24 Sep 2011

THE PETITION HEADED BY “BEYOND NUCLEAR” An anti-nuclear organization headed by longtime anti-nuke activist Paul Gunter, calls for the immediate suspension of 17 Nuclear Power Plants (NPPs – or Nukes) in the USA, still using General Electric(GE) Boiling Water reactor(BWR) Mark 1 units. These are the same type of reactors that experienced a meltdown at the Fukushima Dai No.1 plant last 13 Mar 2011.  Paul Gunter, Director of the “Reactor Oversight Project” for “Beyond Nuclear” said: “We should be freezing our Fukushima-like, Oyster Creek, and 16 OTHER NUKES LIKE THEM; not allowing them to operate, given all the post Fukushima concerns raised, until all those concerns can be addressed with confidence”  The petition currently has over 6,000 signatories, including the local group “Grandmothers, Mothers and More for Energy Safety (GRAMMES)”.

WHAT THEY WANT The group is advocating for the revocation of a 1989 approval of an experimental venting system for G. E. Mark 1 reactors, and also for Nuke operators to install “emergency backup power for the ‘Spent-fuel cooling system”  According to Gunter, the USA “Petition Review Board of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is considering revoking the approval of the vents currently installed at Oyster Creek in 1990. The same type vents now installed at Oyster Creek were installed at Fukushima in 1991. It was such vents that utterly failed at Dai No.1 last Mar 2011 with a 100 % failure rate on three(3) reactors.  Gunter added: “They (the vents) are a significant hazard (at Oyster Creek Nuke)now…The NRC unfortunately, has refused to shut the plant down until they figure out what to do about the vents.”

ENSURING “SPENT-FUEL COOLING POOLS” ARE KEPT COOL during a nuclear accident is a primary concern. Nearly all Nukes receive 100 % of their power from the electrical grid…PROBLEM IS: when operators switch to emergency power, they automatically trip a set of “Priority safety systems” which currently focus only on the reactor cooling,  However, in so doing, they shut-off electrical power for the fuel pool, putting it at risk of overheating, and even of a meltdown(as happened at the Dai No. 1)  Just like in Fukushima, the Spent-fuel Cooling Pond at Oyster Creek (and most other GE Mark I nukes in the USA), sit atop the Nuke buildings.  Gunter added: “Given what we’ve seen at Fukushima, we think that cooling that pool should be the priority of the operator…They haven’t factored all the unintended consequences from allowing this water(in the spent fuel pool) to boil away. The petition asks for both automatic, and manual backup systems to be installed, to keep the fuel pool cool in the event of an emergency  The NRC is considering additional backup systems, but he believes they’ll simply require the installation of fire hoses (to the spent fuel pools).

“LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION” OF NUKES IS CENTRAL: Unfortunately, (or fortunately as the case may be)each of the GE Mark 1 Nukes is located next to large bodies of water. Gunter said: “Nuclear plants rely on a large amount of water; so they are typically located next to oceans, lakes, rivers, or reservoirs…The Oyster Creek plant is located off of Oyster Creek, close to Barnegat Bay, and the Atlantic Ocean. But many others are located on Flood planes, Tidal zones, or storm-surge prone areas…The Cooper Station in Nebraska is on a flood plane…there is a re-evaluation going on right now…We believe that many of these plants are operating well below full safety considerations.

“OYSTER CREEK” NUKE SPOKESPERSON: Suzanne D’Ambrosio said: “These are all issues that our critics believe there is a connection because of the horrible events that happened in Japan…Can you compare the entire nuclear industry in the U.S. to the entire nuclear industry in Japan?  I don’t think the comparison is there…The design of Oyster Creek and Fukushima are similar but the Forked River-based nuclear plant has been modified and kept up-to date…Changes have been made over the years to keep it continually safe and in tip-top condition, and to address industry concerns as they come about. We stand by the integrity of Oyster Creek, the design itself. We saw firsthand a few weeks ago that it can withstand earthquakes and hurricanes”. BUT…WHAT ABOUT THE VENTS?

NRC HAS SCHEDULED THREE (3) MEETINGS, and even created a “Petition Review Board” to consider the “Beyond Nuclear” petition. NRC spokesperson Neil Sheehan, and other staff met with the petitioners on 08 June 2011  The Petition Review Board accepted some of the concerns raised by the petition on 16 Aug 2011. The NRC will continue to review the back-up electric power to spent fuel pool cooling systems, and the reliability of the hardened vent system or direct torus vent system and flooding concerns.  Spokesman Sheehan said: “At this point, action is not required…The threshold for continued assessment of the concerns is somewhat low at this stage of the review…Of course, these issues are also being evaluated as part of a broader Japan-related review being carried out by the NRC staff…Along those lines, the NRC staff last week provided the Commission with recommendations in response to Fukushima Daiichi that it believes should be acted on ‘without delay‘…Another meeting with “Beyond Nuclear” addressing their concerns is scheduled for Friday, 07 Oct 2011, from 10 a.m. to noon.

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On one hand it is good to see grass-roots efforts such as his one. They raise public awareness and a sense of need for public personal involvement.  If nothing else, it may give the NRC Staff added political clout in their uphill struggle against three NRC Commissioners who appear intractable in their intent to “Do Nothing”.  That, is precisely what “for profit” Nuke Operators want – To save money, and to hell with public safety! What an immoral, greedy bunch of profiteers!!!!

On the other hand, it is easy to recognize that the NRC staff is “being nice” to a large petitioning group, even though they feel they are already tackling such issues, but probably to no avail.

The NRC is not in an enviable position. You may find this article useful for “background” in this continuing impasse.




September 24, 2011 at 1:56 AM Comments (0)