Tag Archives: emergency planning

Exelon seems to think the rules are for others

Cover sheet of NRC letter to Exelon raising questions about the company's efforts to reclassify public documents on emergency planning.

Cover sheet of NRC letter to Exelon raising questions about the company’s efforts to reclassify public documents on emergency planning.

It might seem that we’re guilty of dumping on Exelon in these pages, which is possibly true, especially since there is an apparently endless supply of Exelon-initiated issues worthy of bringing to public attention. After all, Exelon is the nation’s largest electric utility, the largest nuclear utility, and while we haven’t developed a test for this yet, quite likely the nation’s greediest electric utility. Continue reading

Advertisements

Nuclear Newsreel, Monday, May 5, 2014

Police use water cannons on anti-nuclear protestors conducting a die-in in Taiwan in April. The protests led to suspension of construction of Taiwan's fourth nuclear reactor.

Police use water cannons on anti-nuclear protestors conducting a die-in in Taiwan in April. The protests led to suspension of construction of Taiwan’s fourth nuclear reactor.

Happy Cinco de Mayo! We couldn’t fit in a Nuclear Newsreel last week, so there’s a lot of news to catch up on; here are some of the highlights:

Nuclear Power

Taiwan: Taiwan has suspended construction of its controversial fourth reactor following a weekend of massive protests across the country in late April. There likely will be a referendum on the future of the project later this year. Taipower has warned of dire consequences if the project doesn’t go forward, including higher electricity rates, bankruptcy of the utility and increased use of fossil fuels–although as in most locations these days, renewables could fill the void easily and well before the fourth reactor could actually be completed and put into service. Note: some articles mistakenly have reported that Taipower has spent $93.7 Billion on the project; that’s a typo that has unfortunately been repeated around the world, the actual number is $9.37 Billion, which should be high enough for anyone to realize it’s a bad idea.

Continue reading

NRC can’t document assertions made in denial of nuclear emergency planning petition

Traffic on New York's Tappan Zee bridge can be a nightmare under the best of circumstances. In a natural disaster--ice storm, snow storm, hurricane, earthquake, compounded by a nuclear accident, the transportation network may be nearly impossible to navigate. Yet the NRC doesn't require emergency drills to train personnel to attempt to cope with such situations.

Traffic on New York’s Tappan Zee bridge near the Indian Point reactors can be a nightmare under the best of circumstances. In a natural disaster–ice storm, snow storm, hurricane, earthquake, compounded by a nuclear accident, the transportation network may be nearly impossible to navigate. Yet the NRC doesn’t require emergency drills to train personnel to attempt to cope with such situations. Photo by Vincent DiSalvio, Journal News

Earlier this month, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission denied a petition for rulemaking submitted by Nuclear Information and Resource Service and 37 organizational co-petitioners that sought to increase the size of Emergency Planning Zones around nuclear reactors and improve training for emergency workers. The petition was based on lessons drawn from real-world nuclear accidents—most recently Fukushima, but also Chernobyl and Three Mile Island. The NRC chose to ignore the real-world implications of those accidents and denied the petition in its entirety.

One component of the petition would have required every other emergency drill (i.e. once every four years) to include a scenario involving regionally-appropriate natural disasters as either initiating causes of a nuclear accident or occurring concurrently with a nuclear accident. In its denial, the NRC rejected this component, stating: “The majority of nuclear power plant licensees currently incorporate natural or destructive phenomena into their drill and exercise scenarios.” (emphasis added).

In follow-up correspondence with NRC staff, NIRS asked for documentation of this statement. The resulting e-mail exchange, including our questions and NRC’s answers, can be viewed here:

Continue reading

Nuclear Newsreel, Thursday, April 10, 2014

Nuclear Power

No new reactors will be added to the existing Temelin site. Photo by Michael Mariotte.

No new reactors will be added to the existing Temelin site. Photo by Michael Mariotte.

Another one bites the dust: Czech utility CEZ cancels new reactors at Temelin; utility’s stock immediately rises more than three percent. CEZ had planned to build two new reactors at its long-controversial Temelin site, but wanted government subsidies to do so. Czech president President Milos Zeman refused to provide such subsidies and instead told CEZ to revoke its existing tender and try again to get an offer to build the reactors that wouldn’t require government support. CEZ knew that was impossible, and gave up on the idea entirely.

New York Times: Japan still wants to open reprocessing plant, stockpile more plutonium despite proliferation risks. It looks to us like Japan’s much-ballyhooed announcement last month about returning some plutonium to the U.S. wasn’t about proliferation concerns. Rather, we suspect Japan just wanted to unload some of its radioactive waste on the U.S., since Japan is even further behind than the U.S. on a disposal site.

People and elected officials on Cape Cod are not at all happy about NRC’s rejection yesterday of NIRS’ petition to expand emergency planning zones.  Meanwhile, in nearby Vermont, Entergy wants to end emergency planning entirely once its Vermont Yankee reactor shuts down later this year, even though the reactor’s high-level radioactive waste will remain onsite for the foreseeable future. That idea is not likely to play well in Vermont, though it’s not clear what recourse the state may have. The NRC is actively working to make it easier for utilities with shutdown reactors to get exemptions from emergency planning requirements.

China’s nuclear program is beginning to look a lot like the failure of the U.S. nuclear “renaissance.” China is still rejecting inland nuclear reactors. As noted in GreenWorld earlier this week, nuclear’s share of Chinese generation capacity is at only 1.2% (it’s about 19% in the U.S.). While China’s nuclear construction program remains far more ambitious than anything in the West, it is dwarfed by China’s spending on renewables and nuclear is still unlikely to ever provide a significant share of the country’s electricity.

More delays are likely for the Summer nuclear project in South Carolina, according to a new report from state regulators. Note, the dollar amounts in this article are only for SCANA’s share of the project, not the full cost, which is far higher.

How to get away with almost anything. Essay in Bulletin of Atomic Scientists pointing out that in many developing countries–the focus here is on Pakistan–the nuclear industry is still a secret industry and that leads to lower safety standards and greater risk of disaster.

Publics indoctrinated in the virtues of nuclear weapons let their nations’ atomic energy establishments get away with almost anything. Public subsidies are dispensed for nuclear power, but hidden for secrecy reasons, and are thus excluded from the real costs of electricity. Nuclear establishments need not reveal their plans for disaster management, prove these plans’ adequacy, develop environmental impact mitigation schemes, or educate the population about radiation hazards. These establishments, operating almost unchallenged, feel little need to make the case for nuclear power over alternative energy technologies. Bureaucracies, shrouded in layer after layer of secrecy and relying on official secrecy acts, can continue to hide from the public gaze their appalling inefficiency and incompetence.

Here’s a hoot–and an exercise in self-delusion. Or maybe there’s just a desire to boost graduate school enrollment figures. In any case, a manager at Southern Company told a nuclear engineering graduate school gathering in Tennessee yesterday that 130,000 new workers will be needed to build the next 30 nuclear reactors in the U.S. Sounds like an echo of John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign and the idea of 30 new reactors in the U.S. inevitably will follow the same fate as that campaign. But we do feel sorry for any students who believe such a fantasy and spend tens of thousands of dollars on a grad school curriculum that is not very likely to have the future its backers claim.

Clean Energy

A California county has become the first in the nation to be grid positive: it produces 152% of the energy it uses from solar.

Also in California, utility-scale solar power topped five percent of the state’s electricity needs in March, a new record. Renewables generally provided more than 22% of the state’s power. And those figures don’t count rooftop solar, which doesn’t show up in such estimates because for utilities it’s power they aren’t providing. But with 2.2 Gigawatts of rooftop solar already installed in California, solar would have bumped up a point or two.

Goldman Sachs plans to invest $40 Billion in renewable energy over the next ten years. That’s serious money from just one investment company. Stuart Bernstein, the head of Sachs’ clean energy group, says we are already in a period of rapid transition to clean energy but says Sach’s belief is that this will be a 20-year process.

Inside Washington

 

The entrance to Mount Ronald Reagan?

The entrance to Mount Ronald Reagan?

A Nevada Republican, Rep. Joe Heck, wants to name part of Frenchman Mountain in the state after former President Ronald Reagan–as if they weren’t already enough things named after him. But some members of the House Natural Resources Committee had a more appropriate idea: Rep. Peter DeFazio suggested naming the now-abandoned Yucca Mountain radioactive waste dump after Reagan. Said DeFazio, “If we were going to name something after the president, it ought to be something that actually had to do with the president’s service in office, and something the president supported that was extraordinarily significant to the state of Nevada.” The committee ended up approving Heck’s request, knowing that it is highly unlikely to get to the Senate floor controlled by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

Sometimes it’s not worth rooting for either side, but if anyone had doubts about how difficult this Congress is, read on. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz continued to push his inane “all of the above” energy strategy on Capitol Hill yesterday, and said DOE needs more money to implement the strategy. House Republicans countered that the administration is too biased against fossil fuels and is waging a war on coal. The chair of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.), complained that the Obama White House has continually proposed spending three to six times as much on investments in alternative energy sources, including wind and solar power, as on fossil fuels. “It certainly appears to me to be a not-balanced approach—not an ‘all of the above’ approach by this administration,” Smith said. Neither side appears to have noticed the changes taking place in the electricity sector, which is pushing away coal at least as fast as nuclear power, although Moniz did support the idea of new coal with carbon capture technology, which so far has proven remarkably expensive and ineffective.

Meanwhile, CNBC, which appears to be on a relentless pro-nuclear promotional campaign, touted an appearance by Moniz, in which he spoke favorably about small modular reactors and pushed the department’s existing loan guarantee programs, as a sign of a hopeful future for nuclear power. Never mind that the nuclear side of the loan guarantee program hasn’t been able to give away more than $10 billion it has remaining after the one loan–for the Vogtle reactors in Georgia–that it managed to eke out four years after announcing its approval. We have no idea if CNBC’s investment advice is any more accurate or in-depth than its reporting, but for the sake of its viewers we sure hope so.

Michael Mariotte

April 10, 2014

Permalink: https://safeenergy.org/2014/04/10/nuclear-newsreel-thursday-april-10-2014/

You can now support GreenWorld with your tax-deductible contribution on our new donation page here. We gratefully appreciate every donation of any size–your support is what makes our work possible.

Comments are welcome on all GreenWorld posts! Say your piece above. Start a discussion. Don’t be shy; this blog is for you.

If you like GreenWorld, you can help us reach more people. Just use the icons below to “like” our posts and to share them on the various social networking sites you use. And if you don’t like GreenWorld, please let us know that too. Send an e-mail with your comments/complaints/compliments to nirsnet@nirs.org. Thank you!

Note: If you’d like to receive GreenWorld via e-mail daily, send your name and e-mail address to nirsnet@nirs.org and we’ll send you an invitation. Note that the invitation will come from a GreenWorld@wordpress.com address and not a nirs.org address, so watch for it.

 

The NRC failed the American people

Fukushima radiation plume overlaid on map centered at Indian Point reactors. Can anyone (other than NRC) seriously believe this area can be successfully evacuated in a nuclear accident? From Samuel Lawrence Foundation website.

Fukushima radiation plume overlaid on map centered at Indian Point reactors. Can anyone (other than NRC) seriously believe this area can be successfully evacuated in a nuclear accident? From Samuel Lawrence Foundation website.

Today, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission formally denied the petition for rulemaking initially submitted by NIRS and 37 co-petitioners on February 15, 2012 to make modest improvements in the NRC’s emergency planning regulations. More than 3,000 people later signed on as additional co-petitioners and nearly 6,000 submitted comments in support of this petition–only some 40 comments opposed it. Yet the NRC ignored this plea to instill some sanity and real-world experience into their regulations and provide a greater level of protection for all Americans.

Our press release on the decision says it all:

NRC FAILS THE AMERICAN PEOPLE
DENIES PETITION TO MAKE MODEST IMPROVEMENTS IN EMERGENCY PLANNING FOR NUCLEAR REACTOR ACCIDENTS

April 9, 2014. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) today formally denied a petition originally submitted by Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) and 37 co-petitioners to make modest improvements in emergency planning for nuclear reactor accidents.

The petition for rulemaking, submitted February 15, 2012, called for increasing the size of the existing Emergency Planning Zone around commercial nuclear reactors from 10 to 25 miles, establishing a new zone but with less stringent requirements from 25-50 miles around reactors, expanding the existing Ingestion Pathway zone from 50 to 100 miles, and requiring existing biannual emergency training exercises to include scenarios involving initiating or concurrent regionally appropriate natural disasters. 3,281 people asked the NRC to consider them co-petitioners, and there were a total of 5,993 comments on the proposal. 5,953 of those comments supported the petition. The NRC denied the petition in its entirety.

“The NRC has failed the American people,” said Michael Mariotte, President of NIRS. “Rather than learn from Fukushima and act appropriately to protect the public, the agency has chosen to protect the nuclear power industry yet again. The agency claims the evacuation at Fukushima was a success—yet it took more than three weeks for Japan to fully evacuate the most contaminated areas. Moreover, as we pointed out in our petition, Japan was spared a far worse disaster only because 80% of the airborne radiation released at Fukushima—and nearly 100% in the first critical days—never went over land. Instead it was sent by the wind directly over the Pacific Ocean. The United States should not have to rely on favorable wind patterns as an emergency response measure.”

The petition was based on the real world experiences of Fukushima and Chernobyl, where toxic radiation spread far beyond 10 miles and has resulted in the creation of uninhabitable regions much larger than a ten mile radius as well. NIRS argued that the NRC’s regulations are based on computer models more than actual events, that delayed evacuations at both Fukushima and Chernobyl unnecessarily endangered people and the existing regulations would likely lead to similar delays, that evacuation criteria are unrealistically based on slow-developing accidents, and numerous other issues. The petition can be read at http://www.nirs.org/reactorwatch/emergency/petitionforrulemaking22012.pdf

NIRS’ Acting Executive Director Tim Judson said, “Effective, realistic emergency planning is literally the last line of protection for the public in a nuclear accident. Unfortunately, NRC’s decision today is based more on science fiction than on real-world experience. Over the last thirty-five years, five nuclear reactors have had catastrophic accidents, all requiring evacuations, and four involving massive releases of radiation that have left large areas of land unsafe for human habitation. The Chernobyl and Fukushima accidents required much larger evacuations and emergency response measures than nuclear power stations and state and local governments in the United States are currently prepared for. NRC’s decision indicates it would rather the American public not think about a nuclear emergency until it happens. That may be a good public relations ploy for atomic power, but it does nothing to protect the millions of Americans living near a nuclear reactor.”

The Ingestion Pathway zone is meant to protect against the distribution of contaminated water, milk and other food. At both Fukushima and Chernobyl, such basic elements of life were interdicted from well over 100 miles away (in Chernobyl’s case, more than 1,000 miles); yet the NRC insists with little rationale that its 50-mile zone is adequate.

Indeed, the NRC’s denial is little more than a series of assertions that its present 10-mile zone is adequate and can be expanded quickly in an actual accident if necessary. “Emergency preparedness means just that: like the Boy Scouts, it means ‘Be Prepared,’” said Mariotte. “But the NRC’s approach is ‘don’t worry, be happy; if we need to be better prepared in the midst of a nuclear accident, we’ll manage.’ That approach is callous and indefensible.”

Mariotte said NIRS has not decided whether to appeal the denial to the courts, but noted that several Congressmembers have expressed interest in the issue and at least two bills already have been introduced to expand emergency planning zones.

The NRC also asserted, without providing documentation, that existing emergency exercises already do include scenarios involving natural disasters. NIRS has asked the NRC to provide documentation of that—especially of scenarios involving initiating or concurrent earthquakes (the fundamental cause of the Fukushima disaster), and will make that information public upon receipt.

The NRC’s decision is available here: https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2014/04/09/2014-07981/emergency-planning-zones

This press release is available here: http://www.nirs.org/reactorwatch/emergency/epzpressrelease4914.pdf

Michael Mariotte

April 9, 2014

Permalink: https://safeenergy.org/2014/04/09/the-nrc-failed-the-american-people/

You can now support GreenWorld with your tax-deductible contribution on our new donation page here. We gratefully appreciate every donation of any size–your support is what makes our work possible.

Comments are welcome on all GreenWorld posts! Say your piece above. Start a discussion. Don’t be shy; this blog is for you.

If you like GreenWorld, you can help us reach more people. Just use the icons below to “like” our posts and to share them on the various social networking sites you use. And if you don’t like GreenWorld, please let us know that too. Send an e-mail with your comments/complaints/compliments to nirsnet@nirs.org. Thank you!

Note: If you’d like to receive GreenWorld via e-mail daily, send your name and e-mail address to nirsnet@nirs.org and we’ll send you an invitation. Note that the invitation will come from a GreenWorld@wordpress.com address and not a nirs.org address, so watch for it.

Nuclear Newsreel, Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Two former PMs team up to turn Tokyo Governor’s race into referendum on nuclear power. This could turn out to be a significant “off-year” election as two popular former Prime Ministers team up (one running for Governor, the other in support of the candidacy) to explicitly challenge current Prime Minister Abe’s policies on nuclear power in Japan’s most populated region.

New study finds it would take 12 hours to 5+ days to evacuate 18-mile zones around Japanese reactors. For Americans, two important takeaways: 1) Japan has an 18-mile (30 kilometer) emergency evacuation zone–a lesson from Fukushima. The U.S. has learned from neither Fukushima nor Chernobyl that its current 10-mile zones are inadequate to protect the public. 2) There is little reason to believe that it would be any easier to evacuate U.S. areas near reactors any faster than in Japan. NIRS launched a campaign in 2012 to expand emergency evacuation zones and improve emergency planning generally. You can learn more about this–and actions you can take–on NIRS Nuclear 911 site here.

Omnibus spending bill includes $ for failed Yucca Mt radwaste project & unfathomable GOP support for obsolete light bulbs. Republican (and to the best of my knowledge it’s only Republican but I’m happy to correct that if I’m wrong) support for obsolete incandescent lightbulbs is simply beyond my comprehension. Yes, let’s ensure everyone can spend more money than they need to and waste more energy! Because obsolete technology says we can! Sheesh. Come to think of it, I guess that’s the same kind of thinking that leads to support of obsolete nuclear power….Meanwhile, the American Council for an Energy Efficiency Economy (ACEEE) points out that the provision could cost American jobs. U.S. manufacturers are no longer making incandescents since current law, enacted under President Bush in 2007, prohibits their sale. The main effect of this provision, which would prohibit the government from enforcing the law, would be to allow foreign producers of lightbulbs to sell their obsolete products in the U.S.

Russia to build 2 new reactors in Hungary and lend country $10 Billion Euros to do so. Just what Hungary needs: more debt to Russia and two dangerous new reactors at its Paks site, where two aging reactors already operate. But the deal could still be scuttled depending on the results of elections later this year.

German court rules shutdown of Biblis nuclear station was unlawful, utility can now sue for damages. The court didn’t say the reactor must be re-opened, and that is highly unlikely. But it opens the way for the government to have to pay damages to Biblis’ owner, the giant utility RWE, and perhaps some other utilities whose reactors were shutdown in 2011 in the aftermath of Fukushima and adoption of Germany’s plan to go nuclear free. However, the damages are not likely to be huge: unreported here is that this decision only involves a reactor moratorium order over a three month period in 2011 and not the permanent shutdown order. And it doesn’t cover reactors at two sites–Krümmel and Brunsbütte–that weren’t operating at the time

Michael Mariotte

Permalink: https://safeenergy.org/2014/01/14/nuclear-newsreel-January-14-2014/