01 Sep 2011

WASHINGTON, On 31 Aug 2011, a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Senior Staff member announced that NRC is refining a plan to change its rules for Nuclear Power Plants(Nukes *) originally intended to address “lessons learned” from the Fukushima Dai No.1 tragedy, to additionally address recent seismic activity concerns in the central USA;  Accordingly,  the NRC is updating its requirements for Nukes to resist earthquakes, floods and other natural disasters. A process expected to take years.

QUAKE AND RISING WATER A NEW IMMEDIATE CONCERN  The new changes advocated by the NRC Staff, will now include requiring commercial operators of the USA’s 104 Nukes to take a new look at the risks posed by earthquakes and floods.  Amy Cubbage, a part of the NRC Taskforce, helped prepare a list of changes for U.S. reactors aimed at addressing concerns raised by the Fukushima Dai No.1 Tragedy of 12 Mar 2011, an subsequent results/findings. Ms. Cubbage said: “The full re-analysis proposed will take sometime,”  while there is no imminent risk from the design of aging nuclear plants, there is now emerging/ improved seismic data which seriously heightens earthquake hazard concerns in parts of  California, Central and Eastern USA.

“WITHOUT UNNECESSARY DELAY” NRC staff proposed NRC move forward on ordering upgrades to reactors with designs similar to the Fukushima plant, and safety improvements to “Spent Fuel Pools”. NRC thinks the changes can move forward “without unnecessary delay”, but gave no specific timeline. Other items identified by the NRC’ s Fukushima taskforce will need further study as part of a longer-term review, including its top recommendation to streamline its aging “patchwork” of rules and guidelines into a more useful/streamlined  regulatory structure. It is recognized that given the political climate, it will take years for NRC to adjust its regulations, and for the industry to implement the changes.

SEISMIC RISK REVIEW PROPOSED Separately, the NRC last Wednesday said it would require that plants evaluate their seismic risk, part of a process that started years before the Fukushima disaster. “In view of the potential safety significance of this issue, it is necessary to reexamine the level of conservatism in the determination of original seismic design estimates”,  the NRC said in a Federal Register Notice. While there is no “imminent risk” from the design of aging plants, there is higher earthquake hazard in parts of the central and eastern United States than was assumed when they were first designed.

NORTH-ANNA NUKE IN VIRGINIA UNDER THE LOOKING GLASS Last week’s magnitude R5.8 earthquake was centered about 12 miles from Dominion Power’s aging “North Anna” Nuke. The quake triggered a shutdown of two(2) reactors built more than 30 years ago to withstand a 5.9 to 6.1 quake. The “close call,” as some critics label it, led to demands from US Sen. Barbara Boxer(D-CA) and others, for new safety measures to protect such plants against earthquakes and other natural disasters. In a letter sent to the NRC on Friday, Sen. Boxer asked whether NRC believed the safety margins of the “North Anna” plant had changed since the time the plant was built. In non-sequitur fashion, Dominion says the North Anna plant suffered little damage last week, and that its safety systems worked effectively.  A Diesel generator used to power safety systems in case of emergency, malfunctioned after the quake, but three(3) other “backup generators” performed well, and there was no effect on plant safety. David Heacock, Dominion’s chief nuclear officer, said the day after the quake: “The point is, the station is in good condition with multiple layers of defense…We’ve already done extensive walk-thru(s) and we’ve found virtually no damage, except minor cracks in some ceramic insulators on a transformer”.

NRC STAFF WILL ADVICE THE FIVE(5) MEMBER COMMISSION on logistics for the changes on 03 OCT 2011, and how to weave in input from the industry, the public and an advisory committee. Senior NRC staff discussed the changes with industry and nuclear critics at a public meeting on Wednesday. Such seismic risks in the United States were highlighted last week by an earthquake in Virginia that may have shaken The Dominion ‘North Anna’ plant more severely than the facility was designed to withstand.

GOV CUOMO WORRIED ABOUT INDIAN POINT Nuke. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo(Dem), called the ‘Indian Point” nuclear plant in his state “a catastrophe waiting to happen,” noting that a geological fault was recently discovered near the site. Republicans in Washington however, are generally inclined to defend the Industry and its record, even though we are talking mainly about 40 year-old reactors, nearing the end of their approved life.

“NRC LOOKS AT EARTHQUAKE DANGER THROUGH ROSE COLORED GLASSES” according to California congressional delegation member Sam Blakeslee (R-CA), who wants the NRC to review the most recent seismic data, and apply the data AS IT CONSIDERS RE-LICENSING CALIFORNIA PLANTS.  Blakeslee (a geophysicist) representing San Luis Obispo, has taken the lead in pushing for updated seismic information on Nukes in California, including data on a new fault discovered near the “Diablo Canyon” Nuke in his district.  Echoing Sen. Boxer, and other members,  Blakeslee said: “Even after Fukushima, they( three members of the NRC Commission) rely on assertions from the nuclear industry”(remember Blakeslee is a Republican, and a geophysicist by profession).  His scientifically-based concern about the safety of his constituents DESERVES NRC’s ATTENTION!  Sen. Barbara Sen. Boxer (D-CA), chairwoman of the “Environment and Public Works Committee”, said in an interview she would press for an explanation from NRC members who recently declined to support immediate action on a list of safety recommendations from an NRC Staff Task force, and said: “I question their dedication to safety”.  Sen. Boxer said she also was concerned about seismic safety and evacuation plans at the “Diablo(Devil) Canyon” and “San Onofre” Nukes in California’s both now located in highly populated areas.

DEMOCRATIC HEAVYWEIGHTS WANT SWIFT ACTION. The task force issued 12 recommendations in July 2011, including reshaping NRC’s regulatory framework, and developing updated information on seismic risk. NRC’s chairman, Gregory Jaczko, called on the commission to vote on the recommendations quickly. At a Senate hearing earlier this month, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT.) praised the NRC Staff’s recommendations but, like US Sen. Barbara(D-CA) Boxer, expressed concern that some Commissioners were not likely to approve action on all 12 measures within three(3) months. Sen. Sanders said: “I KNOW WHAT DELAY MEANS IN THIS TOWN…It means nothing is going to happen.” In the interview on 26 Aug 2011(Friday), Sen. Boxer complained of a “pattern of delay at the NRC” and said the majority of her committee was committed to pressing for faster action.  Sen. Boxer has found an ally in NRC Chairman G. B. Jaczko, who wants the commission to adopt at least some of the task force  recommendations quickly, but (3) Republican Commissioners said his approach was too rushed.

REPUBLICAN HEAVYWEIGHTS ARE IRKED BY NRC CHAIRMAN JACZKO, AND WANT HIM REMOVED (He must be embarasing them). During the last week of Aug 2011, Congressional Republican Heavyweights have attacked NRC Chairman Jaczko personally, and even asked for his removal.

Timothy Greten, a Policy Specialist at the Federal Emergency Management Agency(FEMA), said at the NRC meeting: “We need to look, and see if we can learn lessons from anything that’s happened, whether it was the earthquake in Japan, or whether it was even the earthquake under Lake Anna, VA”

NRC STAFF WILL ADVICE THE FIVE(5) MEMBER NRC COMMISSION on logistics for the changes on 03 OCT 2011, and how to weave-in input from the Industry, the public and an advisory committee. Senior NRC staff discussed the changes with Industry and nuclear critics at a public meeting last Wednesday. Seismic risks in the United States were exacerbated last week by an earthquake in Virginia that may have shaken The Dominion ‘North Anna’ plant more severely than the facility was designed to withstand, or acknowledge. NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko has urged that the work be complete within five years.  An historically accelerated timetable for the NRC.

Note * For simplicity, we usually use the term: “Nuke” to denote a Nuclear Power Plant (NPP);  Technically however, a Nuke is a thermo-nuclear device(bomb).

Thanks to The LA Times, 27 Aug 2011, and Reuters 31 Aug 2011 for quotations.



This article is a sequel to our 22 Jul 2011 article titled: NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION (NRC) ALSO SPLIT ALONG PARTY LINES

Three Republican NRC Commissioners are opposed to taking any measures to comply with NRC proposed regulations/guidelines.  The NRC Staff Task Force has added on additional concern:  Improved seismic data which seriously heightens earthquake hazard concerns in parts of  California, Central and Eastern USA should force plant operators to make a new “quake risk assessment”. Unfortunately, the NRC, composed of five Commissioners, includes three(3) Republicans on record as opposed to any NRC rules/guidelines changes at this time; They, and their rationale, are outlined below:

(1) On 20 Jul 2100, a day after the task force briefed the commissioners on the post-Fukushima report, Commissioner, William D. Magwood IV, posted a statement at the commission’s Web site asserting that the task force had worked “without the benefit of the full analytical resources of the agency.” Given its 90-day mandate, “it was not possible to give all issues the consideration they deserve,” he wrote. (LET ME DRAG MY FEET ! – IT REDUCES THE ITCH).

(2)Commissioner, Kristine L. Svinicki, also posted a statement that said, “I do not have a sufficient basis to accept or reject the recommendations of the Near-Term Task Force.” She said the agency should “proceed with the systematic and methodical review of lessons learned.” A VERY IRRESOLUTE COMMENT – GIVE ME MORE PROOF! (THERE IS NOT SUFFICIENT PROOF IN THE WORLD FOR IRRESOLUTE PERSONS – THEY AVOID RESPONSIBILITY AS THE PLAGUE). Both commissioners noted that the task force had found no imminent threat to public health and safety from continued operation of the nation’s 104 power reactors, or from extending their licenses(already looking to do so) no matter what!

(3)Commissioner, William C. Ostendorff, said at the 19 Jul 2011 meeting: I personally do not believe that our existing regulatory framework is broken.” (IF IT AIN’T BROKE- DON’T FIX IT). See there, no problem!  LET US THEN EXPLORE THE ROLE OF THE PARTICIPANTS IN THIS IMPASSE.

THE NRC STAFF continues to diligently explore necessary safety changes to the nuclear Industry in the US, and to provide proposals to improve it, but to no avail.  Their recommendations are falling on ears deafened by politics, and the corruptive influences of the Uranium Nuclear Cartel.  It is hard to imagine how the NRC Staff can “keep the faith” knowing their best efforts and concerns are for naught.

NRC CHAIRMAN GREGORY B. JAZCKO continues to “take them to water, but he can’t make them drink”.  It must be a thankless, disappointing, and tough job.  We admire his courage and determination to do what is clearly needed to spare America from a nuclear disaster.   He can always say: “I told them so”, but unfortunately they keep saying: so what!

DEMOCRATIC HEAVYWEIGHTS Such as: Sen. Barbara Boxer(D-CA), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass), Gov. Cuomo of New York, and others, have aptly represented the concerns/will of their constituents, and as they feel, “of the American People”, unfortunately the Energy Barons wield an awesome force called BIG MONEY which corrupts absolutely.  It is sad to recognize the same MO works in Japan(and in most other Nuclear generating countries) and with disastrous consequences for Japan, and the world. We must point out that it was precisely such “Penny wise, and Pound foolish” attitude by colluding Japanese politicians, and “for profit” Nuclear Industrialists that led to the Fukushima Dai No. 1 Tragedy.which is not over yet – not by a long shot!

That means that the NRC continues to be hog-tied and impotent to make any changes to the Nuclear Safety status quo. As Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said: “I KNOW WHAT DELAY MEANS IN THIS TOWN…It means nothing is going to happen”. To my chagrin, I think he is a realistic man!


P.S. I am happy to report that in Aug 2011, we had readers from 31 countries.  Top among them were the USA,  Russian Federation, Great Britain, and Japan.

September 1, 2011 at 8:10 PM Comments (49)