U.S. nuclear waste: where to now?

From Smart Planet:

Radioactive waste has been accumulating at sites across the United States for decades. The 75,000-metric-ton problem isn’t going away (well, not for a million years or so). And as of now, it’s not going to Nevada’s Yucca Mountain either. Tasked with finding long-term solutions to this disposal issue, the Blue Ribbon Commission released a draft report on Friday.

Critical of the government’s handing of the issue thus far, the almost 200-page report asks for a new federal organization, separate from the Department of Energy, that would deal with transporting, storing and disposing of nuclear wastes of various kinds and radioactivity levels.

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N.R.C. Lowers Estimate of How Many Would Die in Meltdown

From the New York Times:

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is approaching completion of an ambitious study that concludes that a meltdown at a typical American reactor would lead to far fewer deaths than previously assumed.

The conclusion, to be published in April after six years of work, is based largely on a radical revision of projections of how much and how quickly cesium 137, a radioactive material that is created when uranium is split, could escape from a nuclear plant after a core meltdown. In past studies, researchers estimated that 60 percent of a reactor core’s cesium inventory could escape; the new estimate is only 1 to 2 percent.

A draft version of the report was provided to The New York Times by the Union of Concerned Scientists, a nuclear watchdog group that has long been critical of the commission’s risk assessments and obtained it through a Freedom of Information Act request. Since the recent triple meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan, such groups have been arguing that the commission urgently needs to tighten safeguards for new and aging plants in the United States.

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Peach Bottom: Request for Withholding Information From Public Disclosure (ML11860036)

Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station, Unit No. 3: Request for Withholding Information From Public Disclosure (TAC No. ME6391)

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Susquehanna: Correction Letter (ML112070068)

Susquehanna Steam Electric Station, Units 1 and 2 - Correction Letter Re: Replacement Pages for Issued Amendment Nos. 255 and 235 for Cyber Security Plan (TAC Nos. ME4420 and ME4421)

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TMI: Third Inservice Inspection Interval Relif Requests (ML111990112)

Three Mile Island Nuclear Station, Unit 1 – Request for Additional Information Regarding Third Inservice Inspection Interval Relief Requests RR-11-01 and RR-11-02 (TAC Nos. ME5670 and ME5671)

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Whistleblowers Say Nuclear Regulatory Commission Watchdog Is Losing Its Bite

From the Scientific American:

When he retired after 26 years as an investigator with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Office of the Inspector General, George Mulley thought his final report was one of his best.

Mulley had spent months looking into why a pipe carrying cooling water at the Byron nuclear plant in Illinois had rusted so badly that it burst. His report cited lapses by a parade of NRC inspectors over six years and systemic weaknesses in the way the NRC monitors corrosion.

But rather than accept Mulley's findings, the inspector general's office rewrote them. The revised report shifted much of the blame to the plant's owner, Exelon, instead of NRC procedures. And instead of designating it a public report and delivering it to Congress, as is the norm, the office put it off-limits. A reporter obtained it only after filing a Freedom of Information Act request.

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The Value of a Life

To the Editor [of the New York Times]:

Your article about the value of human life that federal agencies use in cost-benefit analyses reported that the Office of Management and Budget “recently warned agencies that it would be difficult to justify the use of numbers under $5 million” (“A Life’s Value? It May Depend on the Agency,” front page, Feb. 17).

Someone should tell the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The N.R.C. has been using the same value — $3 million — since 1995. If the agency were to increase that value to the $5 million to $9 million per life that other agencies use, it would have a major effect on nuclear plant license renewals and new reactor approvals. Plant owners would have to add safety features that the N.R.C. now considers too expensive because it lowballs the value of the lives that could be saved.

N.R.C. calculations need to be brought in line with those of other agencies.

Edwin Lyman
Senior Scientist
Union of Concerned Scientists
Washington, Feb. 17, 2011

Susquehanna: NRC Triennial Fire Protection Inspection Report (ML112010427)

SUSQUEHANNA STEAM ELECTRIC STATION:  NRC TRIENNIAL FIRE PROTECTION INSPECTION REPORT NO. 05000387/2011007 AND 05000388/2011007

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Susquehanna: Issuance Ammendment (ML11152A009)

Susquehanna Steam Electric Station, Units 1 and 2 – Issuance of Amendment Re: Approval of the PPL Susquehanna, LLC Cyber Security Plan (TAC Nos. ME4420 and ME4421)

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