Daily Archives: February 10th, 2012

The Safety Target


APV’s official position on nuclear energy is focused on safety, a critical intermediate step toward clean renewable standards for energy production in America.

We have fodder enough in the continuing reports on the meltdown of Fukushima’s reactors and the devastation it’s causing the people of Japan and their environment to consider improved safety regulations at nuclear reactor sites an issue worth APV’s attention.

So, what safety precautions are reasonable, and should that be determined as weighed in the balance of profits to be made by industry stakeholders? Both questions have simple answers: Whatever it takes to protect the people and environment is reasonable. And to the second question: No.

Unfortunately, neither answer is in play for nuclear energy production or any other energy production. Glaring examples of that are spilled in the Gulf, contaminating water at fracking sites and consuming precious resources at mountaintop removal coal mining sites, among others. This is typical of deregulation and overreach where ethics and safety are overlooked to increase corporate profits.

A dumbfounding example of this happened yesterday. For the first time in 34 years, a utility was granted a license to build two nuclear reactors in Georgia. In the wake of the Fukushima event, the license was granted without even requiring the same commitment to safety planned by the NRC for existing sites across the country. Sure, they’ll be new and improved. They’ll be modern and different. So why isn’t it a given that something they’re planning to build in the future would be at least as safe as what we have planned for existing reactors?

US licenses first nuclear reactors since 1978
Gregory Jaczko, pushes for more safety requirements. He’s the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s chairman and reportedly considered a trouble maker for industry owners’ groups. He was also the only ‘no’ vote: “There is still more work. I cannot support this licensing as if Fukushima never happened. I believe it requires some type of binding commitment that the Fukushima enhancements that are currently projected and currently planned to be made would be made before the operation of the facility.”

The Union of Concerned Scientists, a group that says it wants to improve nuclear safety not end nuclear power, sided with Jaczko. “The chairman has done the right thing. It makes no sense to rush into constructing any new reactor before the implications of Fukushima are fully understood and incorporated into NRC regulations.” ~UCS senior scientist Edwin Lyman

Thomas Fanning, the utility’s CEO, “declined to say why Southern would not agree to include language in the new license to complete potential Fukushima modifications before the reactors come online, as Jaczko suggested.”

When I read that part of the comment, “Southern would not agree to….”, I had to wonder where they get off refusing to agree to something the NRC puts forth, and how they get away with it. The answer, I believe, is in the article’s money quote:

Fanning: “The project is on track, and our targets related to cost and schedule are achievable.”

So … it appears the “safety target” didn’t make the cut and was tossed out. So much for the people’s safety. On the other hand, Southern is seeking an $8.3 billion loan guarantee from the federal government to cover its losses in the event that things don’t go “as planned”.

My conclusion is that Jaczko’s hands are being tied, and that as usual, powerful conservatives corrupt, break or get rid of any obstacle in their pursuit of maximum profit.

North Anna Nuclear Plant Damaged and Shut Down – Earthquake, August 23, 2011

In better news, APV recently petitioned the Commission. Our representative Erica Gray commented as follows:

US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, February 2, 2012
North Anna Nuclear Safety:

In just six months, 80 or more aftershocks have followed the 5.8 earthquake that admittedly exceeded the North Anna plant’s design. APV reiterates our concern for the restart “commitments” which exclude adequate evacuation planning.

The State Capitol, Richmond, home to more than 1.25 million Virginians, is 40 miles down-wind from the North Anna plant. We have been informed by Richmond’s Emergency Management Coordinator, Mr. McLean, that no evacuation plan is in place because Richmond is outside the nuclear site’s official 10 mile radius.

While more than enough evidence demonstrates that a 10 mile radius is not sufficient, and that the absence of a plan poses additional hazard to the affected population facing a nuclear event, we find this to be an important and correctable issue among failures in safety oversight.

APV is asking the NRC to promptly issue rules requiring the appropriate local, state and federal agencies to develop comprehensive emergency evacuation plans for areas in a 50 mile radius of all 104 existing commercial nuclear power sites, including the North Anna facility, and that these plans be made available to the public.

Ultimately, the North Anna nuclear power plant poses a serious threat to Virginia residents and the environment. We ask that the NRC recognize the danger it presents, and take action accordingly. Thank you.

The Board’s reaction:
[The Board has accepted for further review the petitioner’s requested action that VEPCO submit a formal license amendment request for earthquake related modifications and licensing changes rather than how the plant was allowed to restart with only regulatory “commitments” which the petitioners assert have not and do not represent an adequate and enforceable regulatory tool.]