U.S. nuclear oversight too lax

Titled "The NRC and Nuclear Power Plant Safety in 2011: Living on Borrowed Time," the UCS report indicates

...that owners of atomic plants too often either close an eye to problems or fail to adequately address ... safety lapses at nuclear power facilities in the United States...

...the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) ... found 15 cases of safety equipment problems and security shortcomings at 13 nuclear plants last year, calling that number "high."

"But the agency too often does not live up to its potential, and we are still finding significant problems at nuclear plants that could too easily trigger a serious accident."
 
The group said that lax NRC oversight has allowed some problems to fester for decades, and found that 47 nuclear reactors nearly half of the 104 nuclear plants operating in the United States today still do not comply with fire regulations established by the NRC in 1980 and amended in 2004.
 
It also said that there are 27 reactors with inadequate protection against earthquakes. [emphasis mine]

Tags: Nuclear safety in the US

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We learn now that even as the Japanese government was reassuring its citizens that Fukushima posed no immediate danger, they were worried about multiple meltdown there in al of the reactors and cooling pools.

The Demonic Reality of Fukushima

However, as the New York Times revealed Monday, Edano and his colleagues at the highest levels of the Japanese federal government were actually worried about a worst-case scenario, a “demonic chain reaction” of atomic reactor meltdowns spreading catastrophic amounts of deadly radioactivity from the three operating units at Fukushima Daiichi (as well as multiple high-level radioactive waste storage pools there), to the four operating reactors and pools at Fukushima Daini (just 7 miles south, which itself avoided catastrophe thanks to a single surviving offsite power line; several offsite power lines were lost to the earthquake, and all diesel generators were lost to the tsunami), to the operating reactor and pool at Tokai (much closer to Tokyo). Regarding such a nightmare scenario, eerily similar to what Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa depicted in Dreams, the New York Times reported:

“We would lose Fukushima Daini, then we would lose Tokai,” Mr. Edano is quoted as saying, naming two other nuclear plants. “If that happened, it was only logical to conclude that we would also lose Tokyo itself.”


Similar false reassurance here in the US also continues. Consider the NRC's updated safety study for example.


Despite all this, NRC’s SOARCA — by assuming almost all radioactivity will be contained during an accident, any releases will happen slowly and in a predictable fashion, that emergency evacuation will come off without a hitch, etc. — claims that casualties will be low, or even non-existent. Such false assurances fall flat on their face in light of the lessons learned from the Fukushima Nuclear Catastrophe, including the new revelations...[emphasis mine]


Some would like to shut down all of the obsolete US nuclear reactors similar to those which caused such problems.

Freeze Our Fukushimas

Can Fukushima's Spent Fuel Pools Catch Fire?

Short answer: YES. Any Mark I design spent fuel pool which loses power for two weeks is in danger of catching fire, because the Zircaloy containing the fuel pellets will burn in air when heated. The Sandia National Laboratories video shows their tests of how Zircaloy burns. Once burning, it's so hot that water can't put it out.

The main concern is that a seismic event could cause the  Fukushima 4 spent fuel pool to leak. In the US we could forestall similar tragedy by removing spent fuel rods from our own Mark I spent fuel pools. The Nuclear Industry isn't interested because it's more costly for them to make us safe.

Flood Threat To Nuclear Plants Covered Up By Regulators, NRC Whistl...

The NRC covered up knowledge of unacceptable risks to nuclear power plants downstream of dams. The lead author of the heavily redacted report would know what's hidden under the blank rectangles.

The numbers, such as (b)(4), refer to the Freedom of Information Act exemption used to justify that redaction.

Richard H. Perkins, a reliability and risk engineer with the agency's division of risk analysis, alleged that NRC officials falsely invoked security concerns in redacting large portions of a report detailing the agency's preliminary investigation into the potential for flooding at U.S. nuclear power plants due to upstream dam failure.

In addition to the Oconee facility, the report examined similar vulnerabilities at the Ft. Calhoun station in Nebraska, the Prairie Island facility in Minnesota and the Watts Bar plant in Tennessee, among others.

Perkins was the lead author of that report, which was completed in July of 2011 -- roughly four months after an earthquake and subsequent tsunami flooded the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan, cut off electric power to the facility and disabled all of its backup power systems, eliminating the ability to keep the reactors cool and leading to a meltdown.

The report concluded, among other things, that the failure of one or more dams sitting upstream from several nuclear power plants "may result in flood levels at a site that render essential safety systems inoperable." High floodwaters could conceivably undermine all available power sources, the report found, including grid power, emergency diesel backup generators, and ultimately battery backups. The risk of these things happening, the report said, is higher than acceptable.

"The totality of information analyzed in this report suggests that external flooding due to upstream dam failure poses a larger than expected risk to plants and public safety,"...

Perkins wrote in his letter. "The redacted information includes discussion of, and excerpts from, NRC official agency records that show the NRC has been in possession of relevant, notable, and derogatory safety information for an extended period but failed to properly act on it. Concurrently, the NRC concealed the information from the public." [emphasis mine]

Twenty-Three Nuclear Power Plants Found to Be in Tsunami Risk Areas

"The first vision of the global distribution of civil nuclear power plants situated on the coast and exposed to tsunamis" conducted by a team of scientists found that

Despite the fact that the risk of these natural disasters threatens

  • practically the entire western coast of the American continent,
  • the Spanish/Portuguese Atlantic Coast
  • and the coast of North Africa,

the Eastern Mediterranean and areas of Oceania, especially in South and Southeast Asia are at greater risk due to the presence of atomic power stations. [emphasis mine]

Do you live in one of these areas?

Showdown at San Onofre: Why the Nuclear Industry May Be Dealt a Big...

Two stricken California reactors may soon redefine a global movement aimed at eradicating nuclear power.

They sit in a seismic zone vulnerable to tsunamis. 

Perched on an ocean cliff between Los Angeles and San Diego, the reactors’ owners  cut unconscionable corners in replacing their multi-million-dollar steam generators.  According to Russell Hoffman, one of California’s leading experts on San Onofre, inferior metals and major design failures turned what was meant to be an upgrade into an utter fiasco.

Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric have unofficially thrown in the towel on Unit 3.  But they’re lobbying hard to get at least Unit 2 back up and running.  Their technical problems are so serious that they’ve asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to let them run Unit 2 at 70% capacity.  In essence, they want to “see what happens” without daring to take the reactor to full power.

The NRC has expressed serious doubts.

San Onofre’s owners are desperate to get at least Unit 2 back on line so they can gouge the ratepayers for their failed expenditures.

The fiasco at San Onfre is being replayed at rust bucket reactors throughout the US.  Progress Energy poked some major new holes into the containment at the Crystal River reactor it was allegedly fixing.

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