But Governor Cuomo’s outrageous tax on New Yorkers’ electric bills to bail out a multi-billion dollar Illinois corporation can be stopped if we can get the Department of Public Service to reject the proposed sale of the FitzPatrick nuclear plant to Exelon.
We have an opportunity right now to put an end to the governor’s misguided plan by getting the Public Service Commission to reject Exelon’s purchase. Can you take just a few minutes to send a message to the Public Service Commission urging them to take a stand against this deal?
Your comment will be part of the public record of opposition to this nuclear bailout scheme that threatens to cost hard working New Yorkers billions of dollars and delay our progress toward a truly green energy future. If enough New Yorkers speak out, we can win this fight.
Thanks for all you do,
Coalition Against Nukes
As aftershocks of the 6.0 Napa earthquake that occurred Sunday in California continued, the Associated Press this week revealed a secret government report pointing to major earthquake vulnerabilities at the Diablo Canyon nuclear plants which are a little more than 200 miles away and sitting amid a webwork of earthquake faults.
It’s apparent to any visitor to the stretch of California where the two Diablo Canyon plants are sited that it is geologically hot. A major tourist feature of the area: hot spas. “Welcome to the Avila Hot Springs,” declares the website of one, noting how “historic Avila Hot Springs” was “discovered in 1907 by at the time unlucky oil drillers and established” as a “popular visitor-serving natural artesian mineral hot springs.”
Nevertheless, Pacific Gas & Electric had no problem in 1965 picking the area along the California coast, north of Avila Beach, as a location for two nuclear plants.
It was known that the San Andreas Fault was inland 45 miles away. Then, in 1971, with construction underway, oil company geologists discovered another earthquake fault, the Hosgri Fault, just three miles out in the Pacific from the plant site and linked to the San Andreas Fault.
In 2008 yet another fault was discovered, the Shoreline Fault—but 650 yards from the Diablo Canyon plants.
The Shoreline Fault, and concerns about the vulnerability of nuclear plants to earthquakes in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi disaster, are integral to a 42-page report written by Dr. Michael Peck, for five years the lead inspector on-site for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission at Diablo Canyon.
Peck’s report was obtained by the Associated Press, which has done excellent journalism in recent years investigating the dangers of nuclear power, and the AP issued a story Monday on the report.
In the report Peck writes: “The new seismic information resulted in a condition outside of the bounds of the existing Diablo Canyon design basis and safety analysis. Continued reactor operation outside the bounds of the NRC approved safety analyses challenges the presumption of nuclear safety.”
He also states: “The Shoreline [Fault] Scenario results in SSC [acronym in the nuclear field for Structures, Systems and Components] seismic stress beyond the plant SSE [Safe Shutdown Earthquake] qualification basis. Exposure to higher levels of stress results in an increase[d] likelihood of a malfunction of SSCs. The change also increases the likelihood of a malfunction of SSCs important to safety…”
Peck notes that the “prevailing” NRC “staff view” is that “potential ground motions from the Shoreline fault are at or below those levels for which the plant was previously evaluated and demonstrated to have a ‘reasonable assurance of safety.’”
He disagrees and says that the NRC staff “also failed to address the Los Osos and San Luis Bay faults,” faults that the Shoreline Fault are seen as potentially interacting with, and that “new seismic information” concludes that “these faults were also capable of producing ground motions”
Also, he says: “The prevailing staff view that ‘operability’ may be demonstrated independent of existing facility design basis and safety analyses requirements establishes a new industry precedent. Power reactor licensees may apply this precedent to other nonconforming and unanalyzed conditions.”
“What’s striking about Peck’s analysis,” says the AP story, “is that it comes from within the NRC itself, and gives a rare look at a dispute within the agency. At issue are whether the plant’s mechanical guts could survive a big jolt, and what yardsticks should be used to measure the ability of the equipment to withstand the potentially strong vibrations that could result.”
The AP story also says, “Environmentalists have long depicted Diablo Canyon—the state’s last nuclear plant after the 2013 closure of the San Onofre reactors in Southern California—as a nuclear catastrophe in waiting. In many ways, the history of the plant, located halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco…and within 50 miles of 500,000 people, has been a costly fight against nature, involving questions and repairs connected to its design and structural strength.”
Calling the Peck report “explosive,” the environmental group Friends of the Earth this week described it as having been “kept secret for a year.”
Said Damon Moglen, senior strategy advisor at Friends of the Earth: “Inspector Peck is the canary in the coal mine, warning us of a possible catastrophe at Diablo Canyon before it’s too late. We agree with him that Diablo Canyon is vulnerable to earthquakes and must be shut down immediately.”
Moglen said: “Given the overwhelming risk of earthquakes, federal and state authorities would never allow nuclear reactors on this site now. Are PG&E and the NRC putting the industry’s profits before the health and safety of millions of Californians?”
“Rather than the NRC keeping this a secret,” Moglen went on, “there must be a thorough investigation with public hearings to determine whether these reactors can operate safely.”
Peck is still with the NRC, a trainer at its Technical Training Center in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Michael Mariotte, president of the Nuclear Information & Resource Service, commented Monday that in “plain English” what Peck’s report acknowledges is: “The NRC does not know whether Diablo Canyon could survive an earthquake, within the realm of the possible, at any of the faults around Diablo Canyon. And the reactors should shut down until the NRC does know one way or the other. Of course, if the reactors cannot survive a postulated earthquake, the obvious conclusion is that they must close permanently. The question is whether the NRC will ever act on Peck’s recommendation or whether the agency will continue to sit on it until after the next earthquake.”
Mariotte also says: “The irony is that this should have been the big news a year ago; Peck wrote his recommendation—in the form of a formal Differing Professional Opionion—in July 2013. And the NRC still hasn’t taken action or even responded to it.”
In his report Peck also states that the NRC is supposed to be committed to a “standard of safety” and “safety means avoiding undue risk or providing reasonable assurance of adequate protection for the public.”
Meanwhile, PG&E has not only been insisting that its Diablo Canyon plants are safe, despite the earthquake threat, but has filed with the NRC to extend the 40 year licenses given for their operations another 20 years—to 2044 for Diablo Canyon 1 and to 2045 for Diablo Canyon 2.
An analysis done in 1982 by Sandia National Laboratories for the NRC, titled “Calculations for Reactor Accident Consequences 2,” evaluated the impacts of a meltdown with “breach of containment” at every nuclear plant in the U.S.—what happened at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plants as a result of an earthquake. For the Diablo Canyon nuclear plants, it projected 10,000 “peak early fatalities” for each of the plants and $155 billion in property damages for Diablo Canyon 1 and $158 billion for Diablo Canyon 2—in 1980 dollars.
The post Will Diablo Canyon survive the next big earthquake? appeared first on Enformable.
Oyster Creek shuts down to check safety valvesKirk Moore, @KirkMooreAPP 11:58 a.m. EDT July 8, 2014 Asbury Park Press www.app.com/
LACEY – Operators of the Oyster Creek nuclear reactor shut down the power plant to check and possibly replace five safety valves, plant officials said.
The shutdown was prompted by an inspection of previously removed valves, which showed unexpected wear on two of them and could have caused them to fail, according to plant owner Exelon and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Oyster Creek operators started shutting down the reactor power at about 8 p.m. Monday, and it’s not known how long the plant will remain offline, according to Suzanne D’Ambrosio, a spokeswoman for the plant.
She said the reactor must be shut off for workers to access the five installed electromatic relief valves inside the plant’s drywell, the containment vessel around the nuclear reactor. They are part of the plant’s automatic depressurization system, linked to the emergency core cooling system. In the event of a loss of coolant from a small pipe break — when pressure inside the reactor area remains high — the valves are there to quickly lower the pressure so the emergency system can inject water into the reactor core.
The potential problem began in late June during a maintenance inspection of the valves, NRC officials said. That raised a red flag with nuclear critics, who questioned why a plant shutdown was not required sooner by the NRC.
“The valves are designed so you can do without one, you can possibly do without two,” said Arnie Gundersen, an independent nuclear analyst whose Fairewinds Associates firm often consults for anti-nuclear groups. “That’s the question. When did they know the two valves were inoperable, and when did they decide to shut down?”
The valves are operated by solenoids, powerful electromagnets that slam the valves open when energized. NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan said plant workers “found more than expected wear” on valve springs and supporting parts. Gundersen said the valves are routinely tested in place, but also that kind of wearing can come from the machinery vibration that’s part of the environment inside a nuclear plant.
Sheehan said the agency was on top of the situation as it evolved: “Our resident inspectors assigned to Oyster Creek on a full-time basis have been closely following developments involving the evaluation of the valves and the decision to take the reactor offline to address the issue. They will continue to do so until the problem is satisfactorily resolved.”
According to a formal notice posted by the NRC, the problem with the electomatic relief valves was confirmed Monday and “based on this new information, all 5 of the currently installed EMRVs were conservatively declared inoperable.”
In those instances, a shutdown is required, according to the notice.
Gundersen said he wonders why the shutdown did not happen sooner.
“Were they waiting for parts?” he said. Technically, the indications that valves could have a problem should initiate what’s called a “limiting condition of operation” that needs to be resolved soon under NRC rules, Gundersen said.
“That said, the decision to declare it in operable is less defined,” allowing the NRC to cut operators slack, he added.
The valve issue shows why reactors such as Oyster Creek need filtered vents to control discharges during emergencies, said Janet Tauro of the local group Grandmothers, Mothers and More for Energy Safety, which have pushed for the NRC to impose that proposed rule.
But the economics of building improved vents won’t work for the plant in Lacey, Gundersen said: “Oyster Creek will shut down before they would install them.”
Kirk Moore: 609-709-5036; firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow up story 07.11.14 Latest Shutdown at Oyster Creek Nuclear Reactor Prompts Greater Federal Oversight