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Nuclear -     1 - Duke Energy Employee Advocate

Nuclear - Page Thirteen

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

Nuclear Security a Worry

The Charlotte Observer – by Bruce Henderson – November 3, 2001

U. N. group concerned about lengths to which terrorists might go

After U.S. agencies increased security this week around nuclear power plants - including two near Charlotte - an international watchdog agency Thursday underscored the potential for terrorists to target nuclear facilities and materials.

"The willingness of terrorists to commit suicide to achieve their evil aims makes the nuclear terrorism threat far more likely than it was before September 11," said Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The U.N. agency, based in Vienna, Austria, sets worldwide standards for nuclear security. As the nuclear industry and its critics debate the ability of the power plants to survive a deliberate jetliner crash, the IAEA described threats from radioactive materials in everyday use.

It is highly unlikely terrorists could obtain enough material to make a nuclear bomb, the agency said. But saboteurs could try to steal radioactive materials used in industry or medicine and spread them around. In North Carolina, the 650 universities, industries and hospitals licensed to use radioactive materials have been asked to step up security, said the N.C. Division of Radiation Protection.

Director Mel Fry said he knows of no material that has been lost, although record-keeping errors are sometimes found.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission says security teams at Duke Power's McGuire and Catawba nuclear plants near Charlotte successfully defended their facility during terrorism exercises in 1995 and 1997.

Industry critics aren't reassured by stepped-up security at nuclear plants. The Nuclear Control Institute in Washington says anti-aircraft guns and the National Guard should be in place.

Carolinas governors say they don't plan to call up the Guard.

"If you're dealing with terrorists with some creative thinking, they're not going to be stopped" by current measures, said Jess Riley of Charlotte. The retired chemist and physicist headed a group that opposed the construction of the Catawba and McGuire nuclear plants.

Riley and other critics say the design of Catawba and McGuire makes them especially vulnerable to terrorists and nuclear accidents. Duke says they're wrong.

Those plants, unlike most, rely on ice beds to condense and contain radioactive steam that could escape a damaged reactor.

The ice lines the inside of a steel shell of 3/4-inch steel. An outer shell, of heavily reinforced concrete 3 feet thick, serves as a shield from outside impacts, such as tornadoes or projectiles.

Critics say such designs are fragile compared with those at most other sites, including Duke's Oconee plant near Seneca, S.C.

Oconee uses a single, larger containment structure of 3-foot-thick concrete lined with steel to protect the reactor. It absorbs both internal pressure and outside impact.

Catawba and McGuire are built to withstand as much impact as Oconee, Duke says.

What isn't known is what would happen if the long, hard shaft of a jetliner engine punched into any nuclear plant. The NRC and the IAEA say the plants are among the strongest structures in the world but weren't designed to take such a blow. Detailed analyses haven't been performed.

Physicist Edwin Lyman of the Nuclear Control Institute calculated that a Boeing 767 would have a high likelihood of penetrating the containment structures of most U.S. plants.

A 1982 study by the Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory said a jetliner could begin to pierce a containment structure under the right conditions. Using that study as a basis, Duke calculated that its plants would not release dangerous amounts of radioactive material after such a crash.

"You can't say there wouldn't be any damage, but you would have to do damage to so many different things to result in a radioactive release," said Duncan Brewer, who heads a Duke unit that assesses risks to nuclear plants.

Spent nuclear fuel poses a larger risk than do reactors, said a nuclear scientist with a Cambridge, Mass., think tank. Gordon Thompson of the Institute for Resource and Security Studies said loss of water that cools highly radioactive spent fuel could result in fires that release 10 to 20 times as much radioactivity as a reactor accident.

Orange County hired Thompson when CP&L sought permission to open new pools at its Shearon Harris nuclear plant near Raleigh.

"The consequence would be greater and the spent fuel itself is more vulnerable," he said.

The NRC says that, with a loss of cooling water, spent fuel and the zirconium coating on fuel rods can get hot enough to catch fire. But that assumes the water boils away from thick-walled pools, and backup systems fail.

"That's not considered to be a very likely or credible scenario," spokesman Victor Dricks said.

Nuclear Plants Near Charlotte Add to Patrols

The Charlotte Observer – by Scott Dodd – November 2, 2001

Alert raises questions on adequate security, evacuation logistics

The two nuclear power plants within sight of Charlotte's bank towers ramped up security precautions another notch this week, with local police and state troopers patrolling fences and providing extra guards at checkpoints.

The measures are designed to provide a show of force, help repel a ground attack and reassure the public after an FBI warning that terrorists may be planning another strike in the United States this week.

"We and local law enforcement are doing everything we can without knowing exactly what we're guarding against," said Duke Power spokeswoman Becky McSwain.

But the alert raised fresh questions about whether the nation's 103 nuclear reactors are protected adequately against a terrorist attack - and how quickly the Charlotte area could be evacuated in the unlikely event of a disaster.

Authorities say they have no knowledge any of the nation's plants are at risk. Nevertheless, federal authorities on Tuesday ordered private planes to stay away from nuclear facilities.

And the Nuclear Regulatory Commission told plants to supplement their perimeter security with police and National Guard units, if necessary.

Evidence of tighter security could be seen Wednesday at both Charlotte-area plants operated by Duke Power. A concrete barrier replaced a wall of orange cones at the Catawba nuclear power plant on Lake Wylie near Rock Hill, and police stopped each car entering the plant to check identification.

Guards at the McGuire nuclear power plant on Lake Norman north of Charlotte shined a giant spotlight on cars that passed by at night.

The governors of both Carolinas said they don't plan to call up National Guard troops to bolster plant security. "Most of the nuclear power plants have their own security and are very safe facilities," said N.C. Gov. Mike Easley. The N.C. House tentatively approved legislation Wednesday authorizing Easley to spend nearly $2million and borrow as much as $30million from the state "rainy day" fund for new anti-terrorism training programs and equipment.

State emergency management director Eric Tolbert said the nuclear power plants are better prepared for an attack than most facilities in North Carolina, partly because federal regulations require them to test security and response measures every two years.

Not all the news Wednesday was reassuring, however.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission said that despite assurances from plant operators, the agency isn't sure a nuclear reactor could withstand a commercial jet crash without releasing harmful amounts of radiation.

Officials are studying the full impact of a deliberate jet crash, but "we're not talking about a Chernobyl-type disaster," NRC spokesman Victor Dricks said.

An N.C. State University expert on nuclear plant construction believes a radiation release is highly unlikely.

Dr. Ajaya Gupta, founding director of the university's Center for Nuclear Power Plant Structures, said a jet crash would cause considerable damage to the plant's containment structure but not to the reactor inside.

Gupta said the containment's thick concrete and reinforcing steel would absorb much of the impact, while any fire would be confined outside the structure.

"They were not designed for a commercial jetliner being used as a missile, but they are designed to be very strong," Duke's McSwain said of the Charlotte-area plants. "We believe it would be very difficult for that scenario to release radioactivity in amounts large enough to harm the public."

The new alert has also renewed concerns about how to quickly evacuate the thousands of people who live in the fast-growing areas near the Charlotte region's plants.

"There'd be so much gridlock," said Rep. Beverly Earle, D-Mecklenburg, who worries about the narrow, two-lane roads that serve many of the new subdivisions.

About 265,000 people live within 10 miles of the McGuire and Catawba plants, an Observer analysis of recent U.S. Census data shows. The evacuation zones include some of the fastest-growing communities in both Carolinas. Many of the new residents live in homes developed by Duke Power's sister company, Crescent Resources, making Duke Energy the only U.S. nuclear plant operator to build subdivisions in its own evacuation zone.

Some local officials estimate that it could take as long as 24 hours to evacuate everyone from the 10-mile emergency zone around the McGuire plant.

But a study conducted by Duke-hired consultants last year disagrees, saying everyone would be evacuated in eight hours.

"I feel confident that we could get everybody out," said Jerry Wilson, Mecklenburg County's nuclear emergency planner. Evacuation plans are updated annually to take the growing population into account, he said.

Many people who live near the plants believe the risks are low.

"I don't have anything to fear," said Lake Norman resident Brad Deal. "There are enough safeguards."

For others, however, the FBI warning has renewed concerns.

"We're in the hot zone," said Richard Haynes, who has watched extra police cars headed to the Catawba station this week. If something bad happened, "I wouldn't stand a chance."

Former U.S. Ambassador Mark Erwin of Charlotte criticized the NRC recently for not doing enough to ensure plant security. He said National Guard troops and surface-to-air missiles should protect the reactors.

"Charlotte is a dead city" if terrorists manage to attack one of the nearby plants, he said. Duke and local emergency planners say security is tight, however, and officials are prepared to deal with any threats. "We have good, solid, tested plans, and I think security is more than adequate right now," said Cotton Howell, York County's emergency management director. "I have all the confidence in the world in the security professionals at Duke. I work with them every day."

Officials stress that because of the type of fuel used in nuclear reactors, they can't explode.

The worst kind of nuclear plant accident - which has never happened in the United States - would release enough radiation within a 10-mile radius to pose a potential cancer risk for humans.

"It's not like a nuclear bomb," said Wilson with Mecklenburg County. "It's not going to blow up in a mushroom cloud."

staff writers Bruce Henderson, Mark Johnson, Peter Smolowitz and Shirley Hunter Moore contributed

Congress, Take Hint From FAA

Public Citizen – Press Release – November 2, 2001

Flight Ban Underscores Dangers of Nuclear Power Plants

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Flight restrictions around nuclear power plants imposed this week by the federal government underscore how dangerous the plants are and serve as further proof that nuclear power plants should not be relicensed and new plants should not be built, Public Citizen said today.

On Tuesday, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) prohibited all general aviation flights within 10 miles of, and lower than 18,000 feet above, the nation's commercial nuclear power plants and other nuclear facilities, for reasons of national security. Such concern is not unwarranted; a disciple of Osama bin Laden being held in Afghanistan by the Northern Alliance was quoted in The Washington Post this week as saying that the terrorists who struck America on Sept. 11 should have targeted a nuclear plant.

But while the FAA apparently recognizes the threat posed by nuclear plants, others in government are continuing efforts to expand and subsidize the nuclear industry. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is still working toward relicensing nuclear plants, and congressional lawmakers are continuing to push a measure that would require taxpayers pay the majority of the costs in the event of a nuclear accident.

"Since Sept. 11, the public has been seeking assurances that nuclear power plants will not be the next, and incredibly devastating, targets of terrorist attacks," said Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program. "Yet astonishingly, even in the midst of a seemingly interminable series of heightened alerts, federal policymakers are acting to enrich the target environment for terrorists by taking steps to build new nuclear plants and extend the lives of old ones."

Nuclear power plants were originally licensed to operate for 40 years. Relicensing allows them to operate for another 20. In the weeks since Sept. 11, the NRC has forged ahead with the process of renewing licenses for reactors at several nuclear power plants. (The plants are Edwin E. Hatch, located northwest of Savannah, Ga.; Turkey Point, located northeast of Miami, Fla.; Surry, located near Williamsburg, Va.; North Anna, located northwest of Richmond, Va.; Catawba, in South Carolina, just south of Charlotte, N.C.; McGuire, located west of Charlotte, N.C.; and Peach Bottom, located west of Philadelphia.) Ultimately, perhaps as many as two-thirds of the nation's 103 operating reactors could be granted extensions through the NRC's pro forma relicensing procedure.

"It's often said that September 11 changed everything," Hauter said. "But not for the NRC, which is continuing business as usual. For the agency to just keep moving along on these license renewal applications is irresponsible and bizarre."

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved H.R. 2983, which reauthorizes the Price-Anderson Act. That act provides government-backed indemnification for the nuclear power industry in the event of any nuclear power accident. This will ensure that most of the cost of a nuclear plant accident would be paid for by taxpayers, not the nuclear power industry.

The bill's supporters say it is crucial for the construction of new nuclear power plants - evidence that the government wants to shield the industry from competitive market forces and effectively pave the way for the construction of new plants.

"The construction of new nuclear power plants is out of step with public sentiment, particularly now," Hauter said. "It's also unnecessary and incomprehensible. Really, what are these people thinking?"

Air Traffic Banned Over Nuclear Sites

Employee Advocate - – October 31, 2001

The Associated Press has announced that The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)temporarily banned private planes from flying near nuclear power plants. This ban came after Attorney General John Ashcroft warned of possible new terrorist attacks. The ban involves 86 nuclear plants.

All of Duke Energy’s nuclear plants in North and South Carolina are affected (McGuire, Catawba, and Oconee). Two airports were closed in South Carolina, due to their close proximity to Duke Energy’s Oconee Nuclear Station.

Duke’s spokespeople have been “whistling in the dark,” and claiming that airplanes are no threat to nuclear plants. Evidently the FAA did not buy their line.

Terrorism and Refueling Outages

Employee Advocate - – October 30, 2001

An employee has raised the question of how will terrorist be screened when so many temporary workers are hired for refueling outages? That is an excellent question.

What deterrent is a security force when one has a ticket waltz right past them and go into the plant? And usually, another unit (or two) is operating at full power.

When low price is the driving force in hiring temporary help, the niceties, such as rigorous background checks, can fall through the cracks. There are power outages going on somewhere in the United States as almost any time. The terrorists can pick and choose their targets.

What would the terrorist do once inside a nuclear plant? Consider this: They brought down two tall buildings, damaged the Pentagon, crashed four jetliners, and killed thousands of Americans by brandishing only a few box cutters. These people are resourceful. Odds are that they would find a way to take full advantage of the situation.

For those who think that the above may put ideas in someone’s head, it is not a valid concern. These people do not have to wait for someone to feed them ideas. It is obvious that the terrorist responsible for the attack on America are not chumps. They are intelligent and cunning. They have left no stone unturned. There is little that anyone can imagine, that they are not already well aware of.

Moving Plutonium Creates Target for Terrorists

The Greenville News - by J. Hammond, T. Smith – October 29, 2001

Gov. Jim Hodges on Friday accused the U.S. Department of Energy of "creating a new target for terrorism" as it packages plutonium for shipment at Rocky Flats, Colorado, in anticipation of sending the deadly weapons material to South Carolina.

"DOE should not be gambling with the safety and welfare of our citizens. Given the risks of terrorism, this is not the time to be moving highly radioactive material across the nation's highways. Given the lack of a disposition plan to process the highly dangerous material, it makes no sense for plutonium to be dumped indefinitely in South Carolina," Hodges wrote to Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham.

DOE spokesman Joe Davis said Abraham would respond officially to Hodges' letter.

But he added that DOE has not changed its position.

"We have consistently maintained that we have an agreement that we would let the state of South Carolina know if we intend to transport materials. We have continued with our packaging operations at Rocky Flats in preparation for transport, but we are not close to shipment," Davis said. "We will abide by our agreement, and try to get resolution of the plutonium issues at Savannah River Site," Davis said. Hodges is renewing his public opposition to the plutonium shipments after a hiatus caused by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on Washington and New York. He cited reports that DOE intends to immediately begin loading plutonium onto trucks at Rocky Flats for transportation to South Carolina. His previous opposition was based primarily upon suspicions that the Bush Administration wanted to abandon a Clinton Administration pledge to build plutonium disposal facilities — and create new jobs — at SRS. But Hodges now sees a new danger in the shipments. He wrote to Abraham that merely moving the material represented an unacceptable risk in the wake of the terrorist attacks. "DOE is pursuing a reckless policy that could endanger the lives and citizens in as many as 20 states. By trucking this volatile material across the thousands of miles of America's highways, you are creating a new target for terrorism," Hodges wrote.

Hodges cited assurances by Undersecretary Robert Card on August 27 that the plutonium would not be moved until DOE and South Carolina leaders agreed upon "a clear exit strategy" to ensure the plutonium is either converted to commercial nuclear fuel or immobilized for future permanent burial.

"Preparations to ship plutonium suggests Undersecretary Card and other member of your staff are not acting in good faith on their promises to South Carolina," Hodges wrote.

On August 23, Card abruptly ended talks with Gov. Hodges' representatives, saying their discussions were fruitless so long as Hodges threatened to use Highway Patrol Troopers to block the plutonium shipments to South Carolina.

On August 24, Card met in Washington with House Speaker David Wilkins and Lt. Gov. Bob Peeler, and told them DOE would suspend the plutonium shipments until state and federal officials agreed upon a long-term strategy for plutonium disposal that was acceptable to all sides.

DOE previously had said it hoped to start the shipments by mid-October.

Meanwhile Friday, SRS officials, who have been largely mum on security measures at the complex since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, acknowledged they have shut down public access to their computer web site and increased security checkpoints.

Bill Taylor, a DOE spokesman at SRS, said the site also had created vehicle-free zones around some buildings, added security personnel and increased briefings with state and federal law enforcement agencies. He said he could not provide any further details about the security changes.

The web site did not contain classified data, Taylor said, but did contain general information about what goes on at the complex and a map of the facility.

SRS is expected to share in some of the $40 billion in emergency aid approved by Congress following the Sept. 11 attacks, Taylor said, to help pay for added security measures. He said he did not know how much money SRS would receive.

SRS now uses about 700 private security personnel. A report earlier this month by a Washington-based government watchdog group criticized the security system at SRS and nine other nuclear weapons sites, saying the job of protecting the materials should be handed to military units.

Citizens Glad They Vetoed Nuclear Waste

Employee Advocate - – October 26, 2001

Over a decade ago, there was a big push for a nuclear waste dump in Edgecombe County, North Carolina. The local politicians were all in favor of the money it would bring. Even then-Governor Jim Martin got into the act, trying to sell the idea.

The politicians were telling the people how safe the dump would be. The citizens did not buy it.

Over 3,000 citizens protested the idea at two public hearings. They were able to veto the proposed nuclear dump.

In 1999, Hurricane Floyd hit Edgecombe County, causing much flood damage. Human waste, gasoline, dead hogs and birds were floating through the area.

The citizens did have on thing to be glad about: They did NOT have a radioactive waste dump to contend with!

The moral of this story is: Do not believe everything that politicians and corporate officials tell you. If their line smells fishy, it just may be. There is usually money in the deal for them. Who knows what is in the deal for the citizens?

And, what ever happened to ex-Governor Martin? He left “public” politics, and slid into the Duke Energy board room.

Read The Charlotte Observer’s article by clicking the link below:

A Disaster Not Waiting to Happen

MOX Under Fire at Catawba NRC Meeting – October 25, 2001

Rock Hill, S.C. -- With more attention on nuclear plant safety after the attacks on America, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is deciding whether to renew the license of the Catawba Nuclear Station. At a meeting in Rock Hill last night, several people expressed concern that future plans could make the plant a target for terrorism.

The power plant on Lake Wylie and another Duke nuclear plant on Lake Norman could become the first in the nation to use weapons grade plutonium in a fuel known as mix-oxide fuel or MOX.

“If one were to think what would happen if an airplane was flown into this plant operating under MOX, it would be horrendous, catastrophic for this area,” said Ed Fitzgerald with the South Carolina Sierra Club.

“[The fuel’s] purpose is to take it from being a weapon, or other way of getting into the wrong hands, and putting it into a peaceful use,” said Becky McSwain with Duke Power.

The use of plutonium is still far from approval, which could take at least another year-and-a-half. Under the Department of Energy plan in 2007, plutonium fuel would travel by truck or train from Aiken, S.C. to the Charlotte area.

York County’s Emergency Management Director says it is the transportation of the material that concerns him more than what happens once it is on site.

Nuclear - Page Twelve