Archive for May, 2016
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
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 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
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/
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
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
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