From All Things Nuclear:
Nuclear power plants are inherently dangerous. They generate tremendous amounts of energy, producing large quantities of highly radioactive material along the way. Strict controls are required to ensure that this potentially deadly combination is properly managed to an acceptably low risk level.
Even Robert Ripley, the creator of the well-known Rip1ey’s Believe It Or Not syndicated newspaper feature and museums, probably wouldn’t believe the response by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to potential natural gas hazards at two U.S. reactors.
In 1991, the NRC wrote a report taking the owners of the Fort St. Vrain nuclear plant in Colorado to task for not taking seriously the threat of a natural gas explosion near the plant. The report said that the plant owners did not adequately evaluate “external hazards that could have affected the safe operation” of the facility, and that a later safety evaluation “was too narrowly focused and did not consider additional possible malfunctions.”
For Immediate Release
May 10, 2011
Contact: Giselle Barry (Markey) 202-225-2836
Harry Glenn (Young) 202-225-5961
Matt Dennis (Lowey) 202-225-6506
David Peluso (Bilirakis) 202-225-5755
Congress to Obama: Fully Implement Nuclear “Emergency Pill” Law
In Wake of Fukushima Meltdown, Bipartisan Group of 30 Members Join in Support of 2002 Law Requiring Potassium Iodide for Residents Living within 20 Miles of Nuclear Plants
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representatives Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), C.W. Bill Young (R-Fla.), Nita M. Lowey (D-N.Y.), and Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.) led a letter signed by 30 House Members sent yesterday to President Barack Obama calling for full implementation of the 2002 law that requires distribution of potassium iodide – also called KI – to Americans living within a 20 mile radius of a nuclear power plant. Although this law has been on the books since 2002, it has yet to be implemented. Previously, distribution of KI was limited to just those within 10 miles, and only to states that requested it from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). In Japan, the NRC recommended a fifty-mile evacuation zone for U.S. citizens and potassium iodide was made available for military personnel, Americans working in the disaster relief effort, and other Americans living in or visiting Japan.
“We write to urge you to implement the 2002 law requiring the distribution of potassium iodide to the people who live within 20 miles of nuclear power reactors in order to protect the Americans in at least 33 States against the possibility of a radioactive iodine release from a nearby nuclear reactor,” wrote the Representatives in the letter to President Obama. “If an earthquake, terrorist attack, or accident caused a radiation release in the United States, one of the greatest risks to health comes from radioactive forms of the chemical element iodine.”
Potassium iodide has been found to protect individuals, especially young children, from the cancer-causing releases of radioactive iodine by flooding it with stable iodine so that the gland cannot take up the cancer-causing radioactive form. The Food and Drug Administration has found that inhalation of radioactive iodine is of particular concern for those residing in the immediate area of a nuclear accident or otherwise directly exposed to radiation. With several large population centers within 20 miles of a nuclear power plant, rapid evacuation may not be a viable option for residents.
“Our experience with Hurricane Katrina, and the Japanese experience shows just how difficult it can be to rapidly evacuate large population centers.” wrote the Representatives. “Distribution of potassium iodide now, before the unlikely event of a disaster, is the prudent course.”
A copy of the letter to President Obama can be found HERE.
Rep. Markey amended the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002 to make potassium iodide available to state and local governments to meet the needs of all persons living within a 20-mile radius of a nuclear power plant.
On Thursday, May 12, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will receive its first 30-day briefing from the agency task force created to examine issues raised by the Fukushima reactor accident to see what lessons might be applicable to U.S. reactors. The briefing will be held at 9:30 a.m. at NRC Headquarters, 11555 Rockville Pike, Rockville, Md.
Because of the level of media interest, this event will be a mandatory pool for television. C-SPAN will provide a two-camera, high definition pool for distribution via the usual pool methods. Japanese networks are asked to obtain the feed from their U.S. network partners.
As in the case of the initial commission meeting, seats on one side of the commission hearing room will be reserved for accredited members of the news media. Photographers will have limited space at the meeting in which to take photos. Movement must be kept to a minimum so as not to be distracting and entry into the inner well closest to the Commission briefing table is prohibited.
Plan to arrive in advance of the meeting at the Marinelli Road entrance of the NRC with proper media credentials. The NRC is located across the street from the White Flint Metro station. Parking is available at the White Flint metro parking garage on Marinelli Road.
Members of the media are asked to call the NRC Office of Public Affairs at 301-415-8200 in advance to provide the names of those attending the meeting to assure sufficient seating.
Immediately following the meeting commissioners and the task force staff will exit the commission meeting room. Because of the ongoing nature of the task force review, there will be no interviews afterwards.
The commission meeting will be open to public observation and will be webcast at: http://www.nrc.gov/public-involve/public-meetings/webcast-live.html.
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Office of the Inspector General, recently issued a new report. To view this and other reports issued by the office, please click here.
From the Huffington Post:
I received the following email a few days ago from a Russian nuclear physicist friend who is an expert on the kinds of gases being released at Fukushima. Here is what he wrote:
About Japan: the problem is that the reactor uses "dirty" fuel. It is a combination of plutonium and uranium (MOX). I suspect that the old fuel rods have bean spread out due to the explosion and the surrounding area is contaminated with plutonium which means you can never return to this place again. It is like a new Tchernobyl. Personally, I am not surprised that the authority has not informed people about this.
NRC PUBLIC MEETING MAY 18 IN ROCKVILLE, MD, TO DISCUSS UPCOMING SEISMIC REVIEW OF U.S. NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS
Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff will conduct a public meeting at the agency headquarters in Rockville, Md., on Wednesday, May 18, to discuss the information and analysis needed for an updated understanding of seismic hazards at U.S. reactors.
The NRC will hold the meeting in the Commission Meeting Room of the agency’s One White Flint North building, 11555 Rockville Pike in Rockville, from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. NRC staff will provide an update on Generic Issue 199 (GI-199), which over the past few years has been examining updated seismic models and information for Eastern and Central U.S. nuclear power plants. GI-199 continues to conclude the plants can safely withstand earthquakes at their sites.
Discussions for the remainder of the meeting will focus on how to develop the best available seismic information and the best available methods for evaluating that information, as well as considering strategies for conducting the work as efficiently as possible. The public is invited to participate at designated points in the agenda. A teleconference will be available; please contact Jonathan Rowley at 301-415-4053 by May 16 for details.
NRC staff will consider information from the meeting in preparing a Generic Letter regarding GI-199 for later this year. The letter is expected to ask U.S. nuclear power plants to re- evaluate their seismic hazards. The NRC discussed preliminary GI-199 findings last year; more information on the issue is available on the NRC website.
THREE MILE ISLAND NUCLEAR STATION, UNIT 1: NRC SECURITY INSPECTION REPORT NO. 05000289/2011404
ADAMS Accession No. ML111290246 (PDF)
From the Boston Globe:
AFTER AN earthquake and tsunami rocked a nuclear power plant in Japan, the industry worked hard to equate fallout from massive radiation leaks with benign X-rays.
That’s nice, but there are still tough questions about safety and emergency plans at US plants — and the answers should come fast and straight from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Historically, that’s not the way it works, said Senate President Therese Murray, whose district covers the Pilgrim Nuclear Station on Manomet shore. “We’ve been dealing with the NRC for years and never get any kind of response. It’s usually a stone wall,’’ said Murray. When the agency does reply, she asks a lawyer “to figure out what they’re telling us.’’
From New York Times:
In the fall of 2007, workers at the Byron nuclear power plant in Illinois were using a wire brush to clean a badly corroded steel pipe — one in a series that circulate cooling water to essential emergency equipment — when something unexpected happened: the brush poked through.
The resulting leak caused a 12-day shutdown of the two reactors for repairs.
The plant’s owner, the Exelon Corporation, had long known that corrosion was thinning most of these pipes. But rather than fix them, it repeatedly lowered the minimum thickness it deemed safe. By the time the pipe broke, Exelon had declared that pipe walls just three-hundredths of an inch thick — less than one-tenth the original minimum thickness — would be good enough.
Though no radioactive material was released, safety experts say that if enough pipes had ruptured during a reactor accident, the result could easily have been a nuclear catastrophe at a plant just 100 miles west of Chicago.
Exelon’s risky decisions occurred under the noses of on-site inspectors from the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission. No documented inspection of the pipes was made by anyone from the N.R.C. for at least the eight years preceding the leak, and the agency also failed to notice that Exelon kept lowering the acceptable standard, according to a subsequent investigation by the commission’s inspector general.
A report from the Japanese Nuclear Safety Commission Ex-Secretariat, Dr. Saji, credits the current status of the accident to "luck". Gundersen discusses what could have happened if the wind had been blowing inland.