Nuclear -   32
Nuclear -   32
www.DukeEmployees.com - Duke Energy Employee Advocate
Nuclear - Page 22
- The Charlotte Observer
Nuclear Plants Not Designed to Stop JetlinersWall Street Journal – by John J. Fialka - July 9, 2002
(7/3/02) - PEACH BOTTOM TOWNSHIP, Pa. -- At the sprawling nuclear-power facility here, 65 miles southwest of Philadelphia, new signs posted in the Susquehanna River warn boaters to stay away. A former parking lot has been converted into a winding driveway that forces cars and trucks to slow as they approach the plant. The National Guard and state-police units that Pennsylvania sent to protect the plant after Sept. 11 are still around.
Inside, at the end of his daily shift, security guard Jeff Johnson, a 35-year-old ex-Marine, sits down to play a serious board game that he says is "like chess." It's supposed to hone the ability of plant guards to assess and defend against an attack. It has red markers that represent terrorists and yellow markers that represent security guards, and a multilevel board that shows the floor plan of the Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station.
The game, the signs in the river and the curving driveway are among the ad hoc measures that owners of the 103 commercial nuclear-power reactors operating in the U.S. have been forced to take to deal with the threat of terrorist attacks since Sept. 11. They have hired more guards and moved security devices and patrols out beyond their usual perimeters. They have bought tons of so-called Jersey barriers, or large cement curbs, to keep vehicles from ramming through fences and gates. They have installed portable lights and cut down trees to give guards better firing angles.
The U.S. has made broad changes in the way it monitors air travelers and polices its borders. But there is no unified plan to improve security at nuclear-power plants, which provide 20% of the country's electricity and could unleash far-reaching safety and health problems if damaged. Instead, there are disagreements about nearly every aspect of nuclear-plant security.
The Nuclear Energy Institute, which represents the industry, says it is better protected than most of the nation's commercial infrastructure. The industry is resisting efforts to federalize the security force at plants. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which regulates the industry, wants to upgrade plant security, but it needs help from Congress, where there are deep, partisan splits over legal changes that might help. The White House's Office of Homeland Defense is studying the matter, but it doesn't expect to have a plan until October.
Some basic questions about the government's role in safeguarding these sensitive sites remain unanswered. "Where are the lines?" asks Roy P. Zimmerman, director of the NRC's Office of Nuclear Security and Incident Response, set up in April. "Where is it that the utility has responsibility, and where is . . . the responsibility for various levels of government?"
Tom Ridge, the head of President Bush's Homeland Security Office, said recently that he plans to give the president a "national strategy" on how to deal with the security vulnerabilities of U.S. industries this month and a more-detailed plan later.
An official in Mr. Ridge's office explained that the more-detailed plan expected by October will give plant owners a better sense of what they should do and what government help to expect at various points in a new four-stage terrorist alert system the office is developing. The plants remain on the high-alert status set by the NRC after Sept. 11. Meanwhile, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is worried that some kind of terrorist attack could happen tomorrow to mar July 4 celebrations.
Amid the debates, nuclear-plant owners are working with the NRC to wrestle with such questions as: What is the real vulnerability of nuclear plants? How does the industry deal with local laws that limit the use of weapons? What type of attack might terrorists mount and what size force would be needed to deal with it? Some of the answers are unsettling.
Peter Stockton, a former security analyst for the Energy Department who currently works for the Project on Government Oversight, a Washington advocacy group, recalls an NRC exercise several years ago in which a team playing enemy attackers got into a nuclear facility, planted mock explosives and then left without being detected. David N. Orrik, a former Navy SEAL who runs such tests for the NRC, recently told a House Commerce subcommittee that in 81 tests the NRC has staged since 1991, attackers in 37 got to parts of the plant where a real act of sabotage could have led "in many cases to a probable radioactive release." He said the industry's 46% failure rate hadn't improved before Sept. 11. The tests were canceled after that date because they would have interfered with the high-alert status of the guards.
"The facts speak for themselves," says Senate Majority Whip Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat. "You're talking about a 50% failure rate."
Richard A. Meserve, the NRC's chairman, says the results of the agency's tests overstate the failure rate because the attackers have far more knowledge of a plant's defenses than a real attacking force would. The tests, he said, also don't take into account many actions that plant engineers can take to nullify or minimize the results of an act of sabotage. For example, officials at Peach Bottom say they could minimize the damage from some types of attack by performing a "scram," which shuts down the reactors within five seconds.
The NRC acknowledges that different rules and laws around the country are hobbling efforts to ensure uniform protection for plants. The commission has long worried that differing laws in the 31 states that have nuclear plants weaken guards' ability to use their weapons.
At most plants, local laws prevent the use of automatic weapons and shoot-to-kill policies that the mostly private-sector guards have at nuclear-weapons facilities run by the Department of Energy. In some states, there could be criminal liability if guards shoot to protect private property. In a few states, laws limit guards' firepower to pistols and shotguns.
Some companies also interpret the same laws in different ways. Victor Gilinsky, a former NRC commissioner who began exploring nuclear security in the 1970s, recalls visiting a facility at that time where the company handed out cards reminding guards of their liability if they shoot an intruder. At another, he recalls, the thrust of the training appeared to be "shoot anything that moves." NRC regulators began asking Congress for a uniform federal shoot-to-kill law 15 years ago, with little response from Capitol Hill.
The possibility of aerial attacks raises other defensive problems. Nuclear plants are designed to provide protection against violent storms, earthquakes, equipment malfunctions, operator error and even the crashes of small aircraft. But the NRC fears that their massive containment domes may not be strong enough to withstand the impact of a large, fuel-laden airliner such as those used by the hijackers at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The NRC's Mr. Meserve says the agency has begun a major study of the issue, the details of which are secret.
Yucca Mountain Earthquake Data SoughtPublic Citizen – Press Release – July 4, 2002
Assess Impact of Recent Earthquake Near Yucca Mountain
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Citing the "curious" nature of the Department of Energy's rapid determination that a June 14 earthquake did no damage to facilities at the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump project, Public Citizen filed a Freedom of Information request with the DOE to obtain all of the documents related to that assessment.
"How could the DOE have assessed that no damage was done to the entire compound within several hours of the earthquake?" said Tyson Slocum, research director with Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program (CMEEP). "Since Yucca Mountain sits on one of the most seismically active areas in the U.S., we need to make sure that the government is taking the time to review every nook and cranny to ensure that safety is not being compromised."
The DOE issued a press release the same day as the earthquake, stating "there was no damage to any Yucca Mountain Project facilities, structures or the underground Exploratory Studies Facilities."
"This rush to judgment is symptomatic of the larger problems with the DOE's Yucca Mountain proposal," said Lisa Gue, policy analyst with CMEEP. "The site recommendation, soon to be voted on by the Senate, is dangerously premature at best."
Opponents of the Yucca Mountain proposal have long argued that a nuclear waste dump should not be located in an earthquake zone due to the potential danger of high-level radioactive waste leaking into the surrounding environment. In 1996, an earthquake near Yucca Mountain caused nearly $1 million dollars in damages to the Yucca Mountain Project facilities. In addition, the General Accounting Office found 293 unresolved scientific and technical issues with DOE's repository proposal, and the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board has called the technical basis for the proposal "weak to moderate."
The Senate is expected to vote on the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump early next week. The U.S. House of Representatives voted in favor of the dump in May.
NukePills.com To The RescueAssociated Press – July 3, 2002
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - State health officials said Friday they have requested enough potassium iodide tablets for people living within the 10-mile emergency zone of four nuclear power plants.
Potassium iodide is a nonprescription compound, most commonly found in table salt to help maintain thyroid function. In the event of radiation exposure, the compound taken at the proper doseage and time can reduce the thyroid gland's uptake of radioactive iodine and reduce the risk of thyroid cancer.
The decision to request potassium iodide came after a review of the issue by a committee of experts from the state Departments of Health and Human Services, Crime Control and Public Safety and Environment and Natural Resources.
A bioterrorism bill President Bush signed this month requires potassium iodide to be available to all residents living near nuclear power plants.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission last month began offering the pills to the 33 states with nuclear reactors. The NRC has said pills will be shipped to a state within 45 days of receiving a request.
``There are good data, especially from post-Chernobyl research, that provide sound scientific reasons for including potassium iodide as a preventive public health measure'' if radiation is released from a nuclear power plant, said Dr. Greg Smith, a medical epidemiologist who chaired the committee.
Smith cautioned the public that the pill isn't magic and provides protection from only one type of radiation.
``It does not provide protect against whole body irradiation or other radioactive elements that could result from a nuclear power plant release.''
Smith said the best protection is orderly evacuation.
Jim Warren of the nuclear watchdog group NC WARN, said the pills were a good step but he called on power plants to harden nuclear waste pools to make them safer.
``It's a good move, but they're correct in saying it's not a cure-all,'' Warren said.
The state has asked for 750,000 doses of potassium iodide, which amounts to two pills per person. The pills will be distributed to people who live and work within 10 miles of the Brunswick and Harris power plants owned by Carolina Power and Light Co. and Duke Power's McGuire and Catawba Power Stations.
Officials still are working on the details of distributing the pills.
Nine states _ Alabama, Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont _ requested a total of 3.7 million tablets. Residents near power plants in New York and New Jersey also will be offered the pills.
The pills are available without a prescription at about $1 per pill.
One supplier of the pills is a North Carolina company, NukePills.com. The government bought pills from the company after threats of radiation releasing ``dirty bombs'' were discovered.
Weakening Nuclear Transportation RulesPublic Citizen – Press Release – June 27, 2002
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) proposed changes to safety standards for transporting radioactive material would endanger public health and safety, groups opposing nuclear waste shipments to Nevada's Yucca Mountain repository said today. The NRC held a public meeting on proposed changes to 10 CFR 71 at its Rockville, Md., headquarters this week. The changes are an attempt to "harmonize" U.S. regulations with weaker international standards. The Department of Transportation (DOT) also is proposing a parallel harmonization rulemaking.
"This is nuclear shipment safety as written by nuclear industry lobbyists - not government safety officials," said Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group.
While the proposed rollback threatens protections for many types of radioactive shipments, it could have a spillover effect on standards for transporting high-level nuclear waste and irradiated fuel from commercial nuclear power plants - just as the nuclear industry is pushing a shipment plant of unprecedented magnitude to the Yucca Mountain repository in Nevada. In particular, proposed changes would weaken reporting requirements of events involving defective or shoddy high-level nuclear waste transport containers, and allow the nuclear industry to make design changes to licensed containers without prior NRC approval.
"The NRC admits that there is no quantitative data which would conclusively show that harmonization improves public safety," said Bob Halstead, transportation advisor to the Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects. "We are particularly concerned about NRC's proposal to weaken the containment standards for plutonium waste shipments to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) facility in New Mexico."
International standards also feature more lenient submersion test requirements for high-level nuclear waste shipping canisters and specify allowable levels of contamination on shipments - although the NRC is not currently proposing to adopt these changes.
"This proposed rulemaking fails to address any of our longstanding concerns about the inadequacies of regulatory standards governing irradiated fuel shipments," said Lisa Gue, policy analyst with Public Citizen. "It does not even consider the specific implications of this administration's plan to ship an unprecedented 77,000 tons of high-level nuclear waste on the roads, rails and waterways of 44 states and the District of Columbia."
The International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA), established in 1957 to promote nuclear technology internationally, has encouraged its 130 member countries - including the United States - to adopt its international standards for nuclear waste transportation, disposal and release into commerce.
"This trend of invoking international standards as a justification for undermining more stringent domestic requirements does not bode well for NRC and DOT regulation of proposed nuclear waste repository shipments," Gue said.
Heelsplitter Verses Atom-SplitterEmployee Advocate – DukeEmployees.com – June 24, 2002
Two Nuclear Regulatory Commission meetings were held on June 12, 2002, concerning the license renewal of McGuire Nuclear Station. This is a report on the 7 PM meeting, held in Huntersville, North Carolina.
The meeting was hosted by Mr. Chip Cameron, NRC, who did an excellent job, as usual.
It was asked if insurance figures into the calculations of the cost of postulated accidents. It does not.
Duke executives have repeatedly stated that the MOX fuel issue would not be address by the NRC at this time. However, the NRC staff said that the issue has been added. As it turns out, Duke executives were not stating facts, but only wishful thinking on their part.
It was asked if potential terrorism will be addressed during this process. It will not be, although the NRC has set up an organization that will address this issue for all nuclear plant.
Mr. Brew Barron, site vice president of McGuire Nuclear Station, once again represented Duke Energy Corporation:
“Thank you Chip. Thanks for the opportunity. I just a few short remarks, if I may. I really want to start off by giving some recognition to the hard-working employees at McGuire and throughout Duke Energy that do work on McGuire. Over the past 21 years, it’s their hard work, dedication, and contributions that have made McGuire the safe, reliable, and world-class operating nuclear power plant that it is today. They are the folks that have done the hard work and were able to achieve the great results and really deserve all the credit.
“I would also like to thank the NRC. The agency has defined and codified and implemented a licenses renewal process which is both thorough and predictable. Reading through the results of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, the thoroughness and completeness with which the staff and the contractors have performed their work is very apparent. But just as importantly, they completed that work on or ahead of their initial estimated schedule. And then, from a business standpoint our ability to make timely and informed business decisions, that is also very important to us. The agency, both the commission itself and the staff are to be commended on doing very good work in that area. We are still reviewing the Draft EIS. Initially, it looks like we very much agree with the conclusions that have been reached. We do have our technical experts continuing to go through and record. And any comments that we have will be provide in writing on or before the requested date of August second.
“I guess the last group that I would like to address is the neighbors in the community. We appreciate the support that we have gotten at the facility over the past 21 years of operation. Being a good neighbor is very important to us at McGuire. The actions that we take to insure that the plant is operating safely, that it is reliable source of economical power to our customers is extremely important to us in every decision that we make day in and day out. It takes into account whatever we can do to minimize the environmental impact and any impact that it would have on the safety of the community. I thank the community for their support. And again, Chip thanks for the opportunity to speak.”
Mr. Barron presented a brief, clean, and unassailable speech. He simply thanked the employees, NRC, and community. Who can find fault with such a speech?
A speaker was concerned about the 9/11 implications of nuclear power. He was concerned about terrorism coupled with the population explosion around the nuclear plant. Instead of a few thousand people living around the plant when it was first licensed, there are now hundreds of thousands of people in the area. With the traffic jams now experienced, he could only imagine what an emergency evacuation would be like. He said that if he were a terrorist, he would make sure that there were a few accidents along the highway, just to make sure that no one got away. He asked a safety expert in Charlotte, North Carolina how long it would take to evacuate the area. He was told six hours – assuming the lakes were already clear, the schools were already clear, and all business offices were already clear. The speaker said that if a plane were crashed into the spent fuel building, we would not have hours and hours to evacuated. We would need to get out now. The sooner, the better. He wanted laws to prevent further building, if the area cannot be evacuated within two hours. He pointed out that the spent fuel building and dry casks contain much more radioactive material than what is enclosed in the reactor building. He was in favor of more concrete protecting the spent fuel and perhaps even barrage balloons anchored around the plant. The speaker maintained that the area is being made into a juicer and juicer target by the continued influx of new inhabitants. He wonders what the population will be like in 20 or 30 more years. He wants something visible and tangible done to prevent a disaster in the area.
The NRC staff said that one endangered species in the area is the Carolina heelsplitter. A mussel has this colorful name. A slide was shown of one, on its edge, buried partially in the mud. It is easy to visualize how the name came about.
The Snail Darter, a 3 inch fish, stopped construction of a mighty dam. What could the Carolina heelsplitter possibly do?
Nuclear Waste Conflict IntensifiesUSA TODAY – by Martin Kasindorf – June 23, 2002
(6/18/02) - Fear of nuclear terrorism is heating up a dispute concerning the safety of shipping radioactive cargo across the USA by road, rail and waterway.
With little fanfare, shipments of weapons-grade plutonium and spent nuclear fuel have been transported among government facilities and commercial power plants since the 1950s. Now, political showdowns and the arrest of a suspect in an alleged ''dirty bomb'' plot have forced the issue into public debate:
Senate action on the $57 billion Yucca Mountain storage site is expected before the July Fourth recess. As soon as 2010, waste destined for burial could start rolling through 45 states on guarded trains, trucks and barges. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham says the lethal waste would be safer in a single vault. Nevada officials say the risks in shipping are so fearsome that the waste is safer where it is now.
Scientific consultants hired in the dispute disagree over how hard it is to puncture the canisters that will carry the waste. But they agree that a release in a big city of radioactive cesium-137, the most dangerous component in fuel rods, would kill emergency personnel and cause long-term cancer fatalities.
''All you've got to do is say this nuclear cask has been attacked, and it doesn't matter whether it was successful or not, people are going to panic,'' says Robert Jefferson, an Albuquerque nuclear engineer and consultant who supports the Yucca Mountain project. Jefferson says that health effects from an attack would be ''very localized and pretty minimal.''
If a shipping cask had burned in the five-day fire that ravaged a Baltimore railway tunnel last July, cesium would have contaminated 32 square miles, says Robert Halstead, a consultant for Nevada. Failure to clean it up -- for $13.7 billion -- would ''cause 4,000 to 28,000 cancer deaths over the next 50 years.''
Such calculations are rattling Las Vegas, 100 miles southeast of Yucca Mountain. The city has made it a criminal offense to carry high-level nuclear wastes through town. Mayor Oscar Goodman vows to arrest any offending trucker.
Nevada has no nuclear power plants. Fearing a blow to tourism, its officials have been trying since 1982 to dodge what they call a ''dump'' that would serve other states. That year, Congress ordered deep disposal of spent fuel from commercial reactors, navy ships and university research facilities, as well as surplus bomb-making plutonium. Congress selected Yucca Mountain in 1987 after eight other locations in states with more population and political clout had been studied.
President Bush approved the project in February. Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn, a Republican, then exercised an option to veto it. The issue landed in Congress. Majorities overriding Guinn's veto in both houses are needed to revive the project. The House of Representatives voted in May to support the project.
The Energy Department has mapped possible highway, rail and barge corridors that pass 109 cities of 100,000 population or more.
The Environmental Working Group, a watchdog organization based in Washington, D.C., last week created a Web site ( www.mapscience.org) enabling anyone to type an address and see a map showing that spot's proximity to the suggested routes.
The Nuclear Energy Institute, the lobbying arm of the nuclear power industry, says there have been eight accidents but no radioactivity releases in more than 3,000 shipments of spent fuel since 1964. Halstead, the consultant for Nevada, says that shipping accidents in 1960 and 1962 caused radioactive releases requiring cleanup.
Even if Yucca Mountain opens, it won't solve the nuclear waste problem unless Congress expands the site's capacity. Nuclear plants pile 2,000 tons of waste a year. In 2034, 42,400 tons of waste still would be at power plants, compared with today's 43,500 tons.
How Secure Is a Nuclear Waste Truck?New York Times – by Jim Hall – June 20, 2002
(6/19/02) – Washington - With the arrest of Jose Padilla, our worst fears were confirmed: Al Qaeda was planning to build and detonate a dirty bomb containing nuclear material in an American city. A danger previously relegated to Hollywood screenplays is now a reality.
At the same time, the Senate is in the process of making the most important transportation decision of the new century — whether or not to move 77,000 tons of high-level nuclear waste from power plants nationwide to Yucca Mountain in Nevada. For more than 20 years, debate on the Yucca Mountain project has centered on only half of the issue. The Department of Energy has spent more than $7 billion and 24 years studying the geology of potential repository sites, but only four percent of that has been spent on transportation issues. Yet even despite that spending, Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham said recently that the department is "just beginning to formulate its preliminary thoughts about a transportation plan."
Now, in light of Sept. 11, proceeding with the Yucca Mountain project without a fully secure transportation plan that takes into account terrorism threats is dangerous and irresponsible.
Government officials believe Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations have sought to purchase uranium and the other necessary tools to make a dirty bomb. According to experts, each truck container of spent nuclear fuel (containers used for rail and barge transport would be bigger) headed for Yucca Mountain would carry more radioactive material than was released by the nuclear bombs used in World War II. If one of these containers were breached, in an accident or a terrorist attack, the results would be catastrophic.
Before Congress makes any decision on where to store this country's nuclear waste, it must first determine whether that waste can be safely transported on our highways, waterways and railways. Congress must require that the Department of Energy conduct a comprehensive risk assessment considering all potential hazards, including terrorist threats. Congress must also demand that the department develop a transportation safety plan that outlines steps to be taken in the event of terrorist acts and accidents. And there must be full-scale testing of the containers to be used for transporting this waste. The transportation plan must be created in an open process that includes input from state and local officials and the public. With our enemy in active pursuit of dirty bombs, our considerations about nuclear waste management have to change.
Secretary Abraham has said there is plenty of time to create a transportation plan before Yucca Mountain begins receiving nuclear waste eight years from now. But safety issues will almost certainly get short shrift if they are not addressed before the repository site is approved. Congress needs to force the Department of Energy to reassess the dangers of transporting high-level nuclear waste and develop a secure plan before proceeding with the Yucca Mountain project.
Jim Hall, a member of the National Academy of Engineering's Committee on Combating Terrorism, was chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board from 1994 to 2001.
S. C. State of Emergency Over PlutoniumTheState.com – by Sammy Fretwell – June 15, 2002
Gov. Jim Hodges declared a state of emergency Friday, banned plutonium shipments through South Carolina and ordered state police to turn back federal trucks before they arrive at the Savannah River Site.
Hodges' order set the stage for a showdown with the federal government over its plans to store and process the plutonium at SRS in Aiken County.
The U.S. Department of Energy said Friday it would begin trucking the bomb-grade material from Rocky Flats, Colo. as early as June 22.
Energy department officials say they need to send plutonium to SRS to speed the cleanup of the Rocky Flats nuclear site and to honor international atomic nonproliferation agreements.
The governor says plutonium is a terrorist target and a possible environmental hazard to South Carolina.
Hodges' declaration came one day after federal Judge Cameron Currie tossed out Hodges' lawsuit that sought to block the shipments. Currie said the shipments are legal under federal environmental laws and attempting to stop them "would constitute violations of the United States Constitution.''
Hodges appealed her decision to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond but had not heard back from the court.
Several lawyers said this week it is unlikely Hodges will succeed in his appeal because the court is among the most conservative in the country and governors seldom win such battles.
The Democratic governor's decision to declare an emergency over plutonium, which allowed him to dispatch state police to SRS, drew sharp criticism from the U.S. Department of Energy and S.C. House Speaker David Wilkins, R-Greenville.
DOE spokesman Joe Davis said Hodges' order violates the judge's ruling allowing the shipments from Colorado to SRS.
"The court made clear its view that, under the Constitution, the governor has no authority to interfere with the Department of Energy's shipments of plutonium,'' Davis said. "We are extremely disappointed the governor has chosen to totally disregard the court's admonition and intend to ask the Department of Justice to seek further relief from the court as expeditiously as possible."
That could come through a new DOE request to specifically prohibit Hodges from trying to block the shipments, Assistant U.S. Attorney Bob Daley said. Daley said late Friday his office had not made such a request.
Hodges said he will follow any court order addressing the shipments, but "until ordered otherwise, I will continue to exercise every lawful power I possess to keep plutonium from threatening our citizens' safety.''
Hodges said his actions will protect South Carolina from the hazards of plutonium, a toxic metal used to fashion atomic bombs.
Wilkins said Hodges is only trying to get votes for his re-election bid. Wilkins said the governor's actions could create hazards if plutonium trucks were turned around after arriving in South Carolina.
"I worry about the security of those shipments being stranded out on the road, sitting targets,'' Wilkins said. "He needs to worry more about the security of this state and less about securing his own second term.
"If he's not in violation of the absolute letter of the court order, he's certainly in violation of its intent.''
Because the plutonium isn't ready for transport, the DOE will delay the start of shipments until at least June 22, Davis said. The DOE had intended to start shipments as early as today.
If plutonium-laden trucks arrive in South Carolina next weekend, they will be met by state troopers or transport police and asked to turn back, said Sid Gaulden, a S.C. Department of Public Safety spokesman.
Gaulden said the public safety department would not try to arrest federal officials if they arrived in South Carolina with plutonium. But he was unsure what law enforcement officers would do if federal officials refused to turn the trucks around. The trucks will be heavily guarded by armed security personnel.
"I don't know that anyone has an answer to that one yet,'' Gaulden said.
On Hodges' orders, the public safety department set up a blockade Friday along S.C. 19 near the Savannah River Site. Gaulden characterized the roadblock as an exercise to prepare for plutonium-laden trucks. The governor staged a similar exercise in the spring.
The public safety department scaled back those exercises after learning of the shipments' delay, Gaulden said.
Hodges and the DOE have been at odds since last year over plutonium destined for SRS. The governor maintains the DOE has not given concrete assurances it will move the plutonium out of South Carolina after it is shipped to SRS.
The DOE said it plans to turn the material into mixed oxide fuel at fabrication facilities to be built at SRS. The fuel would be burned in Duke Energy power plants near Charlotte.
All told, about 34 metric tons would be shipped to SRS, with about six tons from Rocky Flats.
Hodges wants a legally binding agreement that ensures the facilities will be built and the fuel will be shipped away from SRS, as originally planned.
"Any accident would potentially cause great damage to our state," Hodges said.
Judge Currie on Thursday sided with government arguments the plutonium presents no imminent hazard to the public.
Chances that Hodges will succeed in blocking the shipments are remote, several constitutional law professors said.
Typically, federal law takes precedence over state law, said Michael Froomkin, an administrative law instructor at the University of Miami. If federal authorities follow proper procedure, states will lose in their attempts to buck the U.S. government, he said.
"We fought a civil war over that,'' Froomkin said.
Staff writer Ken Harris contributed to this story.
S. C. Troopers Deployed for ‘Plutonium Watch’Associated Press – by Jacob Jordan – June 15, 2002
COLUMBIA, S.C. - State troopers stopping traffic outside the Savannah River Site on Friday didn't find any plutonium destined for the former nuclear weapons complex.
But that could change next weekend, when the U.S. Department of Energy says it can start shipping the nuclear material to the site near Aiken.
One day after Gov. Jim Hodges' request to block the shipments from the Rocky Flats facility in Colorado was denied in federal court, the governor declared a state of emergency Friday.
Hodges ordered state police to prevent anyone transporting plutonium into South Carolina even though the Energy Department said it couldn't start shipping the weapons-grade plutonium until June 22 because of logistical problems. Legally, the shipments could have begun Saturday.
The Energy Department wants to move 6 tons of plutonium to SRS as part of its ongoing effort to close down the Rocky Flats site. The radioactive material would be converted into fuel for nuclear reactors, then shipped out of the state, the agency said.
But Hodges worries the program will never be funded and plutonium will never leave South Carolina.
"I am pleased to learn that the Department of Energy will not begin plutonium shipments until June 22," Hodges said. "Fundamentally, however, little has changed. The plutonium still presents a threat to our state, and my executive order stands."
Sid Gaulden, a spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety, said troopers were sent Friday to New Ellenton to begin checking vehicles entering SRS.
Gaulden admits there aren't enough troopers to block every entry point into the state. The Highway Patrol has been ordered to pay closer attention to the state line, but no extra troopers have been assigned to watch the state's borders.
Along with declaring the emergency Friday, Hodges also appealed to the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va. He wants the judges to overturn a ruling Thursday that allowed the shipments to begin as scheduled.
While U.S. District Judge Cameron Currie dismissed Hodges' suit, she refused an Energy Department request to declare the road blocks illegal.
"We will follow any court order regarding the shipment of this plutonium," Hodges said. "But until ordered otherwise, I will continue to exercise any and every lawful power I possess to keep the plutonium from threatening the safety of our citizens."
Vice President Dick Cheney, in South Carolina on Friday for a fund-raiser, said the fuel-conversion program is important to ensure that plutonium "never falls into the wrong hands."
"This administration is totally committed to helping pass legislation to guarantee that South Carolina does not become a permanent storage site for plutonium," Cheney said.
Federal officials have said the nuclear material would be under constant guard, and its path and time of arrival would be kept secret. They also say security at the Savannah River site is sound.
Earthquake Near Yucca Mountain!Public Citizen – Press Release – June 15, 2002
(6/14/02) - Today's predawn earthquake near Yucca Mountain - occurring just weeks before the Senate casts its key vote on the nuclear waste dump - seems to be nature's way of warning lawmakers to put the brakes on this bad plan.
Yucca Mountain sits in an earthquake zone. More than 600 earthquakes of a magnitude of 2.5 or more have been measured within 50 miles of Yucca Mountain since 1910. Nevada ranks third in the nation in frequency of strong earthquakes. Today's earthquake, which measured 4.4 on the Richter scale, although it did no damage, highlights one of the many reasons why a high-level radioactive waste dump should not be established at the mountain.
Scientists have been unable to demonstrate that a repository at Yucca Mountain could safely isolate high-level nuclear waste throughout the thousands of years it remains dangerously radioactive. Over time, radioactivity is expected to leak into the aquifer beneath Yucca Mountain and contaminate this important source of drinking water. Radiation standards at Yucca Mountain had to be weakened by the Bush administration's Environmental Protection Agency for the unsound project to proceed.
Incredibly, lawmakers are ignoring the dangers; the U.S. House of Representatives has approved the president's Yucca Mountain site recommendation. We strongly urge the Senate to take note of today's incident and realize the sheer folly of the Yucca Mountain proposal. If they don't, future generations will look back in disbelief. We can't say we haven't been warned.
Preparing for a Nuclear DisasterThe Charlotte Observer – by Peter Smolowitz – June 14, 2002
(6/13/02) - State and local officials in the Carolinas said Wednesday they will likely stockpile thousands of pills to help protect people in the event of a nuclear disaster.
Both states earlier this year rejected the federal government's offer of free potassium iodide to help guard against radiation poisoning. Public pressure and a bioterrorism bill President Bush signed Wednesday are prompting the states to reconsider.
The bill, which calls for expansion of government stockpiles of antibiotics and vaccines, also allows cities and towns within 20 miles of nuclear power plants to receive the controversial pills -- even if states do not request them.
With nuclear plants on Lake Norman and Lake Wylie, that range covers a wide swath of the Charlotte region, and some municipal officials said Wednesday they would likely request the pills.
"We'd love to make that available to the citizenry," said Cornelius Mayor Carson Cato. "There's a reason why the government is providing it. If the president is recommending it, I'd support it."
Officials in Gastonia and Mount Holly also said they will likely make such a request, while officials with Charlotte, Mecklenburg County, Huntersville, Davidson and Mooresville said they will study the issue.
Some, however, still worry about the logistical nightmare of distributing the drug and providing instructions on how to use it. The York County, S.C., emergency management director, Cotton Howell, said a false sense of security from the pills could delay evacuations, and state officials warn that potassium iodide would not protect people from the so-called dirty-bomb plot that made news this week.
While local municipalities begin to study the issue, officials in the two states said they are reconsidering their decision not to stockpile potassium iodide following Bush's endorsement of the drug.
"It will be something we look at in light of the president's reaction -- I suspect every state will be looking at it that way," said Thom Berry, spokesman for the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control. "If we decide we're going to provide it, and I suspect we probably will, what is going to be the best way to provide it?"
In North Carolina, state officials have already met to discuss the issue.
Johnny James, an N.C. state radiation emergency coordinator, said he expected the state health department to make the request.
"It's more a `please the public-type thing,' " said James. "The health department is kind of leaning in that direction, and if they do make that call, we will support it."
Potassium iodide, better known by its chemical symbol KI, received Food and Drug Administration approval in 1982, three years after the Three Mile Island nuclear plant accident in Pennsylvania. It helps prevent thyroid cancer from radiation exposure. The drug does not guard against all forms of radiation that could be released.
Carolinas emergency officials said evacuation is safer than relying on a "magic pill." Their plans for nuclear disasters call for evacuating everyone within 10 miles of nuclear plants -- including 250,000 people in the Charlotte region.
Local emergency officials have estimated it could take from eight to 24 hours to evacuate the areas surrounding the McGuire plant on Lake Norman and the Catawba nuclear plant. Less than four hours is considered optimum by the federal government.
Duke Power officials emphasize the company's power plants have a long history of operating safely and an unblemished accident record. Federal officials say security teams at the McGuire and Catawba plants successfully defended their facilities during recent terrorism exercises.
Since Sept. 11, some residents around the plant have lobbied for the pills, fearing the plants could be terrorism targets. One resident, Robert Williams of Huntersville, said he called the governor, congressional representatives, and several state and federal agencies -- even offering to transport the pills from Raleigh to Mecklenburg himself.
It could take up to a year for local governments to begin receiving the pills from the federal government, but Williams said he will push Huntersville officials.
"Our tax dollars paid for them," Williams said. "They're a necessary thing if you live in the shadow of a nuclear plant."
A 1999 study, 13 years after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in the then-Soviet Union, showed that an area about 120 miles away saw a 100-fold increase in thyroid cancer cases. Congressional proposals would make KI available as far away as 200 miles.
-- STAFF WRITERS DANICA COTO, NICHOLE MONROE BELL, CRISTINA BREEN, ADAM CATALDO AND INGRID WOODS GAITHER CONTRIBUTED TO THIS ARTICLE.
Governor Worried About PlutoniumThe Charlotte Observer – by Nichole Monroe Bell – June 12, 2002
(6/11/02) - The decision to house a man accused of being a terrorist at a Charleston naval facility has sparked a debate among some South Carolina leaders who question whether this is safe.
U.S. government officials announced Monday that Abdullah al Muhajir, a 31-year-old American citizen who formerly was named Jose Padilla, was being held at the Naval Consolidation Brig in Charleston.
Muhajir is accused of conspiring with al-Qaida terrorists to build and detonate a radioactive "dirty" bomb in the United States.
A dirty bomb is a device that uses conventional explosives to disperse radioactive material. A dirty bomb, unlike a nuclear weapon, has no atomic chain reaction and does not require highly enriched uranium or plutonium, which are difficult to obtain.
Gov. Jim Hodges, who has been fighting to stop the federal government from shipping plutonium to the Savannah River Site near Aiken, said he was concerned about the announcement. The site is about 130 miles northwest of Charleston and 160 miles southwest of Charlotte.
"If terrorists are trying to build a dirty bomb in the United States, the last thing we should do is truck weapons-grade plutonium across the country in 18-wheelers to a new storage site," Hodges said. "Today's announcement shows that this plutonium is coveted by al-Qaida terrorists."
The Naval Consolidation Brig, which accepted its first prisoners in 1990, houses members of the U.S. military who are serving sentences of up to seven years, Naval Weapons Station Senior Chief Scott Bassett said.
The medium-security prison has 400 cells and typically has a population of about 275 male inmates, Bassett said. Inmates from all branches of the military are housed there. The brig is at the Naval Weapons Station on the Cooper River, upriver from downtown Charleston.
U.S. Rep. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Monday that he doesn't think Muhajir's detainment in Charleston poses a risk.
"In the war on terrorism, every community and state should contribute in a meaningful way," he said. "The Bush administration has determined the Charleston brig can be beneficial to the war effort."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
NRC Acknowledges Nuclear Plant Attack ThreatAssociated Press – by John Heilprin– June 11, 2002
WASHINGTON - The Bush administration plans to require the nation's 15,000 chemical, water and waste-treatment plants to assess how vulnerable they are to terrorists and then fix any problems.
The terrorism assessments would be similar to risk-management plans the Environmental Protection Agency already requires from the same facilities for accidental releases of toxins, a senior EPA official said Friday.
An interagency group chaired by the White House's Office of Homeland Security has been developing the plan, and EPA Administrator Christie Whitman is expected to announce it within days, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Principles for the terrorism assessments and subsequent fixes were modeled after guidelines crafted by a trade group, the American Chemistry Council, for its 180 corporate members who operate about 1,000 of the affected plants, the official said.
The Justice Department and the Energy Department's Sandia National Laboratories have been working together to develop methods for assessing a chemical plant's vulnerability to terrorists. A similar effort is under way by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers' Center for Chemical Process Safety.
The EPA already has taken steps to reduce chemical plants' risks of becoming terrorist targets. Soon after Sept. 11, it removed from its Web sites the risk management plans for spills and airborne releases of toxins.
Publishing those plans had been required in the belief that neighbors of a chemical plant had a right to know the risks to which they were being exposed. However, the industry and U.S. intelligence agencies have complained for years that publishing the data created a roadmap for terrorists.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission directed increased security measures at all nuclear power plants and facilities storing used reactor fuel. The NRC also is revamping security standards for power plants, taking into account for the first time a possible suicide attack by a large aircraft.
The EPA orders for chemical, water and waste-treatment plants will cover site and computer security; access; background checks for employees, vendors and customers; inventory controls, storage practices and the availability of safer manufacturing and treatment technologies.