Nuclear -   32
Nuclear -   32
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Nuclear - Page 26
Buying a ReportWashington Post – by John Mintz – December 27, 2002
(12/26/02) - U.S. nuclear power plants would survive a direct hit by a fully fueled passenger airliner piloted by suicide hijackers bent on repeating the catastrophic attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, according to a new scientific study by a utility industry research group.
Critics of the nuclear industry said the study released earlier this week by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) was skewed to draw a preordained conclusion proclaiming the safety of the nation's 103 nuclear power plants. The danger exists that a direct strike could cause the meltdown of a plant's nuclear core that would spread wind-borne radiation to thousands of people, skeptics of the report said.
"They knew the answers they wanted and worked backwards," said Edwin Lyman, president of the Nuclear Control Institute, an organization critical of the industry's safety claims. "We can't take anything the industry says at face value."
Nuclear industry officials insist the study was scientifically sound, and was conducted by highly reputable engineering consultants using real-life scenarios involving a terrorist strike on a nuclear plant. Only a 10-page summary of the lengthier study was released publicly, with the rest withheld for security reasons.
"The results of this study validate the industry's confidence that nuclear power plants are robust and protect the [nuclear] fuel from impacts of a large commercial aircraft," said Joe F. Colvin, president of the Nuclear Energy Institute, a trade association of utilities and nuclear energy firms that asked the research institute to conduct the report. "Public health and safety would be protected" in such an attack, he said.
"Confidence is predicated on the fact that nuclear plant structures have thick concrete walls with heavy reinforcing steel, and are designed to withstand large earthquakes, extreme overpressures and hurricane force winds," the EPRI report said.
The study considered what would happen if the relatively large Boeing 767 squarely crashed into a power plant's nuclear containment building -- the structure where nuclear reactors are located, with a tank full of fuel. The assumption was the plane was traveling at 350 miles an hour, the approximate speed of the jet that hit the Pentagon and the velocity that the consultants believe a pilot would maintain to maneuver a plane into a site built low to the ground.
Yet nuclear industry critic Lyman said it would be feasible for a highly trained al Qaeda pilot to fly at as much as 600 miles an hour, the approximate speed of the first plane to strike the World Trade Center -- a scenario that would worsen the damage at a crash site. Furthermore, the study apparently did not consider the effect of two or more aircraft strikes on the same plant, he said.
The study, mostly employing computer modeling, was performed for EPRI by ABS Consulting and ANATECH engineering specialists, and was peer reviewed by other experts with decades of experience in structural analysis, the Nuclear Energy Institute said.
Nuclear plants were not designed to withstand direct hits by passenger airliners, although some that were built beneath jetliner flight paths and that were approved in the 1970s had to show they could survive glancing blows from the relatively small 727, said Lyman, who has a doctorate in physics.
Lyman said the gravest danger if an aircraft slammed into a nuclear containment site is that the extremely hard steel shafts in the jet's engines would penetrate all the way through the four feet of reinforced concrete that makes up the side walls, and well beyond the three feet of concrete that he said makes up the structure's dome.
Safety specialists fear that a massive "insult" or breaching of a containment building's walls could cause the nuclear fuel to melt, setting off a cascade of events ending in the release of dangerous radioactivity that could be carried by winds for hundreds of miles. Among the plants that nuclear industry critics say pose the greatest risk in such a scenario is Indian Point nuclear power plant in Peekskill, N.Y. Twenty million people live within 50 miles, and 300,000 within 10 miles.
A study by a Washington think tank in October suggested the nuclear industry does a better job of protecting itself than many others.
In a mock exercise simulating the response to a vague report of a terrorist threat to East Coast energy installations, nuclear industry executives showed their plants are "the best defended targets" of any in the energy business, in part because they are in such close contact with local and federal officials, said John J. Hamre, president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, which helped run the exercise.
The center said that while commercial airlines have massively tightened their security since Sept. 11, 2001, the general aviation sector, including operators of large corporate jets, and companies flying cargo aircraft still need to improve security measures.
SC Plutonium VictoryThe Greenville News – December 10, 2002
(12/8/02) - President Bush signed a bill last week that does indeed give South Carolina the protection it needs to ensure it won't become a permanent dumping ground for surplus weapons-grade plutonium. A provision in a defense bill fines the federal government $100 million annually if it fails to remove plutonium scheduled to be converted to MOX fuel at the Savannah River Site near Aiken.
It's a victory for South Carolina and it should end this state's feud with the federal government.
The protections, secured by U.S. Rep. Lindsey Graham, also feature several performance-based triggers that would block shipment in the event the federal government does not develop its MOX program in a timely enough manner. Another trigger would call for the immediate export of plutonium if the MOX program isn't meeting production goals.
Gov. Jim Hodges was rightly concerned about the prospect of giving plutonium a permanent home here, but he was absolutely wrong in the tactics he chose to secure needed guarantees of an exit strategy. He first threatened to use the state Highway Patrol to block our borders to stop the shipments. The governor then filed a federal lawsuit that Gov.-elect Mark Sanford has, appropriately, indicated he would drop.
This solution, hard-won in the Congress, comes with teeth and ultimate authority. It is far more preferable.
Plutonium in SC for 700 Years?The Greenville News – by Tim Smith – December 7, 2002
(12/6/02) - The federal government could store its stockpile of surplus plutonium in South Carolina for more than 700 years without paying a dime in penalties, despite recently enacted congressional legislation designed to enforce its removal, the president of a nuclear non-proliferation group said Friday.
Edwin Lyman, president of the Washington-based Nuclear Control Institute, said the recently enacted law allows the U.S. Department of Energy to use a small amount of its 34 metric tons of surplus weapons-grade plutonium each year in a program to manufacture commercial nuclear reactor fuel.
The legislation spells out how much of the fuel, called MOX, must be produced, and not how much plutonium must be consumed in the process, he said. It takes 44 kilograms of plutonium to make a ton of MOX.
The $4 billion MOX program is designed to dispose of American nuclear weapons material by converting it into nuclear power fuel at factories to be built at the Savannah River Site near Aiken. The Russians have agreed to dispose of the same amount of their surplus plutonium using a similar program.
U.S. Senator-elect Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who authored the bill as a U.S. House member, has said the law will protect the state and ensure the deadly nuclear material is not just shipped to SRS for permanent storage.
Kevin Bishop, a spokesman for Graham, said that while it's possible under the law to stretch out the plutonium for centuries, he does not believe the Department of Energy would invest so much money in a facility and then run it at such a minimum level. He said the law was always designed as a minimum requirement and is better than no protection at all.
"The provision that Congressman Graham and Sen. (Strom) Thurmond put together was a base floor," Bishop said. "It ensures that the MOX facility is constructed, is operational and the plutonium is turned into MOX fuel."
Graham and Thurmond wrote the legislation as a means of protecting the state after Democratic Gov. Jim Hodges threatened to block plutonium shipments if the government did not commit to a legally enforceable agreement to remove the processed material.
Hodges opposed Graham's legislation, saying earlier this year it did not go far enough in protecting the state. A U.S. District Court judge in June rejected Hodges' attempt to stop the shipments, an order Hodges has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Morton Brilliant, a spokesman for Hodges, compared the new law to requiring a man who dumps a large amount of trash on his neighbor's lawn to remove it at a rate of one soda can per decade.
"That's about what it's saying," he said.
Joe Davis, a spokesman for the Energy Department, could not be reached Friday for comment.
President Bush signed the legislation into law on Monday.
The law requires that if the program does not meet its one-ton goal by 2009, the agency must produce a ton within two years or remove one ton of plutonium from the state. If the department does not produce one ton of MOX, the state can collect an "impact fee" of $1 million a day, up to $100 million a year until the requirement is met.
By 2017, the law requires the Energy Department to produce up to three tons of MOX. In addition, the facilities must produce at least one ton a year for two consecutive years.
If the program is unsuccessful by 2017, the law requires that all plutonium in the state be immediately removed.
Lyman and his organization favors immobilizing plutonium instead of MOX. Immobilization would mix the plutonium with ceramic material in giant glass logs, to be stored at the nation's nuclear repository at Yucca Mountain.
Lyman said the approach is cheaper, faster and safer.
Bishop said Lyman's push for immobilization makes his criticism of the new law suspect.
"They're complaining about the time but they don't want to join the solution to shorten that time frame," he said.
Yucca Mountain Dump LawsuitNew York Times – by Matthew L. Wald – December 4, 2002
WASHINGTON, Dec. 2 — Yucca Mountain cannot be used for disposal of the nation's nuclear waste, the State of Nevada said in a brief filed today, arguing that the site does not meet criteria that require its natural features to contain the material for thousands of years.
The brief, filed in a suit in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, includes Energy Department estimates that if "engineered barriers" fail, Yucca will leak. According to the department, if the man-made containers do not hold, the radiation dose at the site boundary will be six times higher than the rules allow after 1,000 years; after 3,000 years, the dose will be 67 times higher.
A spokesman for the Energy Department, Joseph H. Davis, said that he could not comment in detail because he had not yet seen the argument. But, he said, "It's certainly not surprising that perhaps some of the same arguments we heard before are being made by the state."
Opponents of the repository have argued before that the Energy Department is trying to make the project acceptable by relying on man-made barriers that cannot reliably be predicted to last for the 10,000 years that the law requires. But the suit includes more details about how the Energy Department has backed away from its initial insistence that the rock alone would contain the wastes.
Since the late 1950's, the United States has been seeking what scientists refer to as a "geologic repository" for the waste, which is mostly from power plants and nuclear weapons production. Nevada's brief quotes a 20-year-old statement by the Energy Department that "the host rock with its properties provides the justification for geologic disposal and is the main element in containing the waste within the repository."
The host rock at Yucca, a ridge in the desert 100 miles from Las Vegas, is formed by volcanic emissions. The main mechanism for waste to escape from the mountain is rainwater seeping down from the summit to the groundwater far below. That water flows steadily across the site's boundaries, where it can feed wells and come to the surface in springs.
Government scientists initially believed that water would take 9,000 to 80,000 years to flow from the repository to the accessible environment. But researchers have discovered fractures in the rock where water flows much faster. In 1997, scientists found traces of chlorine-36, which does not exist in nature, in the five-mile tunnel drilled to explore the mountain's rock. That meant that material produced by nuclear explosions, the first of which was in 1944, had already penetrated through 800 feet of rock. According to the suit, in 1996 the Energy Department said that some water could go from the repository level to the water table, 1,300 feet down, in 50 years, and then flow beyond the site boundaries.
The Energy Department has argued that the storage containers will hold the wastes, and it projects that releases for the first 10,000 years will be very small. But assessing the adequacy of the containers is difficult, the project's critics maintain, because the Energy Department has not made a final design public.
The suit argues that reliance on a system that combines the man-made containers with the natural characteristics is "essentially abandoning" the Nuclear Waste Policy Act's mandate "that the site's geology form the primary isolation barrier."
The suit, brought by the State of Nevada, the City of Las Vegas and Clark County, is the second recent use of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act against the Energy Department. Environmentalists are suing the department over its plan to leave some nuclear waste in steel tanks buried under a few feet of dirt at nuclear weapons plants.
The Energy Department is also under pressure to take the wastes from the operators of civilian power plants. Soon after the waste act was signed in 1982, those operators agreed to pay the government a tenth of a cent per kilowatt-hour produced in exchange for the department taking the wastes beginning in 1998. That date now seems too optimistic by at least a decade, and the courts have ruled that the power companies can seek damages from the department for the extra costs of storing the fuel.
Yucca Mountain Cover-up?Associated Press – November 27, 2002
LAS VEGAS (AP) - Some workers at the Yucca Mountain Project said there were flaws in the process scientists used to determine whether the site was suitable for disposing the nation's nuclear waste.
At least two workers claim they were either fired or transferred after raising concerns about the project's safety, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported in its Sunday editions.
Robert Clark and Jim Mattimoe, both quality assurance specialists, said they were shoved aside so lingering problems would remain silent at Yucca.
U.S. Labor Department records show the men might have been mistreated because they believed the project was cutting corners to meet looming deadlines.
The Department of Energy earlier this year recommended that more than 77,000 tons of the nation's deadliest nuclear waste be buried at Yucca Mountain, located 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas.
President Bush and Congress have since approved plans to build a repository at Yucca Mountain. The first shipment of nuclear waste could arrive in 2010.
Mattimoe, 52, said he was fired after he made allegations of wrongdoing and corruption to Lake Barrett. At the time, Barrett was in charge of the DOE's Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management, which oversaw the Yucca Mountain Project.
Barrett declined to comment on Mattimoe's termination or Clark's transfer other than to say, "I'm personally satisfied with the actions that I took."
Mattimore said wrongdoing included withholding evidence and attributing statements to people who had never been interviewed about concerns with the project.
"The concerns program, which is much like an internal affairs division in a police department, is chartered to perform unbiased, independent investigations into any type of concern that could impact the safety of the project and the public," he said.
"I identified that the concerns program was corrupt and thereby raised questions about the credibility of all investigations for a period of nearly 10 years," Mattimoe said.
Mattimoe was fired by Navarro Research and Engineering, a quality assurance contractor hired by DOE.
A Labor Department investigator later determined that part of the reason Navarro fired Mattimoe was it had been urged to do so by Barrett. The inspector described Barrett's actions as "extraordinarily egregious."
In a Sept. 13 report, the Labor Department ordered Navarro to reinstate Mattimoe, expunge his personnel file and reimburse him for costs incurred.
The report states that Susana Navarro, president of Navarro Research and Engineering, was motivated to fire Mattimoe "at least in part to her fear that she might not receive future extensions or contracts with DOE unless she took this action."
Navarro is appealing the Labor Department ruling. Mattimoe now is working at the Los Alamos, N.M., national laboratory.
Susana Navarro said an audit by a prominent law firm found "among other things, that Mr. Mattimoe's conduct as a program manager for SAIC (the previous contractor) was inconsistent with a safety conscious work environment.
"I based my decision on the findings of this report, and I really believe that I did the right thing," she wrote.
But the Labor Department report says the law firm's audit is nothing more than a "sophisticated recitation of anonymous charges."
Some of the federal documents cited by the Review-Journal were obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.
Information from: Las Vegas Review-Journal
Energy Department FloundersNew York Times – by Joel Brinkley - November 25, 2002
WASHINGTON, Nov. 23 — When the Bush administration announced this month that it intended to turn about half of the federal government's civilian jobs over to contractors, some officials at the Department of Energy reacted with rueful shakes of the head.
Since it was founded 35 years ago, the department has relied on contractors for almost everything it does. More than 90 percent of its budget is paid to 100,000 outside workers.
Next month, the Energy Department will field the first employees whose job is to supervise the contractors' work because, its leaders acknowledge, it has a dismal record of contract management. The department's experience serves as a sobering counterpoint to the White House proposal.
In particular, an internal Energy Department report this year concluded that the agency's largest program, which pays contractors to clean up the waste left by the nation's nuclear weapons programs, has been fundamentally mismanaged since its founding 13 years ago, and much of the $60 billion it has spent over that time was wasted.
The internal report's denunciation of agency practices and its prescriptions for changes echoed findings by outside auditors dating to 1990 — conclusions that are repeated in reports by auditors published in September, October and this month.
What astonished agency employees, officials said, was that the department had finally acknowledged its problems. The office in question is the department's Environmental Management Program, formed in 1989 to clean up the radioactive waste left from cold war nuclear development programs at 114 sites nationwide. For years it has been criticized for cost overruns and delays projected to last decades.
In one of the Energy Department's most infamous examples, which is far from unique, it began a program in 1985 to clean radioactive waste from 34 million gallons of liquids in storage in South Carolina. The project was to take three years and cost $32 million. Fourteen years later the department abandoned the project, saying it was unworkable because of mismanagement. By then, $500 million had been spent.
Jessie Roberson, assistant secretary of energy for environmental management, said: "I have been embarrassed by our lack of progress. We owe the taxpayers more."
Ms. Roberson and the department's other leaders say they are now addressing the problems. The agency says it is scrutinizing contracts more closely and training 200 people to be project supervisors. Today, no one at the department actively supervises multibillion-dollar cleanup projects that are let out to contractors.
This month, department leaders also made public a plan to shorten the time by which contractors will have cleaned up all the radioactive sites nationwide — to 2030 from 2070. Ms. Roberson, who has been with the agency or one of its contractors for 21 years, acknowledges that most administrations come in with "plans for some new initiative or program to fix the problems."
The environmental management program engenders extraordinary criticism from within the government. The White House, in a current budget document, says the program "is less focused on cleaning up sites and has instead turned into a local jobs program." A senior Office of Management and Budget official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said in an interview, "They have spent a lot of money, but producing results seems to be an alien concept over there."
Since 1990, the General Accounting Office has classified the Energy Department's contract management as "high risk." It is one of just six agencies whose procurement practices were judged dysfunctional.
In the Clinton and Bush administrations, the Office of Management and Budget has described the department as among the dozen or so most troubled in government.
A General Accounting Office audit published in September found that, even as agency officials spoke of change and reform, problems were actually worsening. Auditors examined a sample of 16 projects costing $200 million or more and said, "We found no indication of improved performance." The number of projects for which cost estimates had at least doubled in five years and completion deadlines had slipped by at least five years had increased to 38 percent.
An Energy Department inspector general's report published last month said one current cleanup project, in which price has escalated to $214 million from $64 million, had "problems with project plans, cost estimates and project oversight."
Ms. Roberson observed that critical audits like that quickly lose their sting and in a perverse way even encourage agencies to stick with the offending practices. "There has been a learned pattern of co-dependency between the department and the G.A.O and the inspector general," she said. "When they identify problems, our job is to stand firm and explain the problems away. And with that posture, the problems don't get better over time. The debate could go on forever."
When Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham took office last year, he ordered three of the department's major divisions — energy efficiency, fossil fuels and environmental management — to examine their operations closely. But former Energy Secretary Bill Richardson and others had also ordered tough reviews.
Environmental Management's review was the first one published, in February. It found that "there is a systemic problem with the way Environmental Management has conducted its activities."
The program had estimated that cleaning up all the nuclear weapons sites would ultimately cost $300 billion and be completed in 2070. But, the internal report said, "it is clear that on the current path, the cost of the program will continue to increase and increase, with the real possibility that the ultimate cleanup and closure goal will never be met."
"I think people were actually quite surprised that we said all this ourselves because we had denied and defended for so long," said Ms. Roberson, who was on the review team.
Bruce M. Carnes, the department's chief financial officer, said it had decided "that to obtain results in 70 or 75 years is not satisfactory." The White House agrees.
The internal report and other audits this year show that the agency awards contracts to clean up radioactive sites without actually examining the property to see what the work will entail.
Once a contract is awarded, the department seldom checks back. The department "has virtually abdicated its role of owner in project oversight," the National Research Council said in a report last year that had been requested by Congress. That report found that half the money the department spends on contracts each year — more than $17 billion in the last fiscal year — is wasted and called Energy "one of the most inefficient organizations in the federal government."
The agency's leaders all vow that the changes they are making are real and will bring results. Early this year Secretary Abraham said, "We will no longer give contractors a license for unending cleanup and open-ended budgets."
In an interview, Mr. Carnes said: "We are serious. We are changing the tires on this car while it's driving 60 miles an hour. And this is not something that comes and goes. It's rock bottom truth."
But the senior O.M.B. official complained, "So far, we've had more discussions about what they are planning to do than anything they have actually done."
Free Nuke Pills Offered AgainThe Charlotte Observer – by Scott Dodd – November 22, 2002
N.C. residents who live within 10 miles of the Charlotte area's two nuclear power plants have a second chance to get free pills to protect against radiation, and companies can stockpile them for employees for the first time.
Last month, county health departments distributed potassium iodide tablets to 124,000 residents within 10-mile emergency planning zones around the two plants. But two-thirds of the pills are left over. So officials are making the pills available again over the next month.
This distribution will include jails, prisons, nursing homes and hospitals. Schools and day-care centers won't be included, but officials plan to stockpile pills at those places in the future.
"Should we exhaust the supply, we can always get more," said Mecklenburg County Health Department spokesman D.C. Lucchesi.
Only N.C. counties are distributing the pills this month. S.C. residents will be given potassium iodide at a later date.
Workers would be given pills by employers if a disaster occurs. Workers aren't eligible to pick up their own pills.
Known by the chemical symbol KI, potassium iodide helps block thyroid cancer, the most common ailment after the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident in the former Soviet Union.
Medical experts say taking KI is the most important way residents can protect themselves after a radioactive release -- short of a speedy evacuation, which would be difficult in many parts of the Charlotte region.
National health experts, including the American Thyroid Association, say everyone who lives or works within 50 miles of a nuclear plant should have KI. The experts have urged officials to distribute the drug since 1982, when it received U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval.
It took Sept. 11 and fears of terrorist attacks against power plants to persuade the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission to act. In December, the NRC offered pills to every state with residents within 10 miles of a plant. So far, 16 of the 34 eligible states have asked for the pills.
South Carolina was the most recent, deciding last month that it will distribute the pills.
The pills can also be bought at many local drugstores and on the Internet.
The Carolinas have a dozen nuclear plants, including McGuire on Lake Norman and Catawba on Lake Wylie. Counties in other parts of North Carolina have made their own distribution plans for different dates.
Nearly 500,000 residents of Mecklenburg, Gaston, Iredell, Lincoln and Catawba counties were eligible to pick up the pills during last month's distribution. Only about a quarter of them did.
How to get them:
Mecklenburg companies and institutions located within the 10-mile zones can pick up free tablets for their employees today through Dec. 13 at the Health Department’s northwest campus, 2845 Beatties Ford Road.
In Iredell, employers can pick up the pills from 2-4 p.m. Dec.17 at the Mooresville office of the Health Department. After that, employers they can get tablets the second and fourth Thursday of each month between 2p.m. and 4p.m. at the department’s Mooresville office.
Employers may pick up one tablet per employee on site during the largest shift. They must present requests to the health department on company letterhead. Companies must make their own plans for on-site distribution in an emergency.
Institutions such as hospitals, jails or nursing homes that would face difficulty evacuating are allowed two free tablets for each resident.
Residents who live within the 10-mile zones can pick up the pills during normal business hours through Dec. 13 at the Mecklenburg Health Department’s northwest campus or at the following locations:
Cornelius Police Department, 21440 Catawba Ave.; (704) 892-1363
Davidson Town Hall, 216 S. Main St.; (704) 892-7591
North County Regional Library, 16500 Holly Crest Lane, Huntersville; (704) 895-4020
Pineville Town Hall, 118College St.; (704) 889-2291
Iredell Health Department, 412 E. Center Ave. (only on the second and fourth Thursday of each month from 2-4p.m.)
Gaston Health Department, 991 W. Hudson Blvd., Gastonia
Lincoln Health Department, 151 Sigmon Rd., Lincolnton
Lincoln Community Center, Optimist Drive, Denver
East Lincoln Branch Library, 1251 North Hwy. 16, Denver
Visit www.meckhealth.org for more information, including maps of the 10-mile zones.
INPO Reactor Safety WarningDow Jones Newswires – by Jennifer Morrow – November 21, 2002
(11/20/02) - NEW YORK -- Major U.S. nuclear-plant operators said they will review and report on procedures at their plants within the next three months after a confidential industry report called on them to make sure their staffs don't put productivity ahead of safety.
In a report dated Nov. 11, the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations, an Atlanta-based industry group to which all reactor owners belong, said management problems allowed severe corrosion to develop at FirstEnergy Corp.'s Davis- Besse reactor in Ohio and that those problems might not be isolated to one plant.
The plainly worded report suggests the deregulated industry could easily fall prey to creeping neglect of safety. The institute, which has a quasi-regulatory role, told reactor owners to evaluate their procedures and report back within 90 days.
The nuclear industry has seen strong improvements in efficiency under deregulation, as outage times and operating expenses have been cut. Critics, however, fear the gains have come at the expense of safety. The subject is a touchy one for industry executives, who said safety has always been their first priority.
"Where plants fail, it really is a management problem and a lack of the right leadership," said Jerry Yelverton, CEO of New Orleans-based Entergy Nuclear, a unit of Entergy Corp. "Davis-Besse didn't have that."
In March, engineers doing work at Davis-Besse found a hole that nearly went all the way through the heavy steel lid covering the reactor. The hole, the largest ever found, was caused by leaking boric acid. A breach likely wouldn't have threatened public safety, but would have been serious nonetheless.
A focus on short-term production goals, lax management oversight, justification of problems in order the keep the plant operating and a lack of sensitivity to nuclear safety are among the shortcomings evident in FirstEnergy's management at Davis-Besse, the institute said. It added that corporate incentives which rewarded employees for keeping outages short and doing repairs while the plant was still on line were partly to blame for the neglect of a chronic leakage problem on the reactor vessel head.
Incentives should convey a company's priorities, said Henry Brew Barron Jr., Duke Energy's senior vice president of nuclear operations. "We have monetary incentive programs for all employees based on metrics that look at plant safety," he said, as well as reliability and cost effectiveness.
Mr. Barron added, "The important thing is making sure the value system, in the employees eyes, is not ambiguous."
Davis-Besse's problems appeared to have slipped unnoticed across several radar screens, including the institute's, said Dave Lochbaum, a nuclear engineer with the Union of Concerned Scientists, a Washington, D.C.-based industry watchdog.
"The nuclear industry is populated by people who like to do calculations," he said. "A safety culture is not something people with a technical background are prepared to deal with."
FirstEnergy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which oversees the operations of the nation's 103 nuclear power plants, have both acknowledged they failed to act on warning signs at Davis-Besse. The company has said emphasizing productivity over safety allowed the problem to worsen.
FirstEnergy has shuffled management at its operating company and instituted a weekly problem-solving meetings at the plant between staff members and Lew Myers, FirstEnergy's chief of nuclear operations.
The institute was created after the 1979 Three Mile Island meltdown. It visits plants and issues reports to keep reactor owners from falling below industry standards.
Dumping Radioactive Waste on PublicPublic Citizen – Press Release – November 8, 2002
Stating Preference to Release and Recycle Nuclear Waste, Agency Betrays Public Trust to Support Nuclear Corporations
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) recently stated preference to release and recycle radioactive wastes strongly indicates that it is more concerned with assisting the nuclear industry than protecting the public, Public Citizen said today.
In a news release issued Wednesday, the NRC announced that it will press ahead in a rulemaking that could dramatically increase the volume of radioactive waste material that is dumped in unlicensed landfills and recycled into consumer goods. The NRC's current policy allows all materials (metal, concrete, soil, etc.) to be released or recycled on a case-by-case basis. The agency is exploring allowing widespread recycling of contaminated solid materials into consumer products.
While the NRC's preference to allow the nuclear industry to disperse much of its waste has been made clear by its actions for many years, the agency is now stating it openly. In written comments submitted with his vote approving the rulemaking procedure, NRC Chairman Richard Meserve discouraged agency staff from trying to "mask the Commission's continuing support for the release" of the waste.
While the NRC's news release attempts to put a friendly face on the process, vowing that "NRC staff will seek broad public participation and engage diverse viewpoints," Meserve's guidance in his written comments that public "(w)orkshops are resource-intensive and expensive and additional workshops should be limited" was not mentioned in the release and will likely compromise the public's ability to voice objections to the plan.
Additionally, Public Citizen said, it is distressing to see how dismissive the NRC has been regarding the National Academies' March 2002 report on this issue, done at the NRC's request. This report, while not recommending that the NRC immediately halt the radioactive waste recycling program, did suggest that it take a very cautionary approach and seriously address public concerns on the issue, in part to overcome a "legacy of distrust." Instead of beginning a broad, deliberative process, as suggested by the Academies' report, the NRC is opting to proceed with a rulemaking and ignore public concerns.
"The Academies' report emphasized that the NRC not prescribe an outcome on the issue and that real consideration of public input was essential," said Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook. "But in limiting public workshops and stating their preference from the get-go, it looks like they've already made a decision. The upcoming 'process' will most likely be a public relations maneuver and sham."
The NRC claims on its Web site that its "primary mission is to protect the public health and safety, and the environment from the effects of radiation from nuclear reactors, materials, and waste facilities." The agency also agrees with the firmly established scientific tenet that "any amount of radiation may pose some risk for causing cancer and hereditary effect." With this in mind, it is particularly alarming to note NRC Commissioner Jeffrey Merrifield's observation in his written comments on the rulemaking that "(r)ecycled solid material is different in that there is a potential that the radioactive component may be concentrated in the recycling process or that the material will be recycled in a form resulting in more actual contact with the general public." Incredibly, Merrifield goes on to say that "(it) would be nice to have a separate industry devoted to the recycling of radioactive material."
"One can only assume that the NRC is not concerned about abdicating its regulatory role to protect the public and making cynical calculations of how many additional cancer deaths are 'acceptable,' " said David Ritter, policy analyst with Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program. "The agency knows that this dumping can lead to radioactive consumer products like bicycles and belt buckles. It knows that this practice is wholly unnecessary and its sole beneficiary is the nuclear industry."
Both the NRC and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) are addressing the issue of nuclear waste release and recycling. The NRC has jurisdiction over commercial nuclear reactors, while the DOE oversees waste from nuclear weapons facilities and energy research facilities. The DOE also allows case-by-case release or recycle of all materials, except metals.
"The American public has spoken loudly and clearly on this issue before, and that's why Congress banned the 'Below Regulatory Concern' policy in 1992, conceding that radiation is always a concern," Ritter said. "So now, industry and the so-called regulators are trying to come in the back door via word-play, public relations marketing and outright lies. The industry refuses to accept responsibility for proper handling and disposal of its deadly waste. The only responsible action for it to take is isolate and contain it, not try to 'dilute' it by dispersing it across the country in recycled products."
The NRC is scheduled to complete its rulemaking within three years.
High Demand for KI Pills in Lincoln CountyEmployee Advocate – DukeEmployees.com – November 3, 2002
Those who live near nuclear plants may not be as complacent about the possibility of a radioactive release as Duke would have you believe. Of the five counties surrounding McGuire Nuclear Plant, Lincoln County led the demand for KI tablets, according to News@Norman.
38.5 percent of households in Lincoln County requested the pills. In a ten-mile radius of McGuire, 123,790 pill were distributed. And, the citizens had only a 2-day window to request the pills.
Here is a quote from the News@Norman article: “The KI pills are used in case of a nuclear disaster to combat the effects of radioactive release in an attack on a nuclear power plant.”
That was an interesting choice of words! A nuclear plant does not have to be attacked to have an accident. Notice how the possibility of a nuclear plant attack has slipped into the psyche of the public. The fact that “radioactive release” and “attack” have become almost synonymous shows that the public is not as ignorant as the executives would like.
The executives would prefer that the public be unprotected than to admit the possibility of anything going wrong.
How’s this for a new company slogan? “We generate denial.”
Hot Waste, Cold CashPublic Citizen – Press Release – November 3, 2002
Nuclear Industry Campaign Contributions to Federal Candidates in the 2002 Election
WASHINGTON D.C.- In the 2002 election cycle, the nuclear industry doled out more than $1.5 million to federal candidates in competitive races, according to a report released today by Public Citizen.
The sizable contributions from nuclear power plant owners and operators suggest that the outcome of these competitive races could have a dramatic effect on nuclear policy over the next two years. The nuclear industry is desperately seeking to secure a primary role in energy policy discussions and pushing an aggressive legislative agenda for such things as subsidies to build new nuclear reactors and more money for the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear dump.
"The many pet projects of the nuclear industry require a political blind eye to their many environmental, economic and safety problems," said Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program. "Voters in the upcoming election should consider whether campaign contributions will jeopardize the candidates' commitment to policies that point toward a safe energy future."
Using Federal Election Commission data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, Public Citizen analyzed contributions from certain political action committees (PAC) to major party candidates in 76 House races and 17 Senate races during the 2002 election cycle (November 2000 to October 2002). The contributions came from nuclear power plant owners and operators and three leading trade associations in which many of them are members: the American Public Power Association, Edison Electric Institute and the Nuclear Energy Institute. Among the report's findings:
Citizens Line Up for ‘Nuke Pills’The Charlotte Observer – by Scott Dodd - October 24, 2002
(10/23/02) - Larger crowds of area residents showed up Tuesday for the last day to collect two free pills that could help protect them following a nuclear disaster.
Local health officials said distribution sites were busier and lines longer than on Saturday, the first day residents could receive the potassium iodide tablets.
Mecklenburg, Catawba, Gaston, Iredell and Lincoln officials distributed pills for 38,060 residents Tuesday. On Saturday, 23,835 residents received pills. More than 200,000 people were eligible across the region.
Known by its chemical symbol, KI, potassium iodide helps block thyroid cancer, the most common ailment suffered after the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident in the former Soviet Union.
Local officials distributed the pills with a warning that people should take them only if instructed following an accident or terrorist attack at the McGuire or Catawba plants near Charlotte.
Mecklenburg County Health Department spokesman D.C. Lucchesi guessed that Saturday's pleasant weather kept people from lining up for the pills. But on Tuesday, lines had formed at the door of some sites before they opened at 3 p.m. Spots in Huntersville, Cornelius and Davidson, which are close to the McGuire plant on Lake Norman, were especially busy, he said.
At the Bethel Presbyterian Church site in Cornelius, business was brisk about 6 p.m., as many local residents stopped to pick up the pills on their way home from work.
Some said they hadn't gotten the pills during Saturday's distribution because they'd been out of town or working.
Margie Burgess, who lives so near McGuire that she can hear it running, wasn't aware of the distribution until a family member called her Tuesday and suggested that she get the pills.
Barbara Fox, who lives in Huntersville, also hadn't heard about distribution efforts until she read about it in Sunday's newspaper. So on Tuesday, on her way home from work, she stopped to get a supply for her family.
N.C. residents who live within 10 miles of the McGuire or Catawba nuclear plants were eligible. South Carolina will hand out the tablets at a later date.
Now that the initial free distribution is over, health officials will assess whether to request more of the pills or whether they have enough left over to give them to people who work in the 10-mile zone. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission made the pills available earlier this year for states to distribute to people who live within the emergency planning zones around the plants.
People who missed the distribution or who live outside the zones can buy the pills at drug stores or on the Internet, including at www.nukepills.com.
Staff Writers howie paul hartnett and Pam Kelley contributed to this report.