NRC stalls key repairs for 32 years

From the Toledo Blade:

The NRC has reaffirmed several times since then that sumps at certain plants have been at risk of becoming overwhelmed by paint chips, insulation, and other free-floating debris that would form if an accident occurred. If those sumps fail, there wouldn’t be anything recirculating water to cool the reactors.

NRC Chairman Gregory B. Jaczko acknowledged Wednesday the agency “has been grappling with this issue for quite some time now.”

That’s an understatement. More than 18 years elapsed before regulators finally showed signs of getting serious about it in September of 1996. Then, they began drawing up plans for what’s known as Generic Safety Issue 191, an industrywide requirement to make the long-overdue sump fixes.

Since then, it’s been another 14 years of talking.

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Beaver Valley: Residual Heat Removal System Piping Leak

Event Number: 46304
Facility: BEAVER VALLEY
Event Date: 10/02/2010

RESIDUAL HEAT REMOVAL SYSTEM PIPING LEAK

"Approximately five hours after Beaver Valley Power Station Unit No. 1 was shutdown at 0011 hours [EDT] to enter a scheduled refueling outage, an approximate 5 drops per minute leak was identified from a drain valve on the Residual Heat Removal (RHR) System inside containment. This leak is downstream of the two series RHR isolation valves on a pipe which connects to both trains of RHR. The actual location of the leak on the valve was not immediately evident. An evaluation was requested. At 1011 hours, the evaluation reported a 270 degree circumferential crack in the socket weld on the RHR side of the valve. Without reasonable assurance of RHR System operability, both trains of RHR were declared inoperable. Both trains of the RHR System are currently in service, along with three steam generators/condenser remaining available for decay heat removal. Actions to address this condition are being pursued.

"This is being reported as a condition that at the time of discovery could have prevented the fulfillment of the safety function of systems needed to remove decay heat pursuant to 10 CFR 50.72(b)(3)(v)(B) since both trains of RHR were declared inoperable.

"Beaver Valley Power Station Unit No. 2 is unaffected by this event and remains at 100 percent power.

"The NRC Resident Inspector has been notified."

T.S. Action 3.4.7 requires that efforts be immediately initiated to restore RHR as soon as possible.

Leaks and Spills of Tritium at U.S. Commercial Nuclear Power Plants

From the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission:

This is a list of reactor sites that experienced a leak or spill to the environment at some time since initial startup. The list only includes those leaks or spills where tritium in the leak source or the groundwater sample was greater than 20,000 pCi/L. The term “leaks and spills” includes all types of non-routine releases in which tritium from reactor operation contacted the soil in an unintended fashion.

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NRC is Failing to Protect Public by Allowing Nuclear Plants to Leak Radioactive Water with Immunity, Report Finds

From the Union of Concerned Citizens:

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) routinely fails to enforce its regulations prohibiting nuclear power plants from leaking radioactively contaminated water, according to a report released today by the Union of Concerned Scientists. The report, “Regulatory Roulette: The NRC’s Inconsistent Oversight of Radioactive Releases from Nuclear Power Plants,” found that the NRC ignored more than two dozen contaminated water releases that have occurred since 2006. The agency did not issue any fines or impose any sanctions for these federal safety requirement violations.

Over the past several months there have been leaks discovered at the Pilgrim nuclear power plant in Massachusetts, the Salem plant in New Jersey, and the Vermont Yankee plant. Radioactive leaks can include cobalt-60, cesium-137, tritium and strontium-90, which can increase the risk of cancer and other radiation-induced health problems.

“NRC’s enforcement record was spotty before 2006,” said David Lochbaum, author of the report and director of UCS’s Nuclear Power Safety Project, “but since then, the agency has given power plants a free pass when it comes to leaking radioactively contaminated water.”

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Audit of Three Mile Island Unit-2's Cleanup Funds Requested Prior to FirstEnergy Merger

Eric Epstein, Chairman of TMI-Alert, Inc. filed a petition at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission seeking enforcement action in the form of a Demand for Information requiring FirstEnergy to provide the NRC with site-specific information and financial guarantees that demonstrate and verify the licensee has adequate funding in place to decommission and decontaminate Three Mile Island Unit-2, and that the proposed merger between FirstEnergy and Allegheny Power will not place additional financial pressures on FirstEnergy’s ability to satisfy its decommissioning obligations in 2036.

Mr. Epstein said, “After 31 years of broken promises, faulty assumptions, and inaccurate projections, the NRC should hold FirstEnergy accountable and demand a site-specific funding plan at the nation’s worst commercial nuclear accident.”

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UCS presentation to NRC Commission on PWR containment sump problem resolution options

Good Day:
 
UCS has been invited to participate in a briefing of the Commission on the proposed closeout options for Generic Safety Issue 191, the PWR containment sump problem. The briefing is scheduled to begin this Wednesday, September 29th, at 1pm eastern time at the NRC's headquarters in Rockville, MD. The meeting is scheduled to be webcast. See online info at http://www.nrc.gov/public-involve/public-meetings/webcast-live.html
 
The slides prepared by UCS, industry representatives, an ACRS representative, and the NRC staff are available from this webpage by clicking on the slides link.
 
The UCS slides are attached.
 
As our title slide indicates, Wednesday will mark 5,132 days (a mere 14 years) since the NRC staff initiated GSI-191 back in September 1996. The NRC staff determined that the problem made it "VERY LIKELY" (their label) that the emergency core cooling systems (ECCSs) would not work at 25 of the nation's 69 pressurized water reactors (PWRs) in event of an accident. The NRC staff determined that the ECCSs would probably not work at another 12 PWRs.
 
About half of the 69 PWRs have taken steps to fully address the problem. The rest have taken some steps,  but the NRC staff cannot accept that work to date.
 
On Wednesday, the Commission will hear the industry's pleas for "close enough" and to forego any further work at the lagging PWRs. The NRC will hear the NRC staff outline a two-phase approach to resolve the remaining issues. The NRC will hear ACRS and UCS essentially endorse the NRC staff's approach.
 
UCS qualified its endorsement. All of the options, save for the industry's "do absolutely nothing else to resolve this serious safety problem" one, entail many more years. UCS recommends that the NRC staff factor in known risk factors -- such as GSI-191 being unresolved at certain plants -- when it makes risk-informed safety decisions.
 
Thanks,
Dave Lochbaum

 
David Lochbaum
Director, Nuclear Safety Project
Union of Concerned Scientists
PO Box 15316
Chattanooga, TN 37415

Are American homes more energy efficient? Not exactly.

From the Washington Post:

The amount of energy that the average American requires at home has changed little since the early 1970s -- despite advances in technology that have made many home appliances far more energy efficient.

Dishwashers use 45 percent less energy than they did two decades ago, according to industry data. Refrigerators use 51 percent less.

But on a per-capita basis, Americans still require about 70 million British thermal units a year to heat, cool and power their homes, just as they did in 1971. (One BTU is the energy required to heat one pound of water one degree Fahrenheit.)

A key reason, experts say, is that American homes are getting bigger, which means more space to heat and cool. And consumers are buying more and more power-sucking gadgets -- meaning that kilowatts saved by dishwashers and refrigerators are often used up by flat-screen televisions, computers and digital video recorders.

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Electronic warfare emerges around Iranian nuke

From Beyond Nuclear:

Iran has charged that an extremely dangerous “foreign-made” computer worm, “Stuxnet”, has infected tens of thousands of its industrial computer systems. According to international computer security experts, the computer worm targets electricity facilities using Siemens control systems including Iran’s nearly operational Bushehr nuclear power plant in what is being called the first case of cyber-sabotage of an industrial system.

The still mutating computer worm is designed to reprogram critical functions however researchers do not yet know what types of systems are targeted or how the sabotage is executed. The Islamic Republic News Agency reports that the virus is not stable and since cleanup efforts began three new versions of the infection have been spreading.

The computer worm is reported to have first been discovered in June when researchers found about 45,000 infected computers in various countries including Indonesia and India. However, leading cyber-security analysts have concluded that a system in Iran was the focus of the attack.  The Washington Post quotes a researcher with the security firm Symantec, “We have never seen anything like this before. It is very dangerous.” 

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Peach Bottom: Storage of Low Level Radioactive Waste Generated Off-Site

PEACH BOTTOM ATOMIC POWER STATION (PBAPS), UNITS 2 AND 3­ REQUEST FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION RELATED TO LICENSE AMENDMENT REQUEST TO ALLOW RECEIPT AND STORAGE OF LOW­ LEVEL RADIOACTIVE WASTE GENERATED OFF-SITE

Download ML102580915 (PDF)

Water Use in Southwest Heads for a Day of Reckoning

From the New York Times:

A once-unthinkable day is looming on the Colorado River.

Barring a sudden end to the Southwest’s 11-year drought, the distribution of the river’s dwindling bounty is likely to be reordered as early as next year because the flow of water cannot keep pace with the region’s demands.

For the first time, federal estimates issued in August indicate that Lake Mead, the heart of the lower Colorado basin’s water system — irrigating lettuce, onions and wheat in reclaimed corners of the Sonoran Desert, and lawns and golf courses from Las Vegas to Los Angeles — could drop below a crucial demarcation line of 1,075 feet.

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