Nuclear transportation proposal draws fire from SRS Citizens Advisory Board and international activists (May 2016

A potential shipment of spent nuclear fuel to the Savannah River Site has created rippling reactions in both the U.S. and the current host of the nuclear waste, Germany. A draft environmental assessment was published by the U.S. Department of Energy on Jan. 25 in the Federal Register, opening the proposed shipment to public comment.

The draft announced intentions to examine potential environmental impacts from a proposed action to receive, store, process and disposition spent nuclear fuel from the Federal Republic of Germany at the Savannah River Site.

At its meeting April 12, the nuclear materials committee of the SRS Citizens Advisory Board, or CAB, voted to approve a letter to the Department of Energy opposing the potential shipment. The letter said the Energy Department had itself stated the German material was not a proliferation concern and was already in a state that didn’t require processing before long-term disposal.

However, in a controversial turn of events, the letter did not make it onto the official agenda at the CAB full committee meeting earlier this week.

During Monday’s meeting, CAB member David Hoel said, “I’d like to know why it wasn’t included in this agenda.”

CAB Chair Harold Simon said the comment period on the environmental assessment had ended and the letter was removed from the agenda following recommendations of a Department of Energy employee.

The department spokesman, Patrick McGuire, said the initial vote was not in keeping with CAB policies and said he himself had interfered with the process when he shouldn’t have.

Photo Courtesy of Chris Weise, Aktionbundis activist group in Julich, Germany German activists display imitation yellow nuclear transport casks in a demonstration against nuclear material transportation.

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Thomas Gardiner , May 25 2016 10:36 pm ,Thomas Gardiner is the SRS beat reporter for the Aiken Standard. Gardiner is originally from Amarillo, Texas, and studied at USC Aiken. As posted at http://www.aikenstandard.com/article/20160525/AIK0101/160529627

Editorial on South Korean Nuclear Waste Management

On May 25, the South Korean government gave early notice of its basic plan for handling high-level radioactive waste. The plan is to build the underground research facility, the interim storage facility and the permanent disposal facility on the same land. The interim facility will be used for the next 40-50 years until a permanent facility is constructed. Over the next 12 years, the site is to be acquired, with facilities built in stages until the permanent disposal facility opens in 2053.

In June 2015, the Public Engagement Commission on Spent Nuclear Fuel Management advised the government to acquire land for these facilities by 2020, and the delayed timeframe is the most striking feature of the government’s plan.
The most critical debate at present is what to do about the temporary dry storage facilities at each nuclear reactor complex, which are currently holding spent nuclear fuel but will soon run out of space. According to this plan, the government will build short-term storage facilities at each reactor complex. Considering that locals are already strongly opposed to these kinds of storage facilities, there are likely to be numerous conflicts and interruptions as the government pushes forward with the plan.

The temporary storage facilities for spent fuel at South Korea’s nuclear reactor complexes will reach the saturation point starting with Wolseong in 2019, followed by Gori and Yonggwang in 2024, Uljin in 2037 and Shin-Wolseong in 2038. The government says that it will build short-term dry storage facilities inside each reactor “if it is unavoidable” – meaning that this is the default plan.

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The Hankyoreh, as posted on : May.26,2016 17:29 KST, as posted at http://english.hani.co.kr/arti/english_edition/e_editorial/745557.html

South Australia Nuclear dump debate to go before citizens’ juries (May 2016)

South Australia will randomly select 400 people to sit on citizens’ juries to consider the state’s approach to its nuclear future.

The juries are part of a public relations exercise Premier Jay Weatherill said would cost less than $1 million this financial year and there would be additional spending after that.

The announcement came a day after the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission report said plans for a high-to-intermediate-level waste dump should be actively pursued, if the public wants it.

The report by commissioner Kevin Scarce was handed to the SA Government at the end of last week and made 12 recommendations.

They included pursuing a waste dump, simplifying mining approvals processes and seeking a relaxation of federal restrictions on nuclear power generation in Australia.

Mr Weatherill said it was important to have “the fullest and most mature debate that we can possibly organise”.

“It is deliberately extensive process because we believe there couldn’t be a more important question that faces the South Australian community,” he said.

“Ultimately it’s a matter for government about what it chooses to do.”

A jury of 50 people will identify key questions

Invitations will be sent this week to 25,000 people seeking an expression of interest in the juries.

One jury will include 50 people to identify questions to be considered during the debate and another 350 people will be asked to evaluate feedback after state-wide consultation.

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ABC News, Updated 10 May 2016, 1:19am, as posted at http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-05-10/nuclear-dump-debate-to-go-before-sa-citizens’-jury/7400500

YUCCA MOUNTAIN NUCLEAR WASTE REPOSITORY STILL TO FACE RESISTANCE AFTER REID RETIREMENT (May 2016)

Those jockeying to fill the holes on Capitol Hill created by the looming departure of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) are espousing opposition to a permanent Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, raising questions about the viability of pursuing the site as an option for storage as nuclear waste continues to pile up.
Congress in 1987 designated the Yucca Mountain site 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas as the location for a geologic repository for stored radioactive waste from the nation’s commercial nuclear reactors, but the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has yet to complete the license application for the project, which involves extensive and long-term environmental and safety analyses.

May 23, 2016 / by Brian Dabbs, Energy and Environment blog, http://www.bna.com/yucca-mountain-nuclear-b57982072803/

Fukushima nuclear accident is ‘wake-up call’ for US to improve monitoring of spent fuel pools

Summary:The 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident should serve as a wake-up call to nuclear plant operators and regulators on the critical importance of measuring, maintaining, and restoring cooling in spent fuel pools during severe accidents and terrorist attacks, says a new report.

The 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident should serve as a wake-up call to nuclear plant operators and regulators on the critical importance of measuring, maintaining, and restoring cooling in spent fuel pools during severe accidents and terrorist attacks, says a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. This report is the second and final phase of a congressionally mandated study on what lessons can be learned from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident. The report from Phase 1 of this study was released in July 2014. The Phase 2 report provides findings and recommendations for improving U.S. nuclear plant security and spent fuel storage as well as re-evaluates conclusions from previous Academies studies on spent fuel storage safety and security.

The committee that carried out the study and authored the Phase 2 report found that spent fuel storage facilities — both spent fuel pools used to store fuel under water and casks used to dry-store fuel — at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant maintained their containment functions during and after the March 11, 2011, Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami. However, one of the two gates separating the Unit 3 spent fuel pool from the adjacent reactor well was damaged during the accident. Also, water appeared to have leaked around the gate seals in the Unit 4 spent fuel pool, allowing water to flow into the pool from the reactor well.

This water leak was accidental but also fortuitous, because it replenished water lost from the Unit 4 pool by evaporation, likely preventing water levels from dropping to the tops of the racks where the spent fuel was being stored. Keeping the fuel covered with water is essential for cooling and radiation shielding. Uncovery of the fuel would have substantially increased radiation levels above and around the pool, limiting personnel access to the pool and nearby areas, and could have resulted in severe damage to the fuel, increasing the potential for large radioactive material releases into the environment.

The committee recommended that the U.S. nuclear industry and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (USNRC) improve the ability of plant operators to measure real-time conditions in spent fuel pools and maintain adequate cooling of stored spent fuel during severe accidents and terrorist attacks. These improvements should go beyond the current, post-Fukushima response to include hardened and redundant physical surveillance systems such as cameras, radiation monitors, pool temperature and water-level monitors, and means to deliver makeup water or sprays to the pools, even when physical access is limited by facility damage or high radiation levels.

Extreme external events and severe accidents can cause widespread and long-lasting disruptions to security infrastructure, systems, and staffing at nuclear plants, the committee concluded. Such disruptions can create opportunities for malevolent acts and increase the susceptibility of critical plant systems to such acts. Therefore, the committee recommended, nuclear plant operators and their regulators should upgrade and/or protect nuclear plant security infrastructure and systems and train security personnel to cope with extreme external events and severe accidents. Such upgrades should include redundant and protected power sources dedicated to plant security systems that function independently if safety systems are damaged, as well as diverse and flexible approaches for coping with and reconstituting plant security infrastructure, systems, and staffing during and following extreme external events and severe accidents.

The committee determined that the USNRC has implemented most of the recommendations from previous Academies reports on spent fuel safety and security. However, two recommendations from those reports have not yet been implemented, the committee found. The first was to analyze the vulnerabilities of spent fuel pools to specific terrorist attack scenarios described in the 2004 Academies report, and the second was to carry out an independent examination of surveillance and security measures for protecting stored spent fuel. This independent examination should address the effectiveness of the USNRC’s security and surveillance measures for addressing the insider threat, the committee said. It also recommended that the USNRC and nuclear industry strengthen their capabilities for identifying, evaluating, and managing the risks from terrorist attacks and that the USNRC sponsor a spent fuel storage security risk assessment of sufficient scope and depth to explore the benefits of this methodology for enhancing security at U.S. nuclear plants.

The committee reviewed technical analyses carried out by the USNRC to inform a regulatory decision on whether to expedite the transfer of spent fuel from pools to dry casks to reduce storage risks. Although these analyses are valuable technical contributions to understanding the consequences of spent fuel pool accidents, they are of limited use for assessing spent fuel storage risks because they do not consider sabotage risks, dry cask storage risks, or certain health consequences that would likely result from a severe nuclear accident. It is also difficult to make valid comparisons between pool and dry cask storage risks because of the way the analyses were carried out. The committee recommended that the USNRC perform a spent fuel storage risk assessment that addresses both accident and sabotage risks for both pool and dry cask storage. USNRC staff informed the committee that it is already thinking about how to expand its risk assessment methodologies to include sabotage risks.

Date:May 20, 2016 Source:National Academy of Sciences, as posted at https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/05/160520120610.htm
Report: http://www.nap.edu/catalog/21874/lessons-learned-from-the-fukushima-nuclear-accident-for-improving-safety-and-security-of-us-nuclear-plants

Scientists say nuclear fuel pools around the country pose safety and health risks (May 2016)

The Fukushima nuclear catastrophe could have been far worse, it turns out, and experts say neither the nuclear industry nor its regulators are doing enough to prevent a calamitous nuclear fuel fire in America

Ninety-six above ground, aquamarine pools around the country that hold the nuclear industry’s spent reactor fuel may not be as safe as U.S. regulators and the nuclear industry have publicly asserted, a study released May 20 by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine warned.

Citing a little-noticed study by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Academies said that if an accident or an act of terrorism at a densely-filled pool caused a leak that drains the water away from the rods, a cataclysmic release of long-lasting radiation could force the extended evacuation of nearly 3.5 million people from territory larger than the state of New Jersey. It could also cause thousands of cancer deaths from excess radiation exposure, and as much as $700 billion dollars in costs to the national economy.

Until an earthquake and a tsunami pummeled Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi power plant in Japan on March 11, 2011, the possibility of such a catastrophe in the more than 30 states where nuclear fuel sits in radioactive pools seemed almost unthinkable. But the Academies’ new report – their second and final study of that event – says that the operators of U.S. nuclear plants and the commission that regulates them haven’t fully grasped all the safety risks and as a result may be exposing the public to unwarranted dangers.

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Published by the Center for Public Integrity, 20 May 2016, https://www.publicintegrity.org/2016/05/20/19712/scientists-say-nuclear-fuel-pools-around-country-pose-safety-and-health-risks

Experts Urge U.S. Nuclear Plants to Implement Stricter Monitoring (May 2016)

After Fukushima, U.S. facilities need better safety technology, report says

Using lessons learned from the Fukushima disaster, a group of experts is proposing safety fixes for all U.S. nuclear power plants that store spent uranium fuel, including better security and real-time monitoring technology.

Wall Street Journal, By Cassandra Sweet, Updated May 20, 2016 5:38 p.m. ET, http://www.wsj.com/articles/experts-urge-u-s-nuclear-plants-to-implement-stricter-monitoring-1463772262

NAS Report on NRC’s Deficient Spent Fuel Pool Regulation Echoes UCS Criticisms (May 2016)

NRC Needs to Reconsider Moving Bulk of Spent Fuel from Cooling Pools to Dry Casks

WASHINGTON (May 20, 2016)—Today, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) released its long-awaited report on the safety of the cooling pools that store some 75 percent of the spent nuclear fuel at reactor sites across the United States. The NAS concluded that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) activities to address spent fuel pool risks since the 9/11 attacks and the March 11, 2011, Fukushima disaster have been deficient in serious respects.

The NAS report clearly found fault with NRC’s approach to protecting spent fuel pools from severe accidents and terrorist attacks, and largely confirmed the Union of Concerned Scientists’ (UCS) longstanding concerns about the agency’s inadequate response to the danger of spent fuel pool fires. Significantly, the report criticized the regulatory analysis the NRC used to justify rejecting a proposal to expeditiously transfer spent fuel from pools to dry casks.

According to UCS Senior Scientist Edwin Lyman, the NRC needs to revisit that analysis to address the committee’s concerns. An analysis that gives proper weight to the potentially catastrophic consequences of a spent fuel pool fire, he said, would lead the NRC to rightly conclude that the benefits of expedited transfer would greatly outweigh the costs.

“The National Academy of Sciences has confirmed many of the concerns that we have expressed regarding the danger of spent fuel pool fires that could cause massive and long-term radioactive land contamination, whether caused by accidents or terrorist attacks,” said Lyman. “Now it’s time for the NRC to act decisively to protect Americans from a disaster that could dwarf the horrific consequences of the Fukushima accident.”

As posted at http://www.ucsusa.org/news/press_release/NAS-spent-fuel-report#.V0BIpM_mrIU

Nuclear Industry: Germany urged to remove nuclear decommissioning hurdles to speed closures (May 2016)

Delays to cost allocations and waste site selections are impacting plans to start dismantling and decommissioning all of Germany’s plants by 2022, industry experts told Nuclear Energy Insider.

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After a series of setbacks, a federal government-appointed commission announced April 27 its recommendations for allocating clean-up costs between the state and nuclear power firms.

The Kommission zur Uberprufung des Kernenergieausstiegs (KfK) recommended nuclear operators transfer 23.3 billion euros ($26.4 billion), which includes a 35% risk-related premium to close the gap between provisions and costs, to a state fund. The government is not expected to formally accept the proposal and approve legislation to govern the fund until later this year.

Power utilities EnBW, E.ON, RWE and Vattenfall have already set aside around 38 billion euros for nuclear decommissioning and low-level waste disposal. In a joint statement, the firms said they could not accept the KfK’s proposal mainly due to what they called a “huge risk premium” which “overburdens the concerned energy companies’ economic capabilities.”

The firms said they were willing to accept a risk premium to enable a “consensus” during talks with the KfK, and had presented financial information while offering to go to their “utmost economic limits.” The KfK had exceeded these limits with its suggested risk premium, the operators said.

Europe’s power utilities have been under pressure from low power market prices amid growing renewable power supply. Moody’s downgraded RWE’s credit rating by one notch to Baa3/P-3 May 13, citing a weak power price environment and “the risk that the recent recommendation by the [KfK] that a significant premium should be paid by the German nuclear generators will be an additional financial burden for RWE.”

The ratings agency said “there is a good likelihood that, while there may be further negotiations on the final calculations of the underlying [nuclear] liabilities, a solution will be found and passed into law.”

The requirement to fund the externalized liabilities will reduce the operators’ financial flexibility and the premium will result in a direct additional debt burden of “several billion euros” for the nuclear industry, Moody’s said.

“Should an agreement not be reached and passed into law this year, Moody’s believes the issue will remain a significant overhang for the companies,” it said.

Delays to choosing final waste repository sites are also impacting decommissioning plans, which must be in place by 2022, the national deadline to phase out nuclear power set by Chancellor Merkel’s government after the Japanese Fukushima disaster in 2011.

Final waste holes

Dr Ralf Guldner, President of the German Atomic Forum, expressed concern earlier this month over the estimated timeframes for opening final waste repositories and called for a faster site selection process.

The Final Repository Commission, set up by the German Bundestag in 2014, is tasked with making recommendations for the final repository site selection process while developing selection criteria for the safe disposal of radioactive waste.

“The estimates for the start of operations at a repository stretch from 2045/50, as the earliest option, into the 2080s. Accordingly, it would only be possible to start on the closure of the final repository after the operating period, either in the 80s or only after 2130,” Guldner said in an address to the nuclear industry May 5.

“One of the main objectives in the management of radioactive waste is not to impose any unreasonable burdens on future generations. This objective cannot be reconciled with a process which may possibly take 150 years,” he said.

The Konrad mine near the city of Salzgitter has been identified for the storage of low and medium level waste, but additional sites are likely to be needed after Germany’s remaining plants close. The selection of a permanent site for high level material remains under discussion.

Ongoing site licensing issues and cost disputes are impeding efforts to find suitable interim storage facilities, which are currently built at reactor sites.

The delay of final repositories decisions is also hampering preparation for the interim storage phase of decommissioning, Sandra Kuehberger, Vattenfall GmbH spokeswoman, told Nuclear Energy Insider.

“A major consideration is the impact of delayed decisions over all nationwide final repositories, including those for low and medium level radioactive waste. Delays are an issue because they have to be taken into consideration when planning interim waste solutions on site,” she said.

Vattenfall’s preparations for decommissioning are well underway. These include prioritizing the implementation of proven and existing automation processes that ensure safety and minimal exposure to radioactive material during the dismantling process, Kuehberger said.

Trimming costs

Germany is technically well prepared for the next stage of decommissioning, which involves taking steps towards automation and industrialization of processes, Franz Borrmann, Managing Director of consultancy firm iUS (Institut für Umwelttechnologien und Strahlenschutz GmbH), said.

Waste disposal costs are higher in Germany than elsewhere in Europe because the waste is buried in deep geological clay formations. Utilities tend to prioritize spending on minimizing the volume of waste to be treated and stored, Borrmann told Nuclear Energy Insider.

“Very low level contaminated material is decontaminated so it can be cleared as conventional waste or recycled material. This process is well defined and the clearance process is meticulously controlled by the authorities, which makes it expensive but ensures high standards,” he said.

To assist utilities in reducing decommissioning costs and improving efficiency, iUS delivers knowledge management and licensing strategies, radiation protection models and waste clearance training. Solutions include a digital tool, developed in collaboration with data integration specialist gesinn.it GmbH & Co KG, which centralizes information on specific plant processes.

The system can be tailor-made to meet existing knowledge management structures and can allow firms to respond to constantly changing decommissioning environments. It can provide a return-on-investment within a short period, Borrmann said.

Going forward, the clarification of waste disposal timelines should incentivize investments by firms looking to enter into Germany’s growing decommissioning market. These firms can provide additional innovation and help to drive down costs.

Nuclear Energy Insider, By Karen Thomas, May 17, 2016 http://analysis.nuclearenergyinsider.com/germany-urged-remove-nuclear-decommissioning-hurdles-speed-closures?utm_campaign=NEI%2018MAY16%20Newsletter%20Subject%20Line%20A.htm&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Eloqua

Planned Nuke Dump Near Great Lakes Gets Pushback (May 2016)

A Canadian utility company’s proposal to store nuclear waste in a deep hole a short distance from Lake Huron has turned into a politically tricky problem for Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau.

The proposed Deep Geologic Repository Project, would be used to store waste from three nuclear power plants operated by Ontario Power Generation, according to a 2015 government environmental report. The facility would consist of man-made caverns and tunnels with about 7 million cubic feet of storage space, carved into a limestone formation 2,230 feet under the ground.

The low-level waste that the utility wants to store deep in the ground includes materials such as protective clothing, floor sweepings, mops and rags, which can be stored safely without special protective measures, according to the report. But the site also would be a burial place for “intermediate” materials such as used reactor components, resins and filters from nuclear reactor operations. At present, the waste is being stored above-ground at one of the plants.

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In the report, Canadian regulators touted the project as a breakthrough in the safe storage of nuclear waste. “The proposed DGR is an important, unique, precedent-setting project. It would be the first of its kind in North America, and it is the first of its kind in the world to propose using limestone as the host rock formation,” they wrote

Nevertheless, the project — which has been in the works for more than a decade — remains controversial, in large part because the site would be about three quarters of a mile from the shores of Lake Huron.

While the repository got approval from Ontario officials last year, in February Trudeau’s new environment minister, Catherine McKenna, delayed approval of the project by asking the utility for more information.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), told Trudeau at a meeting in Washington in March that she wanted to see the project cancelled outright, according to accounts in the Detroit Free Press and the Washington Post. Trudeau reportedly declined to give her a definite answer.

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“All he said was that he truly cares about the environment,” she told the Post.

Dingell told the Post that the Canadian plan is more problematic than another long-delayed U.S. proposal to bury nuclear waste in Yucca Mountain in Nevada.

“We’ve got to find a location that doesn’t impact large populations of people,” she told the newspaper. “A mountain that is in an isolated place is a better place than water that is 20 percent of the freshwater in the world.”

In January, a Canadian organization, Stop the Great Lakes Nuclear Dump, sent McKenna a petition with 90.000 signatures opposing the repository.

Canada gets about 15 percent of its electricity from nuclear power.

May 17, 2016 05:39 PM ET // by Patrick J. Kiger , as posted at http://news.discovery.com/earth/planned-nuke-dump-near-great-lakes-gets-pushback-160517.htm