Accident at Russia’s Kursk Nuclear Power Plant reveals blatant disregard of safety standards: Is the Russian nuclear industry headed for a meltdown?Submitted by webEditor on Thu, 09/23/2010 - 15:37
Incidents of various degrees of severity are not uncommon at Russian nuclear power plants (NPPs), but when repairs take longer than a month – as was the case with Reactor 1 of Kursk NPP, which was scrammed on July 22 and only went online on August 31 – concerns arise that serious damage must have occurred. A scrutiny of what happened at Kursk NPP seems to indicate the frightening possibility that a malfunction involving any RBMK reactor may turn out to be as devastating as the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.
Kursk NPP: How extensive was the damage?
Kursk NPP is located in Kurchatov – a town bearing the name of the prominent Soviet nuclear physicist, and the man behind the Soviets’ A-bomb, Igor Kurchatov. It stands 40 kilometers southwest of Kursk, a large city in Central European Russia, and operates four power units with pressurized-tube reactors with a total capacity of 4 million kilowatts. Last July 22, an incident took place at the plant that put Reactor 1, an RBMK-1000 installation, out of commission and led to what later turned out to be five weeks of ongoing repairs. Even more disturbing, what information was finally made available about the incident did not come through the official channels from the state nuclear corporation Rosatom or Kursk NPP’s head company, the nuclear power plant operator Rosenergoatom, but from Kursk employees.
From the Rutland Herald:
The issue of federal preemption at the Vermont Yankee nuclear reactor over last winter’s radioactive tritium leak continues to simmer.
In a filing Friday with the Vermont Public Service Board, the New England Coalition, a nonprofit anti-nuclear organization, said that Entergy Nuclear’s attempt to re-examine the issue of preemption is unnecessary and the company has failed to offer any valid reasons for another bite at the legal apple.
Vermont has every right to investigate and protect its groundwater, the coalition argued, and there is well-established evidence that such radiological leaks ultimately increase the costs of decommissioning.
The Vermont Public Service Board opened an investigation into the tritium leak at Vermont Yankee in February, to determine whether the leak had environmental or economic ramifications, particularly in the area of the ultimate decommissioning of the power facility and the contamination of groundwater.
From the New Jersey Newsroom:
A series of unexplained mechanical failures — including a large hot water leak and the activation of a fire suppression system — triggered an emergency shut down of Indian Point 3 late Thursday night. It is the seventh unplanned shut down between the twin Indian Point reactors in the past two years. The facility is located less than 20 miles from the New Jersey border in New York.
The latest mishap comes just one week after failures in the steam generation system forced the shut down of the companion nuclear reactor at Indian Point 2. That reactor is still off line while engineers at Entergy Nuclear Northeast, owners of the Indian Point site, try to find what caused rising water levels in its massive steam generators, and triggered an automatic shut down.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission admits it is still learning how cracks form and spread in crucial reactor parts, such as those that kept the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant shut down for more than three months this year and for two years earlier in the decade.
But the NRC insists the knowledge it has gained in recent years, along with stepped-up inspections, make it a safe bet that Davis-Besse near Toledo can operate for another year before the plant is outfitted with a new reactor lid.
An NRC special inspection team gave a public report of its findings Thursday in Oak Harbor. The final, formal report will be issued in 45 days.
From the Daily Herald:
Exelon Corp. Chief Executive Officer John Rowe said he expects natural-gas prices to remain low, pushing back the construction of new U.S. nuclear power plants by a "decade, maybe two."
"We think natural gas will stay cheap for a very long time," Rowe said in an interview today at Bloomberg's headquarters in New York. "As long as natural gas is anywhere near current price forecasts, you can't economically build a merchant nuclear plant."
Rowe said that the price of natural gas would have to rise to $8 per million British thermal units and permits for emitting a ton of carbon dioxide would have to be $25 to make the power prices from new merchant reactors competitive with gas-fueled plants. Merchant plants sell their power on wholesale markets without the income assurance that utilities with regulated electricity rates get.
Natural gas for October delivery fell 4 cents, or 1 percent, to $3.774 at 2:36 p.m. on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Prices have fallen 33 percent this year and are down 76 percent from the 2005 high of 15.378.
Gas was used to generate 21 percent of U.S. electricity in 2008, according to the Energy Information Administration. It's the second-biggest fuel source for U.S. power generation behind coal and drives electricity prices in parts of the country such as Texas.
EPA Formally Requests Information From Companies About Chemicals Used in Natural Gas Extraction / Information on hydraulic fracturing chemicals is key to agency study of potential impacts on drinking water
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced that it has issued voluntary information requests to nine natural gas service companies regarding the process known as hydraulic fracturing. The data requested is integral to a broad scientific study now underway by EPA, which Congress in 2009 directed the agency to conduct to determine whether hydraulic fracturing has an impact on drinking water and the public health of Americans living in the vicinity of hydraulic fracturing wells.
In making the requests of the nine leading national and regional hydraulic fracturing service providers – BJ Services, Complete Production Services, Halliburton, Key Energy Services, Patterson-UTI, RPC, Inc., Schlumberger, Superior Well Services, and Weatherford – EPA is seeking information on the chemical composition of fluids used in the hydraulic fracturing process, data on the impacts of the chemicals on human health and the environment, standard operating procedures at their hydraulic fracturing sites and the locations of sites where fracturing has been conducted. This information will be used as the basis for gathering further detailed information on a representative selection of sites.
“This scientifically rigorous study will help us understand the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water – a concern that has been raised by Congress and the American people. By sharing information about the chemicals and methods they are using, these companies will help us make a thorough and efficient review of hydraulic fracturing and determine the best path forward,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “Natural gas is an important part of our nation’s energy future, and it’s critical that the extraction of this valuable natural resource does not come at the expense of safe water and healthy communities. EPA will do everything in its power, as it is obligated to do, to protect the health of the American people and will respond to demonstrated threats while the study is underway.”
Hydraulic fracturing is a process in which large volumes of water, sand and chemicals are injected at high pressures to extract oil and natural gas from underground rock formations. The process creates fractures in formations such as shale rock, allowing natural gas or oil to escape into the well and be recovered. During the past few years, the use of hydraulic fracturing has expanded across much of the country.
EPA announced in March that it will study the potential adverse impact that hydraulic fracturing may have on drinking water. To solicit input on the scope of the study, EPA is holding a series of public meetings in major oil and gas production regions to hear from citizens, independent experts and industry. The initial results of the study will be announced in late 2012. EPA will identify additional information for industry to provide – including information on fluid disposal practices and geological features – that will help EPA carry out the study.
EPA has requested the information be provided on a voluntary basis within 30 days, and has asked the companies to respond within seven days to inform the agency whether they will provide all of the information sought. The data being sought by the agency is similar to information that has already been provided separately to Congress by the industry. Therefore, EPA expects the companies to cooperate with these voluntary requests. If not, EPA is prepared to use its authorities to require the information needed to carry out its study.
EPA is currently working with state and local governments who play an important role in overseeing and regulating fracturing operations and are at the forefront of protecting local air and water quality from adverse impacts.
View the letter on the voluntary information request: http://www.epa.gov/hydraulicfracturing
From the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission:
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has informed U.S. nuclear power plants about the agency’s ongoing examination of updated earthquake information and modeling for the eastern and central parts of the country.
Recent applications for new nuclear power plants referenced this updated seismic information, which includes Electric Power Research Institute models of earthquake ground motion. NRC staff have used the agency’s Generic Issues Program to analyze that data, as well as recent U.S. Geological Survey findings, with regards to existing eastern and central reactor sites. Western U.S. reactor locations already take into account that area’s greater seismic activity.
“Reactors in eastern and central states remain safe, since our analysis confirms that overall seismic risk remains low. Nuclear power plants have been designed and built considering the most severe historical earthquake in their vicinity, taking into account the uncertainties in the area’s seismic record,” said Eric Leeds, Director of the NRC’s Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation. “We’re continuing to examine the recently updated earthquake information.”
The NRC also used the updated information to confirm spent reactor fuel storage sites and fuel cycle facilities remain safe. The NRC’s Information Notice on the subject is available from the agency’s electronic document database, ADAMS, by entering ML101970221 in the ADAMS search engine here: http://adamspublic.nrc.gov/fnopenclient/.
Three Mile Island Nuclear Station, Unit 1 - Request for Additional Information Regarding License Amendment Request to Adopt TSTF-425, Relocation of Surveillance Frequencies to a Licensee-Controlled Program
Download ML102300078 (PDF)
From Northampton Media:
Safety and PR officials at Entergy, the Louisiana-based owner of the Pilgrim nuke plant at Plymouth, Mass., are scrambling to find the source of a radioactive tritium leak that, after new monitoring wells were dug in May, flared to unacceptable during levels July and continues to show evidence of a leak.
Published reports and sources tapped by Northampton Media reveal that state public health officials are holding urgent meetings to deal with the Pilgrim’s tritium leak, and that Pilgrim plant officials meet first thing every morning to deal with the issue.
While the Pilgrim leak, documented in late spring, amounts to far less of the radioactive material than was found at Vermont Yankee last year, the fact that the reactor is located next to Cape Cod Bay and is less than 40 miles from Boston, and 20 miles as the seagull flies from Provincetown, is cause for concern.
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.