Electrical glitch takes TMI offline

From the Press and Journal:

A faulty electrical device knocked Three Mile Island off-line for about 24 hours from Sunday, Sept. 19 to Monday, Sept. 20, halting the production of power.

The reactor did not shut down, but the malfunction, which affected the plant’s turbine generator, forced the unit off the grid.

The plant resumed producing electricity around 11 p.m. Monday, Sept. 20, officials said. It is the second time in six months that electric generation at the plant was interrupted by a mechanical problem. In March, oil leaking from two reactor coolant pumps forced the shutdown of the reactor for 31 hours.

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Educating students on Shale becoming focus

From the Times Leader:

A new teaching resource on one of the hottest topics in the region – natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale – hit the Internet on Tuesday.

Eric Epstein, founder of the nuclear energy watchdog group EFMR (the initials of family members) and the political forum RockTheCapital.com, announced at a press conference at the state Capitol on Tuesday that the two organizations have produced “nonjudgmental” educational lesson plans and a resource guide entitled “Marcellus Shale: Natural Gas Energy.”

Because teachers often incorporate current community issues into their classroom lessons, Epstein thought it important to provide such a resource. His groups put out lesson plans on coal, nuclear, wind and solar energy in the past.

He hired educational consultant Diane Little, a former science teacher, to draw up the lesson plans and resource guide, which provide outlines and potential sources of information for lessons at the elementary, middle and high school levels.

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Long-term problem

From the Patriot News:

In response to a lack of long-term options, nuclear plants will be allowed to store high-level radioactive spent fuel on-site for up to 60 years after the plant stops operating, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has ruled.

Previously, nuclear plants were only allowed to store the waste on site for up to 30 years.

Neil Sheehan, a NRC spokesman, said the decision is in response to the lack of a national nuclear waste storage site.

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U.S. invests in drug to protect against radiation

From Reuters:

Tiny biotech Cleveland BioLabs Inc (CBLI.O) has won a $45 million contract from the Department of Defense to conduct clinical trials of a drug to prevent cell damage in the event of nuclear attack.

The experimental drug has already been shown to protect mice and monkeys from the damaging effects of radiation.

If it works in people, it would be the first drug of its kind.

In animals, the drug has been shown to protect bone marrow and cells in the gut from being destroyed by radiation.

"There are no drugs which protect humans from radiation," Michael Fonstein, the company's chief executive officer, said in a telephone interview.

The drug works by interfering with a process of programmed cell death called apoptosis -- basically a form of cell suicide. This helps the body rid itself of damaged cells,

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Three Mile Island Returns to Service

Exelon Nuclear

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

LONDONDERRY TWP. (Sept. 21, 2010) – Three Mile Island Unit 1 returned to service yesterday at 10:50 p.m. when operators connected the plant’s turbine generator to the regional power grid. The turbine generator shut down on September 19 due to a faulty electrical card on a plant system. Plant personnel replaced the faulty electrical card.

Three Mile Island Unit 1 generates 852 megawatts of carbon free power - enough electricity for about 800,000 homes. Electric customers were not affected by the plant being off line.

Commissioner Martin Petitiions for Relief from Polluting Pennsylvania Power Plant

State of New Jersey
Dept. of Environmental Protection

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

(10/P97) TRENTON --- DEP Commissioner Bob Martin has again formally asked the federal government to force the owners of a coal-powered Pennsylvania power plant to dramatically reduce harmful air emissions that are causing an even greater public health concern in North Jersey than originally known, he announced today.

Commissioner Martin today signed a supplemental petition under Section 126 of the federal Clean Air Act, seeking prompt action by the federal Environmental Protection Agency to force RRI Energy to reduce harmful emissions spewing from its Portland, Pa. generating facility and across the Delaware River and directly into Warren County.

Sulfur dioxide pollution pouring out of the power plant is more damaging and widespread than previously believed, extending into a much larger area of Warren County and into portions of Sussex, Morris and Hunterdon Counties, according to the petition signed by Commissioner Martin.

The supplemental petition includes a trajectory analysis that shows the plant's emissions caused high sulfur dioxide levels at the DEP's ambient air monitoring station in Chester, Morris County, which is located 21 miles east of the Portland plant. Closer to the RRI plant, the levels are much higher, about 10 times the new federal health standard.  

"We now understand the emissions are more damaging to the public health and welfare than previously believed, and are harming more New Jersey residents over a wider section of our State,'' said Commissioner Martin. "Our residents have to a right to be protected from this health risk. We need the federal government to step up and deal with this serious air pollution issue now.''

Commissioner Martin called on the EPA to hold the required Section 126 hearing in Warren County, which is most directly affected by adverse impacts of the air pollution.

"We have a good working relationship in general with the EPA and expect them to be responsive to our petition on this matter,'' said Commissioner Martin. 

The supplemental filing identifies far greater impacts to New Jersey's air quality and the health of its residents than was initially documented in an initial May 12 Section 126 petition sent to the EPA.  It also cites a tougher new federal National Ambient Air Quality Standard for sulfur dioxide that was adopted in June by the EPA.

That new federal standard of 75 parts per billion is designed to help protect the public health, including the health of "sensitive'' populations such as asthmatics, children and the elderly. Sulfur dioxide emissions, he noted, can cause a variety of adverse health effects, including asthma and respiratory failure, and environmental impacts such as acid rain.

RRI Energy's power plant emitted more than 30,000 tons of sulfur dioxide in 2009, which is more than all seven of New Jersey's coal-fired power plants combined. The DEP believes controls, such as a scrubber, should be installed to reduce those emissions by at least 95 percent to less than 1,500 tons per year.

Improved sulfur dioxide and particle control also would reduce other hazardous air emissions, including hydrochloric acid, lead and mercury, said Commissioner Martin.

Gov. Chris Christie in May called on the federal government to take prompt action, saying, "The magnitude of the plant's emissions and its close proximity make it a real threat to public health and safety in New Jersey.''

The Portland plant is situated on a 1,094-acre tract along the west bank of the Delaware River in Northampton County, Pa., some 10 miles southeast of Stroudsburg, Pa. and just 500 feet from New Jersey. Built in the 1950s and 1960s, the Portland plant's two coal-fired generating units have no air pollution controls for some contaminants, including sulfur dioxide and mercury, and have outdated controls for nitrogen oxides and particulate matter.

As a result, air contaminant emissions generated by the plant are very high. In fact, the Portland plant is the fifth highest emitter of sulfur dioxide per megawatt of power generated in the entire country, mostly due to its use of a high sulfur coal content and lack of a scrubber device.

Full text of the previous Section 126 petition and documentation can be found at: http://www.state.nj.us/dep/baqp/petition/126petition.htm

Three Mile Island Off Line Due to Turbine Generator Shutdown

Exelon Nuclear
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

LONDONDERRY TWP. (Sept. 20, 2010) – Three Mile Island Unit 1 went off line Sunday, September 19 at 11:25 p.m. when the plant’s turbine generator shut down. The plant responded as expected. Plant technical experts are working to determine the cause of the turbine generator shut down.

The shutdown resulted in a steam release that may have been audible to nearby residents. Neither the turbine generator shutdown nor the subsequent steam release posed a threat to the health or safety of the public or plant workers.

Three Mile Island Unit 1 generates 852 megawatts of carbon free electricity - enough electricity for about 800,000 homes. Electric customers were not affected by the plant being off line.

DEP Monitors Stray Gas Remediation in Bradford County Requires Chesapeake to Eliminate Gas Migration

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
Dept. of Environmental Protection

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

HARRISBURG -- While the Department of Environmental Protection continues to monitor Chesapeake Energy’s progress in remediating stray methane gas in Wilmot Township, Bradford County, the agency announced today that it has directed the company to take steps to prevent similar situations from occurring elsewhere in the region.

On Sept. 2, DEP received reports of bubbling water on the Susquehanna River. DEP and Chesapeake believe the culprit is gas migrating from six wells that are located on three well pads on the “Welles property,” which is approximately two to three miles northwest of the river.

 “Ventilation systems have been installed at six private water wells. Water has been provided to the three affected homes and Chesapeake is evaluating and remediating each of its well bores within a four-and-a-half-mile radius of the gas migration, which is essential,” said DEP Secretary John Hanger.

DEP sampled six private water wells affected by the migration for compounds associated with natural gas drilling. Their analysis found methane levels in the water wells that fluctuated between non-detect and 4.4 percent, possibly as a result of barometric pressure in the atmosphere. No stray gas has been detected in the homes served by the water wells. DEP also found:

• Methane concentrations ranging from 2.16 milligrams per liter and 55.8 mg/L.
• The water met the drinking water standards established for barium, chloride and total dissolved solids.
• Three wells exceeded the iron limit of 0.3 mg/L and all six wells exceeded the 0.05 mg/L limit for manganese. 

The iron and manganese limits are secondary limits, which mean that the limits are established to prevent taste and odor issues. 

DEP and Chesapeake individually sampled isotopic readings from the gas, which could help pinpoint which well is responsible for the gas migration. DEP expects its isotopic analysis to be complete next week while Chesapeake’s is expected sooner.

To help prevent against future migration issues, Hanger said DEP directed Chesapeake to evaluate each of its 171 wells in Pennsylvania that used the well casing procedures used in the six Wilmot Township wells—a procedure that was used exclusively in northeast Pennsylvania. Well casings are installed in a well bore to act as a barrier to the rock formations and maintain the well’s integrity.

To do so, the company is using equipment sensitive to sound and temperature. When the equipment finds an anomaly, the company is to correct it immediately by injecting cement behind the casing that seals off the formation, eliminating the route for gas to migrate. 

Once the remediation work is performed, it will take up to two weeks to determine if it was successful, although it may take longer for the stray gas to dissipate.

The Welles property wells were drilled between December 2009 and March 2010, but have not been fractured, or “fracked,” and are not yet producing gas from the Marcellus Shale formation, leading the agency to believe that any stray gas migrating from these wells is from a more shallow formation.

On Sept. 9, DEP issued Chesapeake a notice of violation for failing to prevent gas migration to fresh ground water and for allowing an unpermitted natural gas discharge into the state’s waters. DEP will determine future enforcement actions based in part on the speed with which Chesapeake eliminates the migrating gas.

“This situation perfectly illustrates the problem DEP is addressing through the improved well construction standards we have finalized,” said Hanger. “Chesapeake has assured me that all wells drilled by Chesapeake after July 31 conform to the regulations that the Environmental Quality Board will consider on Oct. 12.”

If approved by the EQB, the Independent Regulatory Review Commission is expected to vote on the regulations in November. 

For more information, visit www.depweb.state.pa.us.

Firm finds fracking chemicals in wells in northeastern Pennsylvania

From the Patriot News:

A private consulting firm says it found toxic chemicals in the drinking water of a Pennsylvania community already dealing with methane contamination from natural gas drilling.

Environmental engineer Daniel Farnham said Thursday that his tests, which were verified by three laboratories, found industrial solvents such as toluene and ethylbenzene in “virtually every sample” taken from water wells in Dimock Township, Susquehanna County.

Farnham, who has tested water for gas interests and for local residents, said it would be impossible to say that the chemicals he found were caused by gas drilling.

The contaminated Dimock wells are in the gas-rich Marcellus Shale, where a rush to tap the vast stores has set off intense debate over the environmental and public health impact of the drilling process.

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DEP Declares Statewide Drought Watches, Warnings

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
Dept. of Environmental Protection

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

HARRISBURG -- The Department of Environmental Protection today issued a drought warning for 24 Pennsylvania counties and a drought watch for the remaining 43 counties as precipitation deficits continued to build statewide according to Environmental Protection Secretary John Hanger.

“The hot, dry conditions over the summer months have led to steadily-declining ground and surface water levels, particularly in the southwest and east-central portions of the state,” Hanger said. “Pennsylvania’s Drought Task Force has concurred with DEP’s recommendation that drought watches and warnings be issued for all 67 counties to alert water suppliers, industry and the public of the need to begin conserving water.”

A drought watch declaration is the first level — and least severe — of the state’s three drought classifications. It calls for a voluntary 5 percent reduction in non-essential water use, and puts large water consumers on notice to begin planning for the possibility of reduced water supplies.

A drought warning asks residents to voluntarily reduce water use by 10-15 percent.

The 24 counties under a Drought Warning are: Allegheny, Beaver, Bedford, Berks, Bucks, Carbon, Fayette, Franklin, Fulton, Greene, Huntingdon, Lackawanna, Lawrence, Lehigh, Luzerne, Mercer, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, Philadelphia, Pike, Schuylkill, Somerset, and Washington.
 
The 43 counties under a Drought Watch are: Adams, Armstrong, Blair, Bradford, Butler, Cambria, Cameron, Centre, Chester, Clarion, Clearfield, Clinton, Columbia, Crawford, Cumberland, Dauphin, Delaware, Elk, Erie, Forest, Indiana, Jefferson, Juniata, Lancaster, Lebanon, Lycoming, McKean, Mifflin, Montour, Northumberland, Perry, Potter, Snyder, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Tioga, Union, Venango, Warren, Wayne, Westmoreland, Wyoming and York.  

Precipitation deficits over the past 90-day period are currently as great as 5.6 inches below normal in Somerset County and 5.5 inches below normal in Bucks County.
DEP is sending letters to all water suppliers statewide, notifying them of the need to monitor their supplies and update their drought contingency plans as necessary.

DEP monitors a network of groundwater wells and stream gages across the state that provide comprehensive data to the state drought coordinator. In addition to precipitation, groundwater and streamflow levels, DEP monitors soil moisture and water supply storage, and shares this data with other state and federal agencies.

DEP offers the following tips for conserving water around the home:

  • In the bathroom:
  • Install low-flow plumbing fixtures and aerators on faucets;
  • Check for household leaks – a leaking toilet can waste up to 200 gallons of water a day;
  • Take short showers instead of baths.
  • Kitchen/laundry areas:
  • Replace older appliances with high efficiency, front loading models that use about 30 percent less water and 40-50 percent less energy;
  • Run dishwashers and washing machines only with full loads;
  • Keep water in the refrigerator to avoid running water from a faucet until it is cold.

The department also offers water conservation recommendations for commercial and industrial users such as food processors, hotels and motels, schools and colleges, as well as water audit procedures for large water customers.

Water conservation tips and drought information can be found online at www.depweb.state.pa.us, keyword: drought.

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