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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.

Regulatory Inadequacies Threatening U.S. Nuclear Reactor Safety Detailed in New Markey Report


Regulatory Inadequacies Threatening U.S. Nuclear Reactor Safety Detailed in New Markey Report

“Fukushima Fallout” Reveals Breakdown in Emergency System Regulations Exposed Since Japanese Reactor Meltdown

WASHINGTON, D.C. –Congressman Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), a senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee and the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, today released a report prepared by his staff at his direction entitled “Fukushima Fallout: Regulatory Loopholes at U.S. Nuclear Power Plants”, a summary of Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) regulatory inadequacies, practices and decisions that impair effective nuclear safety oversight in the United States.

The report, created in the wake of the Japanese catastrophe, highlights the following key findings:

  • Widespread malfunctions and inoperability of emergency diesel generators at nuclear power plants
  • The absence of emergency back-up power requirements at some spent fuel pools
  • The absence of requirements to prevent hydrogen explosions at reactors and spent fuel pools
  • Outdated seismic safety requirements, even as applications for new licenses and license extensions for many nuclear reactors continue to be processed by the NRC.

“It is apparent that many of the failures of the reactor cooling systems and measures to prevent explosions that led to the meltdowns in Japan could also occur in the United States, and would not even be violations of current regulations,” said Rep. Markey. “This is unacceptable, and I believe that the NRC must halt its processing of all pending nuclear reactor licensing applications until these vulnerabilities are fully remedied.”

The report concludes that “An examination of NRC regulations demonstrates that flawed assumptions and under-estimation of safety risks are currently an inherent part of the NRC regulatory program, due to a long history of decisions made by prior Commissions or by the NRC staff that have all too often acquiesced to industry requests for a weakening of safety standards. Coupled with reports that the near-term inspections being conducted at United States nuclear power plants may be limited in scope and subject to restrictions on public disclosure, it would be unwise to move forward with any pending licensing actions before the NRC fully completes its review and upgrades its safety requirements.”

A copy of the full report can be found HERE.

Rep. Markey recently introduced legislation to overhaul nuclear safety. The Nuclear Power Plant Safety Act of 2011 will impose a moratorium on all new nuclear reactor licenses or license extensions until new safety requirements are in place that reflect the lessons learned from the Fukushima reactor meltdown.

Rep. Markey has served on the Committees that have oversight over the NRC and the nuclear utility industry since 1976.  For more than three decades, Rep. Markey has worked to secure nuclear power plants and ensure the public safety in the event of a nuclear disaster. In 1979, before the Three Mile Island accident occurred, Rep. Markey introduced legislation providing for a three year moratorium on licensing of new nuclear power plants until a top to bottom safety analysis on nuclear reactors could be performed. In 1982, he chaired a hearing on the distribution of potassium iodide.  In 1986, he chaired hearings on the causes and consequences of the disaster at Chernobyl. Following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Rep. Markey passed a law to strengthen security for nuclear reactors and materials, and a law providing for distribution of potassium iodide to those living within 20 miles of a nuclear reactor. In 2010, he requested a Government Accountability Office investigation into the resiliency of nuclear power plants to earthquakes and other natural disasters.  And several days before the earthquake in Japan, Rep. Markey raised concerns regarding the seismic resiliency of the Westinghouse AP1000, a new nuclear reactor whose design is currently pending before the NRC.

NRC chief: 10-mile evac zone 'a planning standard'

From the Associated Press:

The chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said Tuesday that the 10-mile emergency evacuation zone around U.S. nuclear plants is a "planning standard" that could change during an accident or attack.

Chairman Gregory Jaczko said his agency recommended that Americans move 50 miles away from the Japanese plants that were failing after an earthquake in March because of "the potential for a more significant event to develop."

In the "highly unlikely" event of an accident at a U.S. plant, he said, decisions would be based "on what information we can get."

"If we needed to take action beyond 10 miles, that's certainly what we would recommend," he said.

Critics of the Indian Point nuclear power plants — which Jaczko toured on Tuesday — say the NRC's 50-mile advisory in Japan proved that a larger area is endangered by the plants than the NRC has acknowledged. They also say it would be impossible to evacuate the millions of people within 50 miles of Indian Point, which includes most of New York City, so the plants' application for new licenses should be denied.

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NRC: Cyber Security Plan Implementation Schedule


ADAMS Accession No.:  ML110980538 (PDF)

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