U.S. Was Warned on Vents Before Failure at Japan’s Plant

From the New York Times:

Five years before the crucial emergency vents at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant were disabled by an accident they were supposed to help handle, engineers at a reactor in Minnesota warned American regulators about that very problem.

Anthony Sarrack, one of the two engineers, notified staff members at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that the design of venting systems was seriously flawed at his reactor and others in the United States similar to the ones in Japan. He later left the industry in frustration because managers and regulators did not agree.

Mr. Sarrack said that the vents, which are supposed to relieve pressure at crippled plants and keep containment structures intact, should not be dependent on electric power and workers’ ability to operate critical valves because power might be cut in an emergency and workers might be incapacitated. Part of the reason the venting system in Japan failed — allowing disastrous hydrogen explosions — is that power to the plant was knocke

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Japanese Officials Ignored or Concealed Dangers

From the New York Times:

The nuclear power plant, lawyers argued, could not withstand the kind of major earthquake that new seismic research now suggested was likely.

If such a quake struck, electrical power could fail, along with backup generators, crippling the cooling system, the lawyers predicted. The reactors would then suffer a meltdown and start spewing radiation into the air and sea. Tens of thousands in the area would be forced to flee.

Although the predictions sound eerily like the sequence of events at the Fukushima Daiichi plant following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, the lawsuit was filed nearly a decade ago to shut down another plant, long considered the most dangerous in Japan — the Hamaoka station.

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Peach Bottom and Berwick: accident readiness

May 13, 2011 – In the aftermath of the problems at the Japanese Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Station resulting from the earthquake and tsunami, the NRC asked various nuclear plants in the U.S. to assess their capabilities to respond to extraordinary consequences. The plants were asked to evaluate measures to address their ability to mitigate problems from large fires or explosions; station electrical blackouts; internal and external flooding; and the impact from seismic events.


The NRC found both Peach Bottom and Berwick were in good shape for any of the listed catastrophic events.


At the Peach Bottom facility, no deficiencies were found addressing blackout conditions. On flooding events, the NRC noted that the licensee identified several minor barrier and door discrepancies, and procedural enhancements were entered into its corrective action program.


On the other issues, the NRC inspector noted that equipment was available and functional, and no significant deficiencies were identified. However, the licensee identified several enhancements needed to improve the long-term reliability of equipment and several enhancements needed to increase the survivability of portable equipment.


At Berwick, plant operator PPL identified a vulnerability in a blackout because a portable diesel generator may be unavailable for use because it is not routinely stored in a hardened building or enclosure. This problem was entered into the plant’s corrective action program. The NRC also observed that no concerns were identified from flooding events, although some issues were entered into a corrective action program.


On the other issues, certain vulnerabilities were identified in case of a major seismic event, and corrective actions are planned.

Nuclear agency to probe Pilgrim nuke shutdown

From the Cape Cod Times:

The federal agency that oversees nuclear power plants in the United States has sent a special inspection team to the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth to investigate an unplanned shutdown there last week.

The nuclear reactor was being brought back online May 10 after a refueling operation when human error caused it to automatically shut down, according to an Entergy Corp. official. Entergy runs the Plymouth plant, which is the only commercial nuclear power plant operating in Massachusetts.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced Monday that it had sent a three-member special inspection team to the plant to "review plant operator performance and decision-making, the effectiveness of Entergy's response to the event and corrective actions taken by the company to date."

"There were no immediate safety implications associated with the unplanned shutdown," NRC Region I Administrator Bill Dean said in a statement released by the agency. "Nevertheless, we want to gain a better understanding of exactly why the shutdown occurred, what role human performance issues may have played in the event and the steps being taken by the company to learn from this event and prevent it from happening again in the future."

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Nuclear Expert Warns Congress U.S. Power Plants Not Safe

From Environment News Service:

Congressional lawmakers were warned today that U.S. nuclear power plants are by no means safe and that government agency and nuclear industry representatives have not been telling the whole story.

David Lochbaum, a nuclear engineer who serves as director of the Nuclear Safety Project with the Union of Concerned Scientists, has the credentials to know whereof he speaks. From March 2009 until March 2010, Lochbaum worked for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission as a Boiling Water Reactor technology instructor at their Technical Training Center.

His duties included teaching the severe accident management guidelines to NRC employees for their initial qualifications and requalifications.

Lochbaum was asked to testify before a joint session of the Energy and Environment and Investigations and Oversight Subcommittees of the House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.

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NRC: Meeting with petitioner requesting GE BWRs Mark I Reactors license suspension


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Topics Discussed at May 2, 2011 Meetings with Public Interest Groups

Natural Resources Defense Council, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Public Citizen, Nuclear Information and Resource Service, Project on Government Oversight, Riverkeeper, Inc., Pilgrim Watch

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Susquehanna: Temporary Instruction 2515/183 Inspection Report


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Fukushima - One Step Forward and Four Steps Back as Each Unit Challenged by New Problems

Gundersen says Fukushima's gaseous and liquid releases continue unabated.  With a meltdown at Unit 1, Unit 4 leaning and facing possible collapse, several units contaminating ground water, and area school children outside the exclusion zone receiving adult occupational radiation doses, the situation continues to worsen. TEPCO needs a cohesive plan and international support to protect against world-wide contamination.

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