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Three Mile Island Alert's Questions on the NRC’s Annual Assessment of the Susquehanna Steam Electric Station

The NRC staff completed its performance review on Feb. 16, 2010, for the fourth quarter and all of 2009. In a letter dated March 3, 2010, the NRC said that Susquehanna Units 1 and 2 “operated in a manner that preserved public health and safety and fully met all cornerstone objectives.”

The letter discussed the previously reported matter when a potential chilling effect letter was issued in January 2009 over safety work environment issues. The letter noted that plant owner PPL has taken reasonable actions to improve the safety conscious work environment (SCWE) at the site. “Specifically,” the NRC letter said, “the staff determined that you recognized the issue impacted multiple areas across the site; took appropriate and timely actions to address it; and completed a range of corrective actions which have been implemented and are judged, at this time, to have been effective in addressing the underlying issues.” The NRC said that cross cutting issues do not exist at this time.

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'Into Eternity' Examines Nuclear Waste Dilemma

From NPR:

Nevada's Yucca Mountain is no longer an option for long-term storage of nuclear waste. But construction of a similar project is under way in Finland. In his film Into Eternity, director Michael Madsen questions the feasibility of safely storing waste for hundreds of thousands of years.

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U.S. pulls guide on nuclear plant air attacks

From the Patriot News:

A document on federal websites since June 2008 that served as a virtual how-to manual for attacking a nuclear plant with an airplane has been removed from the sites at the request of Three Mile Island Alert, a midstate watchdog group.

Scott Portzline, an unpaid security consultant to TMI Alert, said that while researching sabotage and terrorism targeting nuclear plants in March, he found a document available for download on the Department of Energy website titled “Evaluation of Air Craft Crash Hazards Analyses for Nuclear Power Plants.”

The document showed the areas that a plane could hit at a reactor with maximum effect, and it cited buildings or targets that a plane could strike and cause radioactive release, Portzline said.

Energy Department officials said the report was posted by mistake as part of an effort to make the public aware of the department’s scientific work.

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Pilgrim Station not my choice for a neighbor

From the Doxbury Reporter:

Like Ryan Boehm, whose op-ed piece, Pilgrim Station: a good neighbor, a nuclear future, was in the April 16, 2010, Duxbury Reporter, I too look out at the reactor from my home. I have not had the opportunity to take Pilgrim’s public relations tour; my husband and I signed up for a tour with the MIT Alumni Association a few years ago, but we were then “disinvited.”

I have, however, spent much of the last 25 years learning about nuclear power plants in general and Pilgrim Station in particular from independent experts, and Pilgrim is not my choice for a neighbor.

Health: Nuclear reactors release radiation into the water and air on a daily basis. The question is how much, and the answer is that no one really knows for sure because of antiquated and inadequate monitoring systems and lack of oversight by regulators.

Pilgrim Watch has been in litigation for four years in the license renewal adjudication process. We have made it publicly known that we would settle this dispute if Entergy would install a “real” onsite groundwater monitoring system, and a “real” air monitoring system located in offsite communities to record continuous weather data and radiation, linked to the Commonwealth and local emergency operations centers with public reports. This would be far cheaper than what Entergy has spent on lawyers. We can only conclude that Entergy fears what real monitoring systems might show.

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Beyond Nuclear report on leaking reactors finds regulator ignoring oversight

From Beyond Nuclear:

A new report released today by Beyond Nuclear - Leak First, Fix Later: Uncontrolled and Unmonitored Radioactive Releases from Nuclear Power Plants - looks at the epidemic of reactors leaking tritium into groundwater. The report finds that the federal regulator – the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission -  is ignoring its oversight and enforcement responsibilities at the nation’s increasingly leaky, uninspected and unmaintained nuclear power plants.  The report shows that despite agency efforts initiated in 1979 to prevent uncontrolled radioactive releases to groundwater, the NRC is capitulating to an industry decision to take almost three more years before announcing an action plan.

Instead of mandating compliance with established license requirements for the control and monitoring of buried pipe systems carrying radioactive effluent, the NRC cedes responsibility to industry voluntary initiatives that will add years onto the resolution of a decades-old environmental and public health issue.

Of further concern, the agency and the industry continue to downplay and trivialize the health risks of prolonged exposure to tritium, a known carcinogen which is shown to cause cancer, genetic mutations and birth defects.

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A Sensitive Department of Energy document is removed from governmental websites at the request of Three Mile Island Alert

(Harrisburg, PA) A threat to national security has been removed from US governmental websites thanks to the vigilance of Three Mile Island Alert’s Scott Portzline. The document published by one of the National Laboratories provided details on how to crash an aircraft into a nuclear plant and cause a catastrophic release of radioactivity or a meltdown.

Although this report had been identified years ago as a potential threat to national security, the Department of Energy (DOE) added it to its downloadable database in June of 2008. It was also made available for sale from a US Department of Commerce website for $40 dollars.

Portzline discovered the document’s availability in March 2010 while performing his ongoing research on sabotage and terrorism of nuclear power plants. He sent a letter describing the problem to the Department of Homeland Security, the DOE, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and other governmental leaders requesting that it be removed from public availability without delay.

The Department of Energy reviewed the circumstances and removed the document from its web-portal known as the “Information Bridge.” The Department of Commerce also removed the report from its “National Technical Information Service” website database after being alerted by the NRC. DOE then notified Portzline in a letter dated April 16th.

Portzline said, “I was pleasantly surprised that swift action was taken. In the past, it would take an embarrassing media expose’ to move these bureaucracies into action. I’m not ignorant to the fact that more sensitive information is out there, but I don’t want our government making it easy like this.”

(The letters between the DOE and Portzline are attached. Scott Portzline has researched nuclear plant security issues for 26 years and has testified to numerous governmental agencies.)

Critics Challenge Safety of New Nuclear Reactor Design

From the New York Times:

As Southern Company and its partners, armed with federal loan guarantees of $8.3 billion, move toward construction of two new reactors at a site near Augusta, Ga., opponents are taking aim at the design details.

The reactor, the Westinghouse AP 1000, is also planned for several other locations, but has not yet been fully approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. It is intended to be far safer than existing plants, ensuring that there will be no fuel melting in an accident by relying for its cooling on forces like gravity and natural heat flow instead of pumps, pipes and valves. That concept gives the AP 1000 its name, for Advanced Passive. (The 1,000 refers to the power rating in megawatts, although the actual power output is a less picturesque 1,154.)

A critical feature of the design is an unusual containment structure. One part is a free-standing steel dome, 130 feet high, surrounded by a concrete shield building and topped with a tank of emergency water.

The commission has raised concerns about whether a shield building would be strong enough to survive an earthquake. Westinghouse submitted a detailed report last month and plans another in May to demonstrate that the building is adequate.

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TMI - Integrated Inspection Report

Three Mile Island Station, Unit 1 - NRC Integrated Inspection Report 05-289/2010002

ADAMS Accession No. ML101130236
 

Download PDF

Hill School finds nuclear protest unpalatable

From the Mercury:

Protesting nuclear bombs was one thing. Protesting at a local business that just happened to be a nuclear power plant, that was something else altogether.

So it was that plans to house walkers protesting nuclear weapons and power overnight at The Hill School were scotched at the last minute.

Rest assured, there was no blame to be found.

Protestor Jon Blickenstaff of Cincinnati, Ohio, said he did not blame The Hill School for its change of heart and Hill School spokeswoman Cathy Skitko emphasized that the decision was mutual.

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NRC cites TMI for radiation leak

From the Press and Journal:

Three Mile Island’s Unit 1 reactor operated safely last year, despite a low-level radiation release in November caused by a vacuum cleaner that exposed 145 workers to insignificant doses, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said.

The workers were exposed because the vacuum, used to clean coolant system pipes inside the reactor, was not equipped with a HEPA filter, sending radioactive particles airborne inside the reactor’s containment building, the NRC said.
Radioactivity was released through an opening cut into the building to replace the reactor’s steam generators from Nov. 12 to 21, when “appropriate controls’’  were made to stop the release, the NRC said.

Radiation, albeit in almost immeasurable levels, was detected more than a mile away in Conoy Twp., Lancaster County, but the incident did not pose a threat to public health or the workers’ safety, the NRC said.

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