14 July 2011

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is(SUPPOSED TO BE) the U.S. nuclear industry’s “top cop”.  Their immediate task is to weigh major changes in how it regulates the country’s 104 reactors using the Fukushima Tragedy as a “Lessons-Learned” frame of reference.  The task force’s recommendations will be considered in a formal hearing on 19 Jul 2011, and will be part of a longer-term review.

THE TASK FORCE (APPOINTED BY THE NRC) praised new reactor designs(none exist yet)  that include “passive cooling” features, saying the new designs would be in line with many of its recommendations. Accordingly, It urged the NRC to complete its review “without delay” of Toshiba-Shaw’s Westinghouse AP1000 reactor and GE-Hitachi’s Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor(ESBWR).  The AP1000 is the reactor design of choice for the nation’s first new nuclear plants in 30 years: Southern in Georgia, and SCANA in South Carolina. Gregory Jackzo, NRC chairman said: “I am proud of the diligence and dedication of the Task Force, and look forward to working with my fellow commissioners to respond to these recommendations”.

THE NUCLEAR ENERGY INSTITUTE (NEI) IS A NUCLEAR INDUSTRY LOBBY that recognizes that applying the Task Force retro-fitting/modification recommendations would cost their industry $billions; so they appear to want to delay implementations of any recommendations at this time. They argue that the “longer-term review” now under way would incorporate more definitive information about the Fukushima disaster. Tony Pietrangelo, NEI Senior V.P. , and chief nuclear officer, said the Task Force’s 90 day report does not cite significant data from the Fukushima experience to support many of its recommendations: “Given the mammoth challenge it faced in gathering, and evaluating the still-incomplete information from Japan, the agency (NRC) should seek broader engagement with stakeholders on the task force report, to ensure that its decisions are made in the light of the best information possible,” – SOUNDS LIKE FOOT-DRAGGING! YOU KNOW! – PUT-OFF UNTIL TOMORROW, WHAT YOU DON’T  REALLY WANT TO DO.

THE UNION OF CONCERNED SCIENTISTS (UCS) expert nuclear watchdog said if anything, the NRC’s 90 -day review does not go far enough. UCS offered a list of 23 recommendations for making nuclear power (which it does not oppose) a safer means of generating electricity.  David Lochbaum, who worked in the US nuclear industry for 17 years, and is now a UCS expert said: “Japan’s reactor designs are similar, their protective barriers are similar, and their regulations are, in some cases, even stronger…If a U.S reactor were faced with a similar challenge, maybe not the exact combo of earthquake and tsunami, but some other natural disaster or human error, it’s unlikely that the story would have a happier ending…What the Task force did not address, is the need for the NRC to extend the scope of its regulations to include “severe,” or extreme, low-probability accidents. Instead, the agency’s regulations concentrate on design-basis accidents (those that US reactors must be designed to withstand).  The industry’s voluntary severe-accident GUIDELINES ARE NOT ENOUGH to protect the public, especially when a significant number of Nuke Operators do not pay attention to those guidelines”.  Among other things, Lochbaum wants the NRC to: (1)make the emergency planning zone around plants greater than 10 miles; (2)require plant owners to transfer “spent fuel” from storage pools to less-vulnerable “dry-casks” after five years; and (3)force owners of more than 40 reactors to comply fully with fire-protection regulations that the agency established decades ago.

NRC’s “TASK-FORCE” SAYS: NRC regulations on handling station blackouts need to be expanded and improved . At the Fukushima Dai No. 1, the tsunami wiped out backup power. It is vital to boost regulatory requirements – including so-called “coping capability” to exist safely without electrical power until such time a generators arrive, or outside power is restored. (THEY SEEM TO SUGGEST THE NEED FOR “PASSIVE COOLING”- SUCH AS ENVISIONED FOR THE “GEN III+ NUKES”. The Task Force concludes that revising and expanding the ‘coping capability’, to include measures for  cooling the “spent- fuel”, preventing a loss-of-coolant accident, and preventing a containment failure would be a significant benefit,” the Task Force report says.  WHAT IS NEW ABOUT THAT???-GET REAL!  JUST TELL THEM WHAT THEY NEED TO DO TO ENSURE OUR SAFETY. 

Now it is up to the five-member NRC to decide which ideas to accept, and how quickly to proceed in dealing with an industry where new safety plant retrofits/modifications can run into $ Billions. THE RUB ISTHE FINAL DISPOSITION OF “SPENT-FUEL”, WHICH IS FAR MORE TOXIC THAN THE URANIUM THAT GOES INTO NUKES, CONTINUES TO BE THE ACHILLES HEEL OF THAT GIGANTIC INDUSTRY/CARTEL.


July 14, 2011 at 11:47 AM
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