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Nuclear -     1 - Duke Energy Employee Advocate

Nuclear - Page Twelve

"Of those who say nothing, few are silent." - Thomas Neill

NRC Detailed Nuke Plant Vulnerabilities to a Crash

Associated Press – by John Solomon – October 25, 2001

Despite evidence dating to 1994 that terrorists wanted to strike nuclear power plants, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission kept a study in its public reading room that identified in precise detail the vulnerabilities of U.S. reactors to a jetliner crash.

The 119-page report was still available for public inspection this month, long after the Sept. 11 hijackings prompted increased security across America.

The 1982 study by the Energy Department's Argonne National Laboratory detailed the likely damage that a jetliner at certain speeds could inflict on the thick concrete containment walls protecting reactors. Though it addressed only accidental crashes, it included a chart that identified the speeds at which a jetliner would begin to transfer its force into the primary containment wall and interior structure of a nuclear reactor.

And it estimated that if just 1 percent of a jetliner's fuel ignited after impact it would create an explosion equivalent to 1,000 pounds of dynamite inside a reactor building already damaged by the impact. The more fuel, the worse the explosion.

The ignition of fuel "could lead to a rather violent explosion environment and impose upon the primary containment relatively severe loads," the report said. The report added that U.S. nuclear regulators may have underestimated the potential damage from such explosions.

The report doesn't estimate at what point lethal radiation might be released in a crash. But it notes, "the breaching of some of the plant's concrete barriers may often be tantamount to a release of radioactivity." An NRC spokesman said Wednesday the agency has removed the document from its reading room and was also deleting from its public Web site similarly sensitive materials that could benefit terrorists.

"Clearly we've begun our effort with our Web site which we know is the vehicle through which one is most easily able to access information, technical reports and documents. That's our first priority," spokesman Victor Dricks said. Dricks said the NRC has "had people working around the clock" to implement numerous improved security measures since Sept. 11, including some which specifically address vulnerabilities to suicide hijackers.

As for why officials hadn't taken such precautions beforehand, Dricks added: "It was never considered credible that suicidal terrorists would hijack a large commercial airliner and deliberately crash it into a nuclear power plant."

The federal whistle-blowers group that discovered the document Oct. 3 in the NRC reading room while researching for a lawsuit says it was astonished such sensitive information was left public.

Attorney Michael Kohn, general counsel for the National Whistleblower Center, said that when he was shown the document, he was astonished that such material was still in the public domain.

"And I still can't believe it," Kohn said.

Kohn's group, which has successfully represented numerous nuclear plant workers in whistle-blower lawsuits, is citing the document in a lawsuit it is filing this week.

The suit asks the NRC to order immediate security changes at nuclear plants, including deploying anti-missile weapons and posting armed guards outside spent fuel storage areas that have lesser security.

U.S. officials have known at least since the mid-1990s that terrorists wanted to strike a nuclear power plant.

Ramzi Yousef, the convicted mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, encouraged followers in 1994 to strike such a plant, officials say. An FBI agent has testified in court that one of Yousef's followers told him in 1995 of plans to blow up a nuclear plant. And in 1999, the NRC acknowledged to Congress it received a credible threat of a terrorist attack against a nuclear power facility.

The 1982 study contrasts with statements some U.S. nuclear officials made in the first few days after the Sept. 11 attacks when they suggested American nuclear power plants could withstand the crash of a commercial jetliner.

Ten days after the attacks, the NRC corrected those assertions by saying it could not rule out the possibility that a suicide hijacker could cause structural damage to a plant and force the release of some radioactivity. "Nuclear power plants were not designed to withstand such crashes," it said.

The 1982 report suggested federal nuclear regulators had underestimated the potential damage caused by subsequent fire and explosions in such a crash.

"It appears that fire and explosion hazards have been treated with much less care than the direct aircraft impact," the report said. "Therefore the claim that these fire/explosion effects do not represent a threat to nuclear power plant facilities has not been clearly demonstrated."

Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., a frequent NRC critic, said the document suggests the government should have prepared to guard against a jetliner crash much earlier, and urged the agency to do so now.

"This document is disturbing because it makes clear the NRC knows that a nuclear power plant can be successfully attacked by an aircraft and that information has been public for nearly 20 years," Markey said.

Project Poses Threat to Area

The Herald – by Erica Pippins – October 25, 2001

LAKE WYLIE - The autumn leaves crunched beneath Todd Little's feet as he leisurely walked across the banks of Lake Wylie last week.

"I learned to swim in this lake, and I have lived around it all of my life," Little said with his arms outstretched toward the rippling water. "I just worry that our children are not going to get to enjoy it as much as we did."

Crescent Resources and Robert C. Rhein Interests want to build Palisades, a 1,500-acre community off N.C. 49 southeast of the Buster Boyd Bridge. The development would have 4,500 single- and multi-family residences - including houses, townhouses and apartments - an 18-hole golf course and a retail center. But many Lake Wylie area residents don't believe there has been enough planning or research for a project of such magnitude.

Little said he and others are worried that Palisades could pose a serious environmental threat to the lake and the surrounding wildlife.

"I feel that this has been well thought on paper, but the majority of the land they want to put Palisades on is sloped, which means the potential for runoff in the lake is tremendous," Little said. "It could be said that it will give us a greater tax base, but the blue herring and the kingfish don't pay taxes. What about the effect this could have on them?"

Association member John Byrd has lived near the land where the developers want to put Palisades since 1993. Like Little, the self-described "river rat" learned to swim in Lake Wylie and is troubled by the risk he believes the development may pose to the environment.

"The basic problem is that it is just too big, and they want to build it in a critical area of the watershed overlay. I also think the developers are trying to use the FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) factor," Byrd said. "I can think of 3,000 different options, but they want to convince people that the only two options are to go with their plan or risk the chance of the area being developed by just anybody."

Byrd said residents have also wondered about the increased traffic the development would bring. "The added population would make the regular traffic jams on (N.C.) 49 look tame," Byrd said. "Then there is concern that what if something happens at the Catawba Nuclear Station (on Lake Wylie), especially in light of recent events. How could you get all of the people out of the area quickly and safely as possible if there is too much congestion?"

The Mecklenburg County Commission is expected to vote on Palisades next month. Byrd and Little both said they would like the developers to do an environmental impact study to identify plants and animals that may be endangered, before the commission makes it decision.

"We are not saying we are entirely against the development," Byrd said. "We just want to make sure that if this land, which is so close to the Catawba River, is developed, it is developed the right way."

NRC Rubber Stamps Nuclear Dump

Public Citizen - Press Release - October 24, 2001

WASHINGTON, D.C. - By concurring with proposed changes in siting guidelines for a nuclear waste repository in Nevada, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is agreeing to change the rules to fit the site - a clear attempt to ensure the dump is approved despite its potential dangers, Public Citizen said today.

In a press release yesterday, the NRC announced concurrence with the Department of Energy's (DOE) proposed changes in the siting guidelines for a repository at Yucca Mountain. The original DOE siting guidelines (Part 960 in the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 10) would disqualify Yucca Mountain based on groundwater conditions. An aquifer beneath the proposed repository at Yucca Mountain, which is the only source of drinking water for area residents, could become contaminated by radioactivity from the dump.

The proposed replacement rule (Part 963) would require compliance only with radiation protection standards established specifically for Yucca Mountain by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Public Citizen has criticized the EPA for setting a weak standard and is party to a lawsuit challenging this rule. The revised siting guidelines approved by the NRC would enable Yucca Mountain to be approved.

"The DOE and NRC are collaborating to change the rules of the game and allow the ill-conceived Yucca Mountain Project to move forward," said Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program. "These agencies are supposed to be protecting public health and safety, but it's clear that they are more concerned with protecting the interests of the nuclear industry."

The revised siting guidelines, which allow evaluation of the proposed repository site to be based on projected compliance with EPA standards rather than geologic characteristics, indicates a significant shift in the DOE's interpretation of nuclear waste policy. The Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 favored geologic containment of nuclear waste, whereas current DOE repository design proposals rely heavily on storage containers ("engineered barriers") to isolate the dangerous waste. However, projections of storage container performance over the very long periods that nuclear waste remains dangerously radioactive are uncertain because they involve predicting the containers' performance 10,000 years into the future using a limited amount of historical data.

NRC concurrence is required before the DOE's changes to the siting guidelines are finalized, since the NRC has licensing jurisdiction over the proposed nuclear dump. However, under a licensing rule that establishes NRC's regulations for evaluating DOE's potential license application for the dump, the NRC lacks legal basis for concurring with the new siting guidelines. So now, the NRC is also in the process of changing the licensing rule. This means that the NRC concurrence is premature because the revised licensing rule is not yet final.

"The NRC is jumping the gun and abandoning due process," said Hauter. "The agency's proposed revisions to its repository licensing rule have not yet been printed in the Federal Register and therefore cannot be considered final."

The latest version of the NRC's proposed changes to the licensing rule has not been publicly available since the NRC dismantled most of its Web site on Oct. 11.

Yucca Mountain, located 80 miles northwest of Las Vegas, Nev., is the only site under consideration for development as a high-level nuclear waste repository. The proposed repository would contain 77,000 tons of radioactive waste from commercial nuclear reactors and the DOE weapons complex.

"Since the geology at Yucca Mountain cannot isolate the waste, the question is when - not if - the proposed repository would leak," said Hauter. "Why, then, are we continuing to throw money at this project that will cost billions of dollars, endanger communities along nuclear waste shipment routes in 45 states, and contaminate yet another site with high-level nuclear waste? The DOE should disqualify Yucca Mountain under the original siting guidelines and abandon the repository project."

The Ultimate Hatred Is Nuclear

New York Times – by Bruce G. Blair – October 23, 2001

Bioterrorism, like the anthrax threats currently rattling America, is horrific. But perhaps the ultimate horror in our newly uncertain world is the prospect of terrorists with nuclear weapons. There is no evidence that any terrorist has nuclear materials now, but the possibility is serious enough so that the government should be heightening security at home by monitoring foreign nations' weapons more closely and planning for military raids, if necessary, to keep weapons out of the wrong hands.

Sophisticated terrorists would be able to make an atomic bomb if they could get the necessary fissile materials — highly enriched uranium or plutonium. Huge quantities exist around the world. Detonated in Manhattan, a relatively small bomb — say 15 kilotons in yield, equivalent to the one used on Hiroshima — could immediately kill 100,000 and cause another 100,000 deaths in the lingering aftermath.

A terrorist wouldn't even need nuclear bomb materials to wreak nuclear havoc on a smaller scale: lethal radioactivity could spew out from a bomb made of nuclear waste and dynamite or from a nuclear power plant attacked by a hijacked plane or a truckload of explosives.

Our first line of defense against nuclear terrorism is at home. Security measures around nuclear power plants, like restrictions on how close planes may fly to them, are already being reviewed, and they should be strengthened as much as possible. But we should also immediately impose better inspection and security regimes at American seaports. Tens of thousands of cargo containers on ships arrive at American ports every day, and given the terrorist networks' extensive business ties around the world, the potential that one of those containers might carry a nuclear device is decidedly too high.

America's actual nuclear arsenal and its fissile materials are heavily guarded, but it's important to make sure security is just as tight abroad. There has been concern for years about the vulnerability of Russian bombs and bomb materials. More than 1,000 tons of bomb-grade plutonium and uranium remain in the former Soviet Union, half stored in its raw form and half inside 20,000 bombs. The United States is already working with Russia in a limited way to secure its nuclear materials and facilities by installing fences and surveillance sensors, but only half of the needed security improvements have been completed. Congress has been balking at continuing to finance this program with $1 billion a year, while it actually should be spending more. Last year, Russia's top security officials urgently sought American help in shoring up security at nuclear weapons sites, but bureaucratic squabbling between the Defense and Energy Departments delayed and diluted the American response. In the end, the Russians got little of the help they had sought.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Central Intelligence Agency and other American security agencies should be working with Russian law enforcement not only against terrorists, but to help Russia eliminate organized crime, which could make big profits selling nuclear materials to willing buyers.

Even more pressing, given the American military campaign in Afghanistan and the angry protests by some Pakistanis against their country's cooperation, is ensuring the security of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal. Pakistan is estimated to have between 30 and 50 partially disassembled atomic weapons, from 1 to 15 kilotons in yield, stored at several locations 50 to 250 miles from Afghanistan. If the regime were destabilized or toppled, nuclear security would weaken. Moreover, there are radicals within the Pakistani government and military forces, and it is possible that insiders might collude to steal bombs and add them to the arsenal of Osama bin Laden or some other extremist. Pakistani weapons are believed to lack sophisticated locks that would prevent their unauthorized use.

Besides urging Pakistan to strengthen security where its weapons are stored and/or to disable its nuclear devices, the United States should be offering to help out by providing security equipment and guards. And regardless of the degree of cooperation between the two countries, American surveillance and intelligence efforts should be aimed at independently keeping track of the Pakistani arsenal.

To guard against the worst possibility — Pakistani weapons in the hands of our enemies — America should have plans ready to provide security without Pakistan's permission, if emergency circumstances dictate, and even to take Pakistan's weapons out of the country if the need arises. Special operations forces in the region should be kept on high alert for quick, covert incursions to disable or even relocate the weapons to prevent their capture by unauthorized people. Nuclear emergency search teams, which are trained in bomb detection and dismantling, should be ready to accompany such military operations. The teams, some from Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, know the basic design of Pakistani weapons from defectors' reports and could devise disabling procedures on the spot.

An even better idea might be to get American and Russian military-civilian bomb response teams together to conduct search and disable missions in Central Asia — and perhaps in Russia itself in an emergency. The mutual benefits would be considerable, and joint operations to protect everyone against nuclear terror could have lasting positive effects on future United States- Russian cooperation.

Obviously, the elimination of nuclear weapons would not eliminate terrorism. But just as obviously, the need for nuclear safety and security has never been clearer.

Second NRC Meeting on McGuire

Employee Advocate - – October 19, 2001

The second Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) meeting on the operating license renewal for McGuire Nuclear Station was held at on September 25, 2001, at 7 PM, in Huntersville, North Carolina. Both of these meetings, as well as the MOX fuel hearing, held earlier this year, were facilitated by Mr. Chip Cameron. He did an excellent job of ensuring that everyone had time to speak. He also answered the questions that could be answered as the meeting progressed.

The NRC staff repeated the presentation given a 1:30 PM. Brew Barron, McGuire Site Vice President, also repeated his presentation on behalf of Duke Power.

The license renewal would add another twenty years of operation to units one and two. The renewals would be effective in years 2021 and 2023. Without the renewals, the units would be decommissioned on these dates.

The speakers in favor of the license renewals spoke of the good Duke Power employees. They trusted them, because they were “real people” and were their neighbors. They spoke of the money that Duke Power brings to the area. They talked of the involvement of Duke’s employees with their communities. It was mentioned that wildlife flourishes around the McGuire plant. One speaker liked risk, as long as it generated profits.

Don Moniak, Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League Organizer, was back for the second meeting with a new presentation. He commented that with all the talk about Duke Power being a good neighbor, it should be noted that a good neighbor should tell the truth. He said that when the company was asked if their reactors could withstand an intentional crash from a jetliner, Duke Power did not give a straightforward answer. He said that if the company had explained that their reactors were not designed to withstand such an attack, because it was not a NRC requirement, that would have been acceptable. But instead, the company implied that the reactors could withstand the attack and that Duke tried to give the impression that they were prepared for any emergency.

Mr. Moniak also brought up the need for nuclear plants to be located in isolated areas. He said the research he did on Duke’s operating record placed them in about the middle of the nuclear group. If the company is interested in nuclear safety, why did it initially form an alliance with Commonwealth Edison, in search of plutonium fuel contracts? It was pointed out that ComEd has a miserable operating record.

Mr. Moniak expressed concern about the ice condenser emergency cooling system. He noted the significant problems that Watts Bar and D. C. Cook nuclear plants have had with these systems.

Another speaker had concerns about neutron bombardment of the reactor vessel creating a brittle condition, making it subject to failure. He cited documents that state that the NRC does not have to analyze all of the design information that nuclear plants submit to them. He said that the NRC could deem that the information submitted was correct and that no one could challenge that determination. It was mentioned that the press refers to the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League as an anti-nuclear group. He maintained that this was not true. He said that The Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League is investigating the advantages of nuclear power; “We are still looking.”

Donna Lisenby, Catawba Riverkeeper, gave a detailed account of the negative effects that McGuire has brought upon the river. She mentioned how thermal shock detrimentally affects aquatic life. She said that if McGuire had cooling towers, as the Catawba plant does, the discharge water would not be as hot, and would not be as disruptive to the life in the water. Many creatures rely on the water temperature to know when to reproduce. The hot water discharged disrupts the natural reproductive cycles. Ms. Lisenby believes that the cumulative temperature effects on Lake Norman should be considered by the NRC. She said that Marshal Steam Station also adds hot water to the lake.

Ms. Lisenby does not just sit around and conjure up these concerns about the river. She measures the temperatures at the intakes and discharges of the various power plants on the river. She does not have to rely on reports or obscure documents for information. She knows exactly what the temperatures are at specific locations at specific times. She said the plant's discharge permit exempts it from state limits on hot-water discharges. The hot water discharged has a lethal effect on some aquatic life.

The next speaker was a lady concerned about the use of mixed oxide nuclear fuel (MOX). She felt that it was unnecessary to expose the community to the extra risk of bringing plutonium into the area. She was also concerned about the over-development of the areas around the Catawba and McGuire plants. She was also skeptical of the Duke Power spokespeople who implied that a plane crash into a nuclear plant would cause no damage. She doubted the veracity of their claims that they “were prepared for any emergency.”

One speaker was so concerned about the various nuclear issues that he visited McGuire, talked to Brew Barron, and toured the plant. He said he thought that all of the Duke Power personnel that he talked to really believed that they were telling him the truth. He did express doubts that Duke Power’s upper management were telling the employees the full truth. He expressed doubts that the public is being told the full truth. He said that many of the nuclear news storied do not seem to get coverage in this area. He was concerned about Duke’s lobbying for less restrictive clear air laws. He said this really shook his confidence in Duke Power. He felt that the company should spend money on cleaning up air pollution, not on lobbying for weaker pollution laws.

He was also concerned about how Duke’s spokespeople were dismissing the threat of terrorists attacks upon a nuclear reactor. He noticed that they were vague when talking about reactor wall thickness: sometimes three feet, sometimes four feet, sometimes "several" feet thick. They seemed to vacillate on this point, but implied indestructibility. He wanted to know if the spent fuel was protected by all this concrete, or was the fuel located somewhere else. He wanted to know if some of it was just sitting around in a yard. (Spent fuel is not stored in the reactor building and the overflow is stored in a yard.) The speaker had no nuclear background, but recognized the discrepancies in some of the spokespeople’s stories. He doubted all the hype that the reactor shell could not be cracked by an airplane, and wondered what would happen if terrorists just decided to crash into the control room. He had seen nuclear plants in Europe, and said that they were located in isolated areas. He questioned the prudence of the over-development of this area.

He was also disturbed about the proposed use of MOX fuel. He felt MOX should only be used in a state-of-the-art reactor. He was also concerned about the evacuation process in the event of a nuclear accident.

One speaker, a Charlotte, North Carolina resident, had attended a MOX fuel meeting. He said that all the physicists and scientists were against the use of plutonium fuel in power plants. He said that he kept waiting for someone from Duke Power to present their side. No one ever did. He was told that Duke was issued an invitation to speak, but had declined to attend.

He was concerned about Duke Power losing control of the lake, because of selling so much property. He wondered if Duke was keeping the commitments made while obtaining permission to create the lake. He was told that an agency other than the NRC handled that area. He was told that the NRC had not exempted Duke from any commitments made to other federal agencies.

He had questions about who would be responsible for the safe shipment of plutonium and MOX fuel across the United States. He had been told that the government was responsible for shipping the plutonium to the fuel plant. The government was responsible for shipping the MOX fuel to Catawba and McGuire. Duke would get the MOX fuel at reduced rates. They would also be reimbursed for plant modifications to burn MOX fuel. He said that it seemed that Duke was reaping all the benefits of the situation, but taking zero responsibility for anything.

He had problems trusting a process that allowed the government to spend millions of taxpayer’s dollars, before MOX fuel use had even been approved. He echoed some of the other speaker comments by stating that he did not doubt the sincerity, hard work, and safety efforts of Duke Power employees. He did have doubts about the relationship between Duke and the government agencies. He also had doubts about the people overseeing Duke Energy.

Those who spoke in favor of re-licensing the plants brought up mainly “feel good” issues: money to the area, they knew the employees, employees were good citizens and helped the schools, etc. Often, they had a financial interest in Duke Power.

Those who questioned the prudence of re-licensing, did not question any of the above. But the “warm fuzzy” issues used to justify re-licensing did not allay their concerns. They had real concerns about specific issues. Everyone said that they trusted Duke employees. Several indicated that they did not trust higher Duke management. If the employees worked for another firm, would they suddenly become bad citizens? Will donating pencils to schools stop a plutonium truck from being hijacked?

As was expected, the two groups were light years apart in their thinking. But no one expected the meeting to be a love-in.

Environmental meetings for Catawba Nuclear Station are scheduled October 23, 2001.

First NRC Meeting on McGuire

Nuclear Plants Targets for Terrorism

Nuclear - Page Eleven