Nuclear -   32
Nuclear -   32
www.DukeEmployees.com - Duke Energy Employee Advocate
Nuclear - Page 24
recorded about 12 miles away from Yucca Mountain - Public Citizen
Nuclear Plant Ignored Culture WarningNew York Times by Matthew L. Wald September 30, 2002
WASHINGTON, Sept. 29 The discovery in February that a reactor vessel in a nuclear power plant had corroded to the brink of rupturing may have shocked the plant's operators and federal safety regulators, but years ago, Howard C. Whitcomb saw it coming, or something like it.
Mr. Whitcomb, a former Nuclear Regulatory Commission inspector who was hired by the owners of the Davis-Besse reactor, near Toledo, Ohio, to write a report on what was wrong with maintenance there, concluded in 1988 that management so disdained its craft workers that it had lost touch with the condition of the plant.
Top executives responded swiftly and decisively, he said: They ordered him to change his report. He quit instead.
Now, the owners are saying they need to get in better touch with their employees, who according to company surveys are still reluctant to raise safety concerns. In a meeting with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in mid-September, company officials explained that they were meeting with all 800 plant employees in small groups with a facilitator to improve communication. The plant, built for Toledo Edison, is now run by First Energy Nuclear Operating Company, after a merger.
The simple problem at Davis-Besse, a 24-year-old reactor, was that water was leaking from two nozzles on top of the vessel. The water contained boron, a chemical used to regulate the nuclear reaction, and the boron accumulated in a hidden spot and ate away about 70 pounds of steel.
The commission staff has said that the company's reports on the condition of the vessel head were misleading.
Now the reactor head must be replaced, a task that has required cutting a big hole through a containment dome several feet thick.
But there are broader questions. Why did the company delay making a change to the reactor head that would have made inspection possible? Why did not the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which wanted all plants of Davis-Besse's type to inspect for the problem, push for earlier action?
As is common after severe problems at a reactor, the commission has been examining the structure of management and what it calls the plant's culture, meaning the attitudes of the people who work there, the willingness of operators to raise safety questions and management's willingness to consider them.
While the corrosion at the vessel head was not obvious, the boron had spread elsewhere, and the commission is particularly interested in why no one did anything about corrosion on a ventilation duct that was in plain sight of workers entering the containment.
"People generally accepted that condition," said Todd M. Schneider, a spokesman for First Energy. Since the discovery of the corrosion in the vessel head, management has worked to change attitudes so "those conditions are no longer acceptable," Mr. Schneider said.
In his 1988 report, Mr. Whitcomb mentioned the culture problems that are now recognized.
"Many craft personnel hold strong negative perceptions of engineering and management personnel," he wrote. "In general, the labor forces feel that management exhibits a general lack of concern or respect for their abilities, efforts or problems."
Mr. Whitcomb was hardly an industry rebel. A veteran of the nuclear Navy, he was a resident inspector for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission at the H.B. Robinson reactor in South Carolina, and then went to a plant under construction in Ohio before being hired by Toledo Edison. After he gave two weeks' notice at Davis-Besse, he went to work at the Fermi reactor, near Detroit. Now he is a lawyer in general practice in Oak Harbor, Ohio, the location of the Davis-Besse reactor.
In a report on June 20, 1988, to the company's vice president for nuclear power and the plant manager, he said that closing to refuel took too long; that preventive maintenance was slow and not fully effective because managers did not pay enough attention to the workers' needs; and that the workers were embittered.
"Maintenance has traditionally been regarded in a subservient role at Davis-Besse," Mr. Whitcomb wrote. To be successful, management must recognize "the contribution that craft personnel may provide in the development of plant-specific maintenance actions." Managers must take a more serious attitude toward maintenance, he wrote.
That finding in the report, a copy of which was provided to The New York Times by Ohio Citizen Action, a nonprofit group that has raised many safety questions about the reactor, seems prescient.
"If they followed the advice of 20 years ago, we wouldn't be here now," said Amy K. Ryder, the group's program director in the Cleveland area.
In an interview, Mr. Whitcomb said, "They just didn't want to hear it."
Mr. Schneider, the spokesman for First Energy, said that the two executives to whom Mr. Whitcomb had made his report 14 years ago were no longer with the company. The report "was not up to our requirements," he said, but he would not confirm that Mr. Whitcomb had been told to rewrite it. Mr. Whitcomb left Toledo Edison voluntarily, he said.
The company says it hopes to restart the plant this year. Work is progressing well on the head replacement, Mr. Schneider said. First Energy bought the head of a similar reactor in Michigan on which construction has been abandoned. It is still working on the culture, he said.
Duke Denies Big Boom Came From Nuclear PlantNCB6.com by Amanda Granger September 29, 2002
(9/27/02) - HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. -- A group of Huntersville homeowners are trying to determine what caused a big boom they heard Wednesday night.
At least a dozen homeowners in the Stephens Grove subdivision off Beatties Ford Road called authorities when they heard the loud noise.
They said dishes and windows were suddenly rattled around 10:15 Wednesday night.
It was a boom, said Monika Monroe, homeowner. It sounded like a large impact. It sounded like something had fallen and therefore the ground had shaken.
When authorities arrived, they found nothing out of the ordinary. The FAA says it is not aware of any military aircraft operations happening Wednesday night.
Officials at nearby McGuire nuclear station say recent weapons testing are also not to blame.
Secret Nuclear Waste Meetings AllegedAssociated Press September 22, 2002
Nevada: State attorney general says public is being excluded from Yucca Mountain plans.
LAS VEGAS -- Nevada Atty. Gen. Frankie Sue Del Papa is accusing two federal agencies of holding secret meetings about building the nation's nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada.
Del Papa complained in letters to U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham and Richard A. Meserve, chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, of what she called "a growing and apparently unlawful trend" to exclude the public from decisions about the Yucca Mountain project.
"The state of Nevada and the public are entitled to notice and the opportunity to participate at every level of decisions made about the Yucca project," Del Papa said Friday.
She stopped short of accusing the department and the NRC of breaking the law or violating federal rules. The Energy Department would operate the high-level nuclear waste repository, 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas. The NRC would license it.
But Del Papa pointed to comments by Energy Department officials at a Sept. 10 meeting in Las Vegas about designs having been presented to the NRC and about other meetings planned between Energy and NRC officials.
Margaret Chu, director of the Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management, also submitted a document to board members stating that the Energy Department had made commitments to the NRC about five elements of the Yucca Mountain plan, Del Papa said.
"Why was Nevada not given notice of such meetings or interactions?" she asked.
An Energy Department spokesman said his agency has received Del Papa's letter and was reviewing it, but he declined to discuss specifics.
"The DOE has fully complied with the relevant laws, rules and regulations and we will continue to do so," spokesman Joe Davis said.
Safety Problems at Japanese ReactorsNew York Times by Howard W. French - September 16, 2002
Tokyo, Sept. 15 The reports of safety lapses, fraudulent repairs and cover-ups at Japan's largest nuclear power company began with a trickle but have resounded into an industry nightmare.
The details, filled in over the last two weeks by one alarming report after another, show a potentially catastrophic pattern of cost-cutting along with 16 years of cover-ups of serious flaws, apparently in an effort to preserve public trust. The pattern includes the systematic falsification of inspection and repair records at 13 reactors at the company, Tokyo Electric, the world's largest private electrical utility.
Compounding the public relations disaster, a reactor that the company operates in Fukushima Prefecture, in northern Japan, was closed temporarily last week because a chimney was emitting more than 100 times the usual level of radiation.
In accordance with the ritualized apologies that Japanese business culture demands, the president of Tokyo Electric, Nobuya Minami, and four other senior officials resigned. But many Japanese are talking about a far larger casualty, the rock-solid consensus behind nuclear energy that has existed here for decades, and which has made Japan's industry the world's third-largest, behind the United States and France, and perhaps its most ambitious.
Even senior members of the government have expressed their outrage over the scandal. "It is absolutely abominable that this incident caused the people's confidence to be largely lost in nuclear energy," said Takeo Hiranuma, the industry minister. Statements like his are almost unheard; for decades the government has been an almost unconditional backer of nuclear power.
But a groundswell has been building against nuclear power here for at least three years. It began when cost-cutting and sloppy work led to a fission chain-reaction at a uranium-processing plant in Tokaimura, 70 miles northeast of Tokyo, in 1999. The anger gained momentum last year after investigators discovered that radioactive coolant water had been leaking, undetected, from cracks in the aging reactor vessel in Hamaoka for at least four months.
The Tokaimura incident was Japan's worst nuclear-related accident. Two people were killed, thousands of people were exposed to at least moderate levels of radiation and the town center had to be temporarily evacuated during a cleanup.
Company officials have said they were worried that if the public became aware of cracking at the reactors, people would be frightened. Today, it was learned that the government gave Tokyo Electric the name of the whistle-blower who reported the cracking to the company, in a further effort to keep things quiet.
The Tokaimura accident shocked the nation, and critics of the nuclear industry now say the government's condemnations of safety lapses and fraud may be too little too late.
Since Tokaimura, local communities have voted in referendums to block new plants, and in other cases mayors and governors have promised to do so. That has galvanized action against the nuclear power industry as never before.
"At first, people had no other choice but to trust the government, because this is such important technology," Eisaku Sato, the governor of Fukushima Prefecture, where some of the troubled Tokyo Electric plants are located, said Wednesday. "Then this incident occurred, and the trust between us, which was never more than a thin red thread, was completely cut off."
Just one day earlier, Masazumi Nishikawa, the mayor of Kashiwazaki City, in Niigata Prefecture, told Tokyo Electric to cancel its plans to introduce a plutonium fuel into a conventional local reactor which was designed to burn uranium. The prefectural governor, Ikuo Hirayama, has seconded the mayor's moves.
Antinuclear activists say they can now foresee a day when Japan joins countries like Germany and Belgium in banning new nuclear plant construction. Plant construction in the United States has long been frozen though not banned.
"This kind of scandal, where there have been cover-ups for 10 years, causes a fatal doubt of government policy on nuclear energy," said Kiyoshi Sakurai, an industry critic and a physicist. "We will end up like Americans and some European countries, turning away from nuclear energy."
Nuclear-generated electricity has been the bedrock of Japan's energy policy since the oil shocks of the 1970's, which hit Japan far worse than the United States, considering that Japan was a manufacturing economy without local supplies of oil.
The country embarked on a crash program to build dozens of nuclear power plants. But it also poured tens of billions of dollars into the development of plutonium-burning reactors, known as fast breeder reactors; their technology, though unproven, theoretically would produce more nuclear fuel than they burn.
The United States abandoned similar plans during the Ford administration, citing safety concerns, and since then, international nuclear energy experts and antinuclear activists in Japan have raised a host of other objections, from infeasibility to the terror-related risks of shipping vast stocks of plutonium internationally and around Japan.
But the Japanese government has continued to spend heavily on developing plutonium-based reactors, even despite a sodium leak and a fire at its prototype fast-breeder reactor at Monju in 1992.
"There is a single-minded commitment to nuclear power," said Edwin Lyman, president of the Nuclear Control Institute, an independent group in Washington doing research on nuclear nonproliferation. "The government clearly sees promoting nuclear power as its policy, because the bureaucrats absolutely believe that this is the key to their energy future for the next 200 years."
The biggest liabilities faced by Japan's huge nuclear power industry are not the technologies of the future, but an accident-plagued present in which embarrassing failures in aging reactors have become disturbingly commonplace.
The most frightening revelation in the unfolding Tokyo Power scandal has been that falsified inspection records had papered over large cracks in the stainless steel shrouds that cover the core of nuclear plants, allowing the reactors to operate for years without costly repairs.
For many, this recalled an explosion at a nuclear plant operated by the Nagoya-based Chubu Electric Power Company, at Hamaoka, last November. The investigation there revealed the radioactive leaks.
The Hamaoka plant began operating in 1976, and antinuclear activists in Japan have seized upon incidents like the one last year as evidence that many of Japan's 53 nuclear reactors, operating well into their third decade, are aging and a safety risk.
Aging has emerged as a major concern in the United States, too, particularly since the discovery in March of a hole in the top of the reactor vessel at the Davis-Besse reactor, near Toledo, Ohio. Unforeseen corrosion by boric acid has nearly eaten through the six-inch thick steel vessel that contains the reactor's core, and American investigators are also looking into whether inspection or repair records at the plant have been falsified.
In an interview before the Tokyo Power scandals, Shojiro Masuura, chairman of Japans Nuclear Safety Commission, denied that aging of nuclear plants was a problem. "In Japan there is no relationship between accidents and aging," he said. Regarding the Hamaoka leaks, he added, "the reactors fractures don't really relate to aging at all."
American nuclear energy experts have expressed astonishment at that line of thinking. "Something has happened to the Japanese, and it doesn't look good," said Victor Galinsky, a former member of the Nuclear Regulator Commission. "I just can't imagine that any engineer, technical person or technical bureaucrat can deny that aging is a problem."
The Nuclear Waste Hot PotatoAssociated Press September 12, 2002
COLUMBIA, S. C. (AP) - The U.S. Energy Department's inspector general has recommended burying millions of gallons of radioactive waste at the Savannah River Site instead processing and storing it in Nevada.
Inspector General Gregory Friedman said burying the waste left over from decades of producing plutonium for nuclear weapons in underground vaults at SRS in Aiken will save $500 million.
Friedman, in a report to Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, said officials at the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control told him they would consider approving his recommendation.
Gov. Jim Hodges, who has waged a yearlong legal battle against the agency to keep plutonium from being shipped to the Aiken site, is also opposed to burying radioactive waste there.
``The governor has said all along that South Carolina should not become the nation's nuclear dumping ground,'' spokesman Morton Brilliant said. ``Gov. Hodges has worked very hard, and with some success, to take nuclear waste out of South Carolina. And it would be a terrible thing for the entire state if we slide back down that hill.''
DHEC spokesman Thom Berry said the agency's consideration of Friedman's plan ``doesn't mean we are committed to approve it.''
Energy department officials said last fall they would dispose of the waste at SRS by extracting the most dangerous materials, mixing it with sludge and converting it into glass logs. The logs would then be sent to Yucca Mountain in Nevada, selected by President Bush as the nation's permanent repository for radioactive waste.
In the report released last week, Friedman said disposing of the waste by mixing it with cement and burying it in underground vaults at the site would save time and money.
``Although all four treatment alternatives were considered safe, in almost every scenario evaluated by the department, the direct disposal in grout technology posed less risk to on-site workers, the general public and the environment,'' Friedman reported.
Burying the waste would create higher radiation levels at the site, Friedman said.
Ed Lyman, president of the Nuclear Control Institute, a Washington-based, nonprofit group that studies the spread of nuclear weapons, called the recommendation outrageous.
``There is no basis at all to conclude that it is safe to dispose of this in concrete, which is a water-laden solid,'' Lyman said. ``To simply dump it at the Savannah River Site instead of processing it and disposing of it responsibly is an outrage.''
Lyman said federal law requires the agency to turn high-level waste into a glasslike substance and send it to Yucca.
Workers have been cleaning radioactive materials, including 35 million gallons of liquid waste, since nuclear weapon production was shut down at SRS in 1988.
The department has resisted direct disposal, fearing it would be difficult to gain public support and regulatory approval, Friedman said.
Waste disposal at the site is the center of a federal lawsuit between the state and the Energy Department. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last month rejected the state's request to block a plutonium shipment from Rocky Flats, a weapons plant near Denver. Gov. Hodges, concerned the plutonium would remain permanently in Aiken, has vowed an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Al-Qaida Considered Attacking Nuclear FacilitiesAssociated Press by Alaa Shahine September 10, 2002
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - Al-Qaida considered striking U.S. nuclear facilities as it planned its assault on New York and Washington and has not ruled out nuclear attacks in the future, according to a reporter's account of his interview with two Sept. 11 plotters.
Al-Jazeera television correspondent Yosri Fouda told The Associated Press al-Qaida contacted him to arrange the interview at a secret location in Pakistan with Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Ramzi Binalshibh in June. He said he waited until now to air the interview it is scheduled to appear Thursday on al-Jazeera because he wanted to include it in a documentary marking the first anniversary of the attacks.
A videotape of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden released by U.S. officials in December for many established al-Qaida's responsibility for Sept. 11. Fouda's interviews with Mohammed and Binalshibh established the link even more clearly.
U.S. officials regard Mohammed as one of the highest-ranking al-Qaida leaders still at large and believe he is still planning attacks against U.S. interests. U.S. officials say Binalshibh was a member of a Hamburg-based cell led by Mohammed Atta, the Egyptian-born suspected lead Sept. 11 hijacker.
"I am the head of the al-Qaida military committee and Ramzi (Binalshibh) is the coordinator of the "Holy Tuesday' operation," Fouda quoted Mohammed as saying. Sept. 11, 2001 fell on a Tuesday.
Mohammed said planning began two and a half years before Sept. 11 and that the first targets considered were nuclear facilities.
We "decided against it for fear it would go out of control," Fouda quoted Mohammed as saying. "You do not need to know more than that at this stage, and anyway it was eventually decided to leave out nuclear targets for now."
Fouda said at one point, while he was being led blindfolded to the meeting, he thought he was going to meet with al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.
Fouda, speaking by telephone from London, said during the two days he spent talking to the two, Mohammed once referred to bin Laden in the past tense and that a sense of disarray led him to believe bin Laden could be dead.
Mohammed and Binalshibh never sent him promised videotapes of the interview Fouda said. He has only audiotapes.
Fouda, the Egyptian reporter and host of al-Jazeera's investigative program Top Secret, said he flew to Islamabad, the Pakistani capital, and from there to Karachi on al-Qaida instructions. In Karachi, he was taken blindfolded and via a complicated route to an apartment where he met the two men he recognized as Mohammed and Binalshibh.
Al-Jazeera had announced last week it will broadcast the interviews as part of its coverage marking the anniversary of the attacks against the World Trade Center and Pentagon ( news - web sites).
Fouda wrote about the interview for London's Sunday Times in a story that appeared this week. He told the AP he approached the Times to publicize the documentary.
He wrote in the newspaper that he learned in the interviews that the U.S. Congress had been the fourth target. Hijacked planes slammed into the twin towers of New York's World Trade Center and the Pentagon, while crashed in a Pennsylvania field after passengers apparently stormed the hijackers.
Fouda also learned Atta had been a sleeper operative in Germany since 1992 and started detailed planning with a 1999 meeting in Afghanistan with other sleepers.
Once in the United States, Atta communicated with higher ranking al-Qaida officials via email, Fouda wrote. But when he had determined everything was ready, he telephoned Binalshibh in Germany to tell him the date, using a riddle that referred to the shapes of the numbers 9 and 11.
The Times story "gives both al-Jazeera and myself credit, and it helped me to elaborate more on the interview and its circumstances," he said.
The Qatar-based, pan-Arab broadcaster has drawn world attention with its broadcast of interviews with and statements by Osama bin Laden and his top lieutenants.
Nuclear Plants Were First Choice on 9/11BBC News September 9, 2002
(9/8/02) - Al-Qaeda initially planned to fly hijacked jets into nuclear installations - rather than the World Trade Center and the Pentagon - according to an Arab journalist who says he interviewed two of the group's masterminds.
The Arabic television station al-Jazeera says it will broadcast on Thursday the interview in which Osama Bin Laden's aides describe in detail how they planned the 11 September attacks.
Capitol Hill - the "third target"
In an article published in several European newspapers, documentary-maker Yosri Fouda said Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi Binalshibh told him they had decided against the attack on nuclear power plants "for the moment" because of fears it could "get out of control".
Both men are on the FBI's most wanted list and have a $25m bounty on their heads.
The FBI says Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is one of Bin Laden's key lieutenants, while Ramzi Binalshibh is said to have shared an apartment in Hamburg with Mohammed Atta, the alleged ringleader of the hijackers.
Department of Martyrs
Yosri Fouda said he was taken to a hideout in Pakistan. He was told by a man there that Bin Laden was alive and well, but was not shown any proof of this.
Bin Laden - reportedly told of date for the attacks on 6 September
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed told him he was head of the al-Qaeda military committee and Ramzi Binalshibh the co-ordinator of what they refer to as "Holy Tuesday".
Over the course of two days, Mr Fouda says, the men gave him an insight into how the terror group operates and how the 11 September attacks were planned.
Mohammed and Binalshibh alleged that:
At the end of his two-day interview, Mr Fouda writes, he was instructed to leave the videotapes behind so the faces of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi Binalshibh could be blanked out.
Despite promises that they would be returned, the videos never turned up. But, the journalist says, he did eventually receive voice tapes of the interviews.
Nuclear Plants First Option for Sept 11Reuters September 9, 2002
LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's Sunday Times quoted two leading members of Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network as saying the initial plan for the September 11 hijackers had been to crash planes into nuclear power plants in the United States.
This had been rejected for fear "it would get out of control," but future nuclear targets were not ruled out.
The newspaper was quoting from a documentary by Yosri Fouda, chief investigative reporter for the Arab television station al-Jazeera, who interviewed Ramzi bin al-Shaibah and Khaled al-Sheikh Mohammad in Pakistan's port city of Karachi. The date of the interview was not given.
Qatar-based Jazeera television showed the first part of the documentary last Thursday. It plans to air the second part next Thursday, which it said would include confessions by the two men that al Qaeda was responsible for the September 11 attacks.
More than 3,000 people were killed when hijacked airliners devastated the twin towers of New York's World Trade Center and smashed into U.S. military headquarters at the Pentagon near Washington.
The Sunday Times quoted the men as saying in the "recent" interview that the fourth target had been Capitol Hill in Washington. But the airliner crashed into a field in Pennsylvania.
An official at Jazeera told Reuters the station had not been aware that the Sunday Times was going to run an article with details from the documentary, nor was he aware Fouda was going to write a by-lined item about how he got the story.
"We were not planning to release anything before Thursday (Sept 12)," the official said.
The newspaper identified Sheikh Mohammad, 38, as head of the al-Qaeda military committee, and Shaibah, 30, as coordinator of the operation from his base in Germany. It said Sheikh Mohammad had devised the idea of targeting "prominent" buildings in the United States.
"DEPARTMENT OF MARTYRS" RECRUITS
The hijackers who died in the crashes were recruited from al Qaeda's "so-called Department of Martyrs."
"The attacks were designed to cause as many deaths as possible and to be a big slap for America on American soil," Sheikh Mohammad was quoted as saying.
The Sunday Times said Shaibah had also written a 112-page justification for the attacks, entitled 'The Reality of the New Crusaders War', which he wanted translated into English and lodged with the Library of Congress in Washington.
"In case that the events which took place in America were the doing of Muslims, then it is legal because those operations were against an enemy state.
"It is permissible for Muslims to kill infidels under a principle of reciprocity, because if those infidels are targeting Muslim women, children and the elderly, then the Muslims can do the same," the Sunday Times quoted the document as saying.
The newspaper said the opening page included pictures of the World Trade Center as it collapsed, on a day described by Shaibah as "that glorious Tuesday."
It said the decision to launch a massive suicide attack on the United States was taken with bin Laden's approval by the al Qaeda Military Committee in early 1999.
It said Mohammed Atta, the leader of the suicide mission had been a network "sleeper" in Germany since 1992 and was called to a meeting of the military council in the summer of 1999. It said Yemen-born Shaibah had shared an apartment with Atta in Hamburg.
The Sunday Times said "one of their agents also claimed that bin Laden was "alive and well," although he provided no evidence."
Jazeera told Reuters last Thursday the interview was arranged by an al Qaeda liaison officer identified by the channel as Abu Bakr and contained "confessions."
The Sunday Times said Sheikh Mohammad was an uncle of Ramzi Yousef, now serving a life sentence in the United States for the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993.
7 Groups Sue Over Yucca MountainPublic Citizen Press Release September 5, 2002
Mountain Standards, Seek Stronger Radiation Protection Rule
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Seven environmental and public interest organizations suing the federal government over its weakening of groundwater standards for the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump have asked the court to require the government to strengthen a rule regarding how to measure contamination from the dump. The request, contained in a reply brief filed jointly with the state of Nevada late Tuesday to the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, is part of a legal challenge to the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) radiation standards for the proposed storage of nuclear waste at the site.
The proposed high-level nuclear waste dump would sit atop an underground aquifer that area residents rely on for drinking water. National and Nevada-based environmental and public interest organizations contend that the EPA illegally weakened groundwater protection standards at Yucca Mountain to allow the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to proceed with its flawed plan to create a national nuclear waste dump at the site. The case has been consolidated with a similar lawsuit brought by the state of Nevada.
A primary issue is the compliance boundary - the distance from the proposed repository within which no limit will be placed on the amount of radioactive contamination in the groundwater. In its Yucca Mountain rule, the EPA changed that distance from three miles to more than 11 miles, so a cap on the amount of contamination that can seep from the dump would begin only at a line drawn 11 miles from the dump.
In a response filed last month, the EPA said its congressional mandate to establish a site-specific standard for radiation protection at Yucca Mountain gave it the right to weaken the rule as it did. But in the reply brief yesterday, the groups maintained that EPA's action undermines the requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act.
"The EPA's Yucca Mountain rule assumes the proposed repository will leak and inappropriately allows the DOE to rely on dilution in order to meet national standards. The agency should not be permitted to misuse its discretionary powers to undermine the Safe Drinking Water Act in this way," said Geoff Fettus, attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, lead petitioners in the case.
"The Yucca Mountain 'house of cards' rests on a regulatory structure that has been ridiculously weakened by the Bush administration," said Lisa Gue, senior energy analyst with Public Citizen, another petitioner. "By taking this issue to court, we are challenging the EPA's presumption that public health and the environmental regulations can be sacrificed for nuclear industry interests."
The DOE's controversial Yucca Mountain site recommendation won congressional approval in July. The agency must now apply for a license to construct and operate a nuclear waste dump from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The licensing process will assess projected compliance with the EPA radiation protection standards.
Nuclear Plant Records FalsifiedThe Charlotte Observer by Michael Zielenziger September 5, 2002
(9/3/02) - TOKYO - Top officials of Japan's largest electric utility announced their resignations Monday after admitting the company had covered up safety violations and falsified records at three of its largest nuclear power plants.
Nobuya Minami, the president of the Tokyo Electric Power Co., said the utility would immediately shut five nuclear reactors to inspect for cracks and corrosion. Minami said he would resign in October; company Chairman Hiroshi Araki and Vice President Toshiaki Enomoto will step down by the end this month.
Minami told a news conference that company employees had demonstrated a lenient view of reporting potential safety problems, but could not explain how or why a series of inspection reports were falsified.
"We apologize for causing any worry," he said. He admitted for the first time that company employees had been involved in the cover-ups and said an internal investigation was continuing.
The cover-up further clouds the credibility of Japan's nuclear industry, coming three years after an accident at a nuclear reprocessing facility caused Japan's first nuclear fatalities and almost triggered a massive leak of nuclear radiation.
Devoid of oil and natural gas, Japan is the world's third-largest commercial operator of nuclear power facilities and hopes to reprocess large amounts of spent nuclear fuel to feed its reactors.
Japan's 17 nuclear power plants generate 16 percent of the nation's electric power, making the nation nearly twice as dependent on nuclear power as the United States.
The latest scandal surfaced late last week when the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry announced it had found evidence of falsified records of cracks at three Tokyo Electric Power nuclear plants dating back as far as the 1980s.
The utility allegedly submitted 29 fabricated reports that did not disclose concealed damage to the core shroud, the steel cylinder of welded plates that surround a nuclear reactor's core. Extensive cracking of the welds that hold these plates together could make it difficult to control the speed of a nuclear reaction.
Safety problems in at least 13 reactors at the three plants may have been concealed, officials said, indicating that at least 100 company employees may have helped falsify data.
The cover-up emerged after a whistleblower working for General Electric complained to government regulators.
Tokyo Electric Power had hired inspectors from General Electric International Inc. to inspect its reactors, but apparently falsified a GE report showing two 3.6-inch cracks in one reactor's core shroud. Apparently convinced the cracks posed no safety hazard, the utility continued to operate the plant without repairing or replacing the damaged parts.
The whistleblower contacted the government ministry in July 1990, but Tokyo Electric Power continued to operate the facilities for two years while the ministry investigated the cover-up allegations. Government officials did not explain why they permitted the plants to operate despite suspicions they might be dangerous.
What About a Nuclear Plant Attack?The Charlotte Observer by Bruce Henderson - September 2, 2002
(9/1/02) - Before Sept. 11, no one knew whether a nuclear power plant could withstand the impact of a crashing jetliner without releasing potentially deadly radiation. A year later, it's still unknown.
With two nuclear plants within 20 miles of uptown, Charlotte has strong reasons to want answers about potential terrorist threats. But the questions have evolved.
Critics say the highly radioactive spent fuel stored at the plants, not reactors themselves, would pose the biggest public threat after an attack. The public wonders about the ability of the 279,000 people who live within 10 miles of the Duke Power plants to flee.
Duke said residents should be reassured by the plants' structural strength, backup systems and the gradually unfolding nature of any radioactive release. Nuclear plants can't explode like bombs.
"If I were a terrorist ... I would not pick a nuclear plant to target," said Bryan Dolan, security manager for McGuire on Lake Norman.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission says most of the nation's 103 nuclear reactors are now surrounded by double fences topped with concertina wire, intrusion-detection devices, layers of access barriers, armed guards and armored defensive positions.
Duke won't discuss security in detail. Dolan said it's essentially been beefed up rather than fundamentally changed.
The Nuclear Control Institute, an NRC critic, says anti-aircraft batteries and military troops should protect nuclear plants. The group says a plane crash into a plant could spread radioactive materials.
An attack that drains pools in which spent fuel is stored could ignite a fuel fire that spreads radiation, critics say. McGuire stores 1,000 metric tons of spent fuel, the Catawba plant on Lake Wylie 800 tons and Oconee 1,400 tons.
A study commissioned by the Nuclear Energy Institute, an industry group, concluded that a crashing Boeing 767 would not penetrate the thick concrete walls of structures that house reactors or store spent fuel.
The NRC says it is still evaluating those scenarios.
A study by Duke-hired consultants in 2000 estimated it would take three to five hours to prepare and evacuate people within two miles of McGuire, depending on the time of year and day. It would take 6.1 to 7.6 hours to evacuate a 14-mile radius.
Nuclear Plant Cover-Up InvestigationAssociated Press September 2, 2002
CLEVELAND, Aug. 31 Federal regulators are investigating accusations that the owner of a nuclear plant where acid nearly ate through a six-inch-thick steel reactor cap altered records about the damage, the company said.
Todd Schneider, a spokesman for the company, FirstEnergy Corporation, said the utility was cooperating with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission but he would not provide details of the investigation at the Davis-Besse plant near Toledo.
"Allegations of altered documents and records are part of this investigation," Mr. Schneider said.
The plant has been closed since engineers discovered in March that boric acid had nearly eaten through the steel cap on the reactor vessel. It was the most extensive corrosion ever found on a nuclear reactor in the United States and led to a nationwide review of all 69 similar plants.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has said the leak that caused it should have been spotted as long as four years ago. An agency spokesman, Jan Strasma, would not confirm that officials were investigating whether FirstEnergy had altered records.
A coalition of 14 environmental and nuclear watchdog groups is urging the agency to order an independent review of the plant.
A coalition spokesman, David Lochbaum, a nuclear engineer, said investigators told him that the agency was studying whether FirstEnergy backdated videotapes, falsified documents and withheld a photograph to make damage seem less severe than it was.
Workers removed the damaged reactor head on Thursday and were to begin installing a replacement. The plant is expected to be operational by October, Mr. Schneider said.
Sustainable Development Energy InitiativePublic Citizen Press Release August 25, 2002
(8/23/02) - JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - Today marked the launch of a campaign by Global Resource Action Center for the Environment (GRACE), in partnership with Public Citizen, to establish an international fund that will support projects promoting energy conservation and sustainable sources of renewable energy.
The International Sustainable Energy Fund (ISEF) would consist of contributions from governments throughout the world of both money and ideas about strategy and technology. They would be used to achieve a sustainable quality of life for all. The idea was unveiled at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD).
"With the world's attention focused on the world summit right now, we hope that governments will be open to new ideas that would help realize the promise of the Rio Earth Summit ten years ago," said Alice Slater, president of GRACE. "Creating a unified fund to ensure equitable access of sustainable resources for all is the first step to eradicating poverty, minimizing pollutants, and reducing the risk from global warming and nuclear proliferation, while promoting safe, clean sustainable energy."
GRACE first submitted the ISEF model to the Commission for Sustainable Development in New York City in April 2001. It later was endorsed in concept at the EU/ NA Regional Roundtable in Vail, Colo. According to the plan, the funding for the ISEF would come from money saved from phasing out subsidies by industrialized governments that support unsustainable forms of fossil fuel and nuclear energy.
"This is a work in progress by civil society and we hope WSSD participants view this concept as an opportunity to promote international cooperation for a common goal," said Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program, which is advocating on behalf of the fund's creation. "Now is the time to push this idea forward and talk about how we can make it real. This is a call to all governments - if you truly want to clean up our planet, here's a way we can do it."
Yucca Mountain on Shaky Ground Literally!Public Citizen Press Release August 22, 2002
WASHINGTON, D.C. - A statement issued by the Department of Energy (DOE) dismissing the effects of an earthquake near Yucca Mountain, Nev., was premature and lacked conclusive supporting evidence, Public Citizen said in letters sent to Senate and House committees asking them to further investigate the issue.
"The DOE put the cart before the horse in making a public statement before completing the necessary studies and analyses," said Lisa Gue, senior energy analyst with Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program. "Congress should investigate the extent to which this rush-to-judgment tendency characterizes other aspects of DOE's work on Yucca Mountain."
The June 14 earthquake, measuring 4.4 on the Richter scale, was recorded about 12 miles away from Yucca Mountain, less than a month before the Senate voted to allow the DOE to proceed with plans to establish a high-level nuclear waste dump there. The day of the earthquake, the DOE issued a statement declaring "no damage to any Yucca Mountain Project facilities." Under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Public Citizen requested copies of all source material used to make this determination.
The agency provided only one document from June 14 - an e-mail message from a Yucca Mountain Project employee upon which the DOE statement was presumably based - that describes what workers did. The message reports only a visual inspection of aboveground water tanks and the ground, and a walk-through inspection of about the first 500 feet of the Yucca Mountain tunnel. According to other documents, a more thorough visual inspection - in which an inspector from Sandia National Labs examined about a third of the Yucca tunnel - was not conducted until the following day. A required technical evaluation was not completed until July 29.
In letters sent separately today to U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and U.S. Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), chair of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Water, Public Citizen wrote, "The public cannot be expected to have confidence in - and Congress should not accept - the pronouncements of an agency that appears more committed to dogmatically defending the nuclear industry's repository interests than honestly . . . evaluating the suitability of the Yucca Mountain site."