a source of a radioactive tritium leak continued to use a robot to investigate a dime-sized hole in a drainpipe in the reactor's advanced off-gas system.

Larry Smith, spokesman for Entergy Nuclear, said Monday that the hole was located in an elbow in a 1-1/2-inch pipe, and he said the company was investigating what caused the hole and whether to replace the elbow or patch it.

Smith also noted that preliminary planning was under way for groundwater and soil remediation.

The water coming from the hole is not reaching the environment, since it is in an underground pipe tunnel and the water goes into a drain, where it is eventually treated, Smith said.

Meanwhile, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission gave Entergy Nuclear a 5-1/2-month extension to finish work on required improvements to its security systems, which were supposed to be completed by March 31.

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Summary of annual review: Peach Bottom, PPL & TMI

Three Mile Island

NRC staff completed its performance review on Feb. 12, 2010, covering the fourth quarter and all of 2009. In a letter dated March 3, 2010, the NRC said Unit 1 “operated in a manner that preserved public health and safety and fully met all cornerstone objectives.”

Peach Bottom

NRC staff completed its performance review on Feb. 16, 2010, for the most recent quarter and all of 2009. In a letter dated March 3, 2010, the NRC said Units 2 and 3 “operated in a manner that preserved public health and safety and fully met all cornerstone objectives.”

The letter reviewed the confirmatory order of Dec. 1, 2009, to plant owner Exelon regarding two workers, one a licensed reactor operator who failed to report a driving under the influence arrest and the other a maintenance supervisor who provided inaccurate and incomplete information when applying for the job.  Details are mentioned in previous reports.

The letter also mentioned the previously reported $65,000 civil penalty issued on Jan. 6, 2009, relating to inattentive security officers discovered in September 2007. The NRC noted that its 2009 mid-cycle performance assessment letter indicated that extensive inspections have “adequately addressed this issue.”

Berwick

The NRC staff completed its performance review on Feb. 16, 2010, for the fourth quarter and all of 2009. In a letter dated March 3, 2010, the NRC said that Susquehanna Units 1 and 2 “operated in a manner that preserved public health and safety and fully met all cornerstone objectives.”

The letter discussed the previously reported matter when a potential chilling effect letter was issued in January 2009 over safety work environment issues.  The letter noted that plant owner PPL has taken reasonable actions to improve the safety conscious work environment (SCWE) at the site. “Specifically,” the NRC letter said, “the staff determined that you recognized the issue impacted multiple areas across the site; took appropriate and timely actions to address it; and completed a range of corrective actions which have been implemented and are judged, at this time, to have been effective in addressing the underlying issues.” The NRC said that cross cutting issues do not exist at this time.

Nonetheless, the NRC said it would continue to monitor PPL’s activities over the issue. It added that it is continuing to review some events that occurred during 2008, and PPL would be notified of the outcome in separate correspondence.

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