Stakeholders put Nuclear Regulatory Commission on notice over nuclear reactor renewals


January 12, 2010

What’s  New


Pilgrim Watch, joined by nine state and national organizations, filed comments today on the proposed revision to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) on reactor license renewal.

In order to “streamline” the process of relicensing nuclear reactors for an additional 20 years, the NRC has created a “generic” framework of issues they will consider, applicable to all reactor sites. The original version was created in 1996 and since that time, over 50 reactors have been re-licensed in the U.S.; NRC has not denied any application to date. Pilgrim’s process that began in 2006 continues.

Public Input: The NRC held only six meetings nationwide to allow public input to this process.  The meeting for Region 1 was held in Newton Massachusetts. However the (2) reactors remaining for license renewal in Region 1 are located in Seabrook NH and Pennsylvania. Therefore it was not surprising that only 3 citizens attended the meeting.

What’s wrong: Pilgrim Watch contends that the Draft incorrectly determined contrary to NRC’s own definition of “small impact” that the environmental impact of some issues was “small” when it clearly should have been “moderate to large;” and wrongly categorized several issues as Category 1 instead of Category. These include, for example: human health; solid waste management, onsite storage of spent nuclear fuel and low-level waste storage and disposal; postulated and severe accidents; radionuclides released to groundwater; and decommissioning.

NRC justified their conclusions of a “small impact” and Category 1 designation by: (1) totally ignoring or mischaracterizing new and significant information that provided contrary evidence or “Inconvenient Truths” (example, NRC’s mischaracterization of meteorology, climatology and the National Academies’ BEIR VII report on the health effects of low dose radiation exposure); (2) referencing  guidance or industry practices, without demonstrating that they, in fact, provide “reasonable assurance” (example, SAMA and Applicant’s use of outdated computer code and uses ATMOS); and (3) referencing “safeguard” information unavailable for independent scrutiny (example on site storage spent fuel, NRC’s Updated Waste Confidence Rule).

Further, and of considerable importance, NRC incorrectly determined that emergency planning and security were outside the scope of review. They both have a potentially large impact and are site specific.

Pilgrim Watch also discussed procedural issues that impede public participation and fairness in the license renewal process.

In sum, Pilgrim Watch concluded that the Draft is a second rate job and the research analysis performed to support conclusions is third rate; thereby confidence in the NRC and this process is undermined.

Nuclear Power: The Critical Question now available for order

Nuclear Information and Resource Service

6930 Carroll Avenue, #340, Takoma Park, MD 20912



January 12, 2010


Dear Friends,


Many people expressed interest in obtaining printed copies of our recent special issue of the Nuclear Monitor, Nuclear Power: The Critical Question; First Hand Reports from the Frontline of the Nuclear Fuel Chain. This book was first published in German by Women in Europe for a Common Future (WECF) and produced in English by our colleagues at WISE.

We’re pleased to tell you that we’ve arranged for a limited number of these beautiful full-color books to be shipped to us so we can now make them available to you.

We’ve set up a new NIRS Storefront for this book, as well as for our 2007 book, False Promises, and hopefully for future items as well.

To order your copy(ies) of Nuclear Power: The Critical Question, just go here:


For a peaceful, beautiful 2010,


Michael Mariotte

Executive Director

Nuke plant security improves

From the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader:

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced Friday that a follow-up inspection of the nuclear plant in Salem Township found that security issues from a previous inspection had been corrected, though the NRC and the operator wouldn’t elaborate on what those issues were and how they were addressed.

The announcement brings attention to a double-edged concern with nuclear power, which is poised to increase in the country as greenhouse-gas-producing, fossil-fuel-burning plants are phased out.

“We don’t provide details on security inspection findings because that information could be useful to an individual or group intent on attacking a nuclear power plant,” NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan wrote in an e-mail.

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Oglethorpe Power General Counsel Named to Nuclear Legal Committee

From PR Newswire:

TUCKER, Ga., Jan. 8 /PRNewswire/ -- Charles W. "Chuck" Whitney, senior vice president and general counsel for Oglethorpe Power Corporation, has been appointed to the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) Lawyers Committee. The Nuclear Energy Institute is the policy organization of the nuclear energy and technologies industry and works to promote the beneficial uses of nuclear energy and technologies in the United States and around the world. The Lawyers Committee develops policy recommendations on various legal issues arising from the construction and operation of nuclear power plants.

Thomas A. Smith, president & CEO of Oglethorpe Power, said Whitney's appointment to the NEI group will be very beneficial to the corporation as licensing and construction proceed on two new units of the Alvin W. Vogtle Nuclear Plant near Waynesboro. Oglethorpe Power has a 30 percent interest in the new units as well as the two units of the plant that are already operational.

"While we have been a member of NEI for many years and enjoy an excellent relationship with them, Chuck's participation on this committee will provide us with a direct opportunity to be involved in nuclear energy policy-making at the national level while staying abreast of the latest developments within the industry," Smith said.

Whitney joined Oglethorpe Power in August 2009 from Duane Morris LLP, where he had served as a managing partner of the Atlanta office since 2000 and as head of that firm's Nuclear Energy Practice Group. Prior to joining Duane Morris, Whitney served in a variety of senior executive positions for Southern Company subsidiaries, including an assignment as president & CEO of Southern's European international energy subsidiary. Additionally, he has had major responsibilities for nuclear and fossil plant construction and operations both as a lawyer and a senior manager.

He graduated with high honors with B.S. and B.A. degrees from Wright State University, received a J.D. degree from Case Western Reserve University and completed the Harvard Business School advanced management program.

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NRC: "White Security Finding" at PPL's Nuclear Power Plant


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Cooling towers required for Oyster Creek nuclear plant may force its closure


New Jersey environmental officials are requiring the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station in Ocean County -- the nation’s oldest nuclear plant -- to install cooling towers. The design change is considered environmentally-friendly, yet costly, and one the plant operators say will force them to shut down.

The state Department of Environmental Protection is requiring the installation of a "closed-cycle cooling system," which involves mostly air-cooling the plant using one or two towers.

The plant currently cools its system by pumping in about 662 million gallons of water from the Barnegat Bay each day, and pumping in another 748 million additional gallons per day to dilute that heated water before it all is discharged back into the bay, according to Nancy Whittenberg, assistant commissioner for environmental regulation,

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Vermont Yankee groundwater well tests positive for radioactive isotope for the first time

From the Los Angeles Times:

A small amount of radioactive material was found in a test of groundwater wells at the Vermont Yankee nuclear facility, the plant confirmed Thursday.

The problem at the 38-year-old reactor is similar to those cropping up at nuclear plants around the country, with the discovery of a radioactive isotope called tritium in a monitoring well.

Vermont Yankee spokesman Robert Williams said Thursday the plant confirmed a report provided a day earlier by an independent testing laboratory hired to check samples from 32 groundwater monitoring wells on the site.

Williams said it was the first time a groundwater sample at the plant had tested positive for tritium.

Both Williams and William Irwin, radiological health chief for the Vermont Department of Health, said there was no threat to the public health and safety from the level of tritium reported. They said the 17,000 picocuries of radioactivity per liter of water measured at Vermont Yankee was 3,000 less than the 20,000 picocurie safety limit set for drinking water by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

But Arnold Gundersen, a former nuclear industry engineer who has consulted with the Legislature on issues related to Vermont Yankee, on Thursday called the discovery of tritium on the plant site "a big deal."

"It's a sign that there's a pipe or a tank leaking somewhere" at the plant, Gundersen said. "It's highly unlikely that the highest concentration in the ground would happen to be at the monitoring well," he added.

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Entergy issues $40M guarantee for decom fund

From the Brattleboro Reformer:

Entergy, which owns and operates Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon, told the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that it has executed a parent company guarantee of $40 million to ensure the site’s clean-up fund meets NRC requirements.

The guarantee was offered on Dec. 31, 2009, said Neil Sheehan, spokesman for the NRC.

"We are still awaiting written documentation on this," said Sheehan. "We will conduct independent verification to ensure it was properly carried out and meets our requirements."

Entergy will be working with the NRC to make sure its expectations concerning the decommissioning fund are met, said Rob Williams, spokesman for Yankee.

"The goal of the guarantee we have implemented is to be responsive to NRC’s request for further financial assurance to ensure the adequacy of the decommissioning fund," he said.

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Nuclear Power and the Bottomless Bank

From E Magazine:

Congress and the Obama administration are on a course to provide the nation’s nuclear industry an unprecedented financial package—one that could dwarf the combined expenditures of last year’s bailout programs. And the legislative package comes with restrictions that would block the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) from completely examining untried nuclear power systems.

The extensive support for the development of nuclear power is incorporated in the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act moving separately through the Environment and Public Works and the Energy and Natural Resources committees. The House version of the bill passed in June.

If enacted, the legislation would create a special “bank” affiliated with the Department of Energy (DOE) called the Clean Energy Deployment Administration (CEDA), which could potentially provide underwriting for 187 new nuclear power projects—at an estimated cost of $10 to $14 billion each—and assume responsibility for cost overruns and delays.

If the Senate version is approved, there would be unlimited funding for nuclear power projects throughout the country, instead of just in the three states (Florida, Georgia and South Carolina) that allow utilities to bill consumers in advance for the cost of constructing nuclear power plants. Federal investment in nuclear energy would replace that from the Wall Street investment community, which has been loathe to invest in these expensive capital projects.

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