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March 31, 2013

Tragic accident at Arkansas Nuclear One this morning. Very heavy component being moved by crane in unit 1 turbine building fell. One worker killed. Eight injured. Two still hospitalized. Entergy reports that unit 2 automatically shut down, and that damage to a breaker cubicle prompted emergency to be declared -- Notification of Unusual Event. The plant is out of the emergency as of tonight. See various info nuggets about the accident at New Today at nuclear.com.

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March 8, 2013

San Onofre steam generators - nonproprietary version of Mitsubishi root cause analysis report (and supplement) released

On February 6, 2013, Sen. Boxer and Rep. Markey quoted from a leaked "root cause analysis report" by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and urged that it be publicly released. Today, NRC released a nonpropietary version of the report and a technical supplement. As described by Sen. Boxer and Rep, Markey, the report is quite specific in indicating that the replacement steam generator designers were told not to pursue changes which would put the replacement project outside the licensing bounds of 10 CFR 50.59. In all fairness, that was agreed to by Mitsubishi in the contract. It was not a license to design a lemon. Links to the PDFs are at news.nuclear.com.

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February 28, 2013

Medical isotope production - Canadian govt adds $25-million funding for cyclotron, accelerator projects

The US has long obtained most of our radiopharmaceuticals from Canada's Chalk River reactor. That reactor's lifetime has been extended, but your humble nuclear.com editor has not heard anyone proposing to extend the current shutdown date -- in 2016. Part of the reason for that is Canada's concerns about reactor safety at the plant, and another concern is the plant's use of highly enriched uranium fuel.

Here in the U.S., two companies are working to take Chalk River's place as America's main source of the most common medical isotope. Both have plans to comply with law that took effect this year which prohibits use of highly enriched uranium fuel in the production of isotopes. One of these companies uses existing technology. That company is Coquí RadioPharmaceuticals.

Today, the Canadian government showed how much it wants to keep dominating the radiopharmaceutical business. According to Ottawa Citizen report, the government today pledged that, "by 2016, Canada will produce commercial quantities of medical isotopes without the controversial use of highly-enriched, weapons-grade uranium...

Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver, speaking Thursday to an Ottawa gathering of the Canadian Nuclear Association, said $25 million in additional federal funding is being awarded to three promising Canadian projects that use cyclotrons and linear accelerators in the production of life-saving technetium-99m (Tc-99m), the most widely used medical isotope in the world.

Later with reporters, Oliver said the new isotope production technologies have been proven, but "what needs to be established is the production of a large amount that will be commercially available and we're encouraged by the progress so far, it's reached a fairly robust stage."

Asked whether the new technologies can ensure a secure, commercial supply, Oliver said "we're comfortable we can meet those objectives by 2016." ...

Under the federal Isotope Technology Acceleration Program announced Thursday, three organizations will each receive about $7 million: a University of Albert cyclotron project; cyclotron work at the TRIUMF subatomic physics laboratory in British Columbia; and Manitoba's Prairie Isotope Production Enterprise (PIPE) which uses an electron accelerator to make Mo-99. The federal government previously invested $35 million in the program.

Raw Mo-99 is now produced in the NRU by irradiating "targets" made from fresh, U.S.-origin HEU and is refined using an acidic solution that leaves behind large quantities of highly radioactive liquid waste.

Source: Ian MacLeod, "Federal government vows Canada will make HEU-free isotopes by 2016", Ottawa Citizen, Feb 28, 2013

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February 12, 2013

CTBTO: The seismic magnitude of an "explosion-like event" in North Korea on Tuesday was roughly twice as large as that of a 2009 nuclear test in the country.

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February 11, 2013

Newly added to Today in N-history page:
North Korea apparently conducted its third nuclear bomb test. Magnitude 4.9 earthquake detected.

* [North Korea] UN Security Council convened emergency meeting at 11:00 pm EST, thanx @CustosDivini

* [North Korea] CTBTO head Toth on the seismic event detected in North Korea, thanx @ctbto_alerts

* [North Korea] North Korea tests. Questions going forward: HEU or plutonium? Success or fizzle. Thermonuclear? Chinese response?, thanx @drjimwalshmit and @nukes_of_hazard

* [North Korea] Comparison of seismic waveforms of 2009 North Korean #nuclear test and 2013 event by @drrocks1982, thanx @CustosDivini

* [North Korea] North Korean #nuclear test reported to have been between 6-7KT; no report on whether #uranium or #plutonium, thanx @CustosDivini

* [North Korea] North Korea conducts nuclear test on eve of Obama's expected announcement of a one-third US nuclear warhead cut, thanx @BillGertz

* [North Korea] Nuke test by North Korea timed to Obama's state of the union spch. Long- or medium-range missile test may be next, thanx @BillGertz

* [North Korea] CTBTO confirms seismic activity in DPRK likely a nuclear bomb test, thanx @armscontrolnow

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February 10, 2013

NRC Commissioners Apostolakis and Magwood propose new risk-informed nuclear regulatory framework

Proposed Initiative to Improve Nuclear Safety and Regulatory Efficiency

The purpose of this initiative is to enhance safety by applying probabilistic risk assessment to determine the risk significance of current and emerging reactor issues in an integrated manner and on a plant-specific basis. Recognizing that each operating nuclear power plant has unique contributors to risk, a licensee who performs such an assessment could use the insights gained to propose for NRC approval a prioritization of the schedule for implementation of regulatory actions. Such prioritization, if approved, should both speed a licensee's completion of the most important new safety measures and also address the challenges licensees face implementing new regulatory positions, programs, and requirements, i.e., the cumulative effects of regulation. An additional benefit would be that licensees would be incentivized to develop high-quality PRAs that would support enhanced safety now and into the future. If this initiative is implemented and proves successful, a future development could include the ability of licensees to propose alternative actions.

Background and Discussion

The Commission is addressing an increasingly wide range of important regulatory issues related to the safety of U.S. nuclear power plants, such as fire protection, GSI-191, and our response to the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. In addition, the need to consider issues on a plant-specific basis has been highlighted by events such as the Fukushima disaster, the flood at the Ft. Calhoun plant, and the earthquake at the North Anna site. Plants are different not simply in terms of their designs, but also because of how they are operated, their site configurations, and their natural environments.

Probabilistic risk assessments (PRAs) have also demonstrated that the dominant contributors to risk are plant-specific. A clear lesson of the Fukushima Daiichi accident is that protective actions taken at each plant should be carefully tailored to address the unique design and site-specific characteristics of that plant (e.g., the tsunami risk at Fukushima).

When the NRC issues regulations, it requires that they be implemented by all affected licensees in a set time frame. Licensees are typically not permitted to prioritize implementation of regulatory requirements on a plant-specific basis. Even with recent efforts to deal with cumulative effects of regulation, the agency continues to address regulatory imperatives by compelling all licensees or classes of licensees to take action on the same schedule.

As a licensee stated during a public Commission meeting earlier this year, "all regulatory issues are high priority." If all regulatory work is of high priority, then none is of high priority. Nuclear safety is advanced when licensees and the staff focus their time, attention, and resources on the issues of greater safety significance at each plant.

A plant-specific approach to implementation of regulatory actions would serve to focus licensee and NRC attention more effectively on important safety issues in those cases in which they present higher relative risks and to defer other issues of lower safety significance. If such a prioritization were effected at each plant, it would improve the safety of the fleet and would also enable licensees to manage their resources and work in a more effective and efficient manner. In addition to the primary advantage of improving safety, this initiative is also likely to alleviate concerns about the cumulative effects of regulation.

Our proposal is to enhance safety by promoting the use of the risk significance of current and emerging reactor issues in an integrated manner and on a plant-specific basis when prioritizing regulatory actions, in order to recognize that each operating nuclear power plant faces unique contributors to risk.

Congressional Oversight Committees and the Government Accountability Office have recently pointed out that the NRC has not required PRAs for external events. To implement the plantspecific approach that we envision, licensees would be required to apply a high-quality PRA, including external events, to support plant-specific prioritization requests. Power reactor licensees should be incentivized to develop a full-scope PRA that accounts for site-specific hazards, thereby improving safety. The incentive we envision is licensee flexibility to plan and schedule regulatory work.

This initiative is focused on applying risk concepts to making decisions on the timing of implementation of requirements, whether within the established regulatory framework or under a revised framework that may result from Recommendation 1 of the Fukushima Near-Term Task Force.

We recognize that implementing this approach would lead to changes in the processes the NRC uses to manage its regulatory work. We therefore encourage the staff to think practically about how such an approach could best be implemented. When accomplished, we believe that this initiative will result in an important step in ensuring continued high levels of nuclear safety in the United States.

Proposed Staff Direction

1) Staff should develop a notation vote paper for Commission consideration within one year providing approaches for allowing licensees to propose to the NRC a prioritization of the implementation of regulatory actions as an integrated set and in a way that reflects their risk significance on a plant-specific basis. Similar to the requirements for new reactors, such a proposal would require licensees to develop full-scope PRAs that account for site-specific natural hazards.

2) Staff should discuss how NRC processes and policies might be affected by allowing such a prioritization process.

3) This effort should not impact the schedules that the staff has established to respond to Recommendation 1 of the Fukushima Near-Term Task Force and the Risk Management Task Force recommendations.

4) If a rulemaking is required, staff should provide the Commission with a schedule of work and an estimate of the resources required to complete both the rulemaking and the implementation processes.

5) Staff should provide a Commissioners' Assistants brief within four months to present its initial consideration of the approach required to respond to an SRM resulting from this proposal.

Read more at news.nuclear.com

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January 21, 2013

Open letter to EDF CEO

Vincent de Rivaz has a column in business section of today's London Telegraph. It's chock full of interesting economics stuff. But I think it could have been elevated to stuff of inspiration. Here's my comment posted at the newspaper's article page:

Dear Mr. de Rivas - please take the opportunity in every public writing to emphasize that nuclear power is the safest way to centrally generate electricity, even without giving a whit of credence to projections of climatic effects of CO2, and that your company's absolute top priority is to ensure that your nuclear plants are safe. I also urge you to consider buying the nuclear*com domain name to ensure that your message is what millions of folks see there. The first $15-million offer gets it!

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October 18, 2012

The Fukushima Effect - A Good Time to Discuss Hormesis

by Steve Schulin

There is much evidence that low levels of radiation have a beneficial effect on human health, rather than having a detrimental effect. I've heard many assert that there is no safe amount of radiation. Well, we don't know exactly where the dose-effect curve for radiation moves from benefit to harm, but we do know that the evidence supports the conclusion that low doses do indeed have a healthful effect.

I was prompted again to think about this subject due to the headlines around the world about a French comedian attributing Japan's recent sporting victory over France to what he called "The Fukushima Effect" -- he showed an image of Japan's goalie using four arms to stop the French shots. I've seen reports of Japanese officials decrying the insensitivity of this joke, apparently worried that, yes, folks who were (and are) being exposed to radiation from multiple meltdowns at Fukushima could conceivably grow more arms, or perhaps have children with severe birth defects.

These officials are doing a disservice to their people, by emphasizing the dread of radiation. Let me tell you a story straight out of the scientific literature which illustrates why officials should say, yes the Fukushima effect might make it seem like our goalie has four arms, even though he has only two:

Some apartment buildings in Taiwan were built with radioactively contaminated steel. More than 10,000 people lived in those buildings for up to twenty years before it was discovered that the buildings were radioactive. Average dose: over 40 Rem per person. This is way higher dose than any residents, or even workers at the Fukushima site, have received. The residents of the buildings in Taiwan were all ages, shapes and sizes, encompassing old folks and even babies who spent their entire developmental lifetime and youngest years there after birth.

The residents of those apartment were found to have only 3% of the expected cancer deaths, and only 7% of the expected heart defects. The study is freely available at http://1.usa.gov/fauyt5

The authors of the study emphasize that "Information about this Taiwan experience should be communicated to the public worldwide to help allay its fear of radiation..." I agree.

Mr. Schulin is the founding editor of nuclear.com. He is a Registered Radiological Protection Technologist (NRRPT-Inactive). Since his first summer job at a nuclear plant courtesy of a professor at his college in 1977, he has worked as a technician, instructor, auditor and consultant for most of the nuclear plants in the US.

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August 11, 2012

Iran already has electromagnetic pulse (EMP) nuclear weapons

According to a former intelligence officer of the Revolutionary Guards now defected to a country in Europe, Iran also has several neutron bombs (super-electromagnetic weapons). The source, who attended a commanders' briefing by the Revolutionary Guards, said they have discussed a strategy in which "many planes will fall from the sky" - a clear indication that Iran is prepared to deliver an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack. The International Atomic Energy Agency has verified that Iran has test-launched ballistic missiles off ships in an exercise similar to an EMP attack.

Source: Reza Kahlili (instructor, DOD's Joint Counterintelligence Training Academy), Iran's radical rulers close in on the bomb | It's not too late to stop nuclear ambitions", The Washington Times, August 10, 2012

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August 4, 2012

Court gives Congress until December to restart Yucca Mountain licensing
The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, in an Aug 3, 2012 opinion, said federal law makes clear that the NRC is obligated to continue trying to license the Yucca Mountain high-level waste repository, regardless of what the Obama administration has said. Unless Congress decides otherwise by mid-December, two of the judges indicated they would likely be willing at that time to order the NRC to restart the process. "It is possible that Congress will ... add no clarity to the current dispute," one judge wrote, later adding, "If Congress provides no additional clarity on the matter, however, we will be compelled to act."
Read more at Seattle Times.

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August 3, 2012

Putin says Russian mobile nuclear missiles have been deployed in Cuba since May 11, 2012

Tucked deep in a Pravda story is the following: "... it is worth mentioning Putin's statement at the G20 meeting in June. After the meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama, Putin made a sudden harsh statement to the press.  

'In 2001 I, as the President of the Russian Federation and the supreme commander, deemed it advantageous to withdraw the radio-electronic center Lourdes from Cuba. In exchange for this, George Bush, the then U.S. president, has assured me that this decision would become the final confirmation that the Cold War was over and both of our states, getting rid of the relics of the Cold War, will start building a new relationship based on cooperation and transparency. In particular, Bush has convinced me that the U.S. missile defense system will never be deployed in Eastern Europe.

The Russian Federation has fulfilled all terms of the agreement. And even more. I shut down not only the Cuban Lourdes but also Kamran in Vietnam. I shut them down because I gave my word of honor. I, like a man, has kept my word. What have the Americans done? The Americans are not responsible for their own words. It is no secret that in recent years, the U.S. created a buffer zone around Russia, involving in this process not only the countries of Central Europe, but also the Baltic states, Ukraine and the Caucasus. The only response to this could be an asymmetric expansion of the Russian military presence abroad, particularly in Cuba. In Cuba, there are convenient bays for our reconnaissance and warships, a network of the so-called 'jump airfields.' With the full consent of the Cuban leadership, on May 11 of this year, our country has not only resumed work in the electronic center of Lourdes, but also placed the latest mobile strategic nuclear missiles 'Oak' on the island. They did not want to do it the amicable way, now let them deal with this,' Putin said."

nuclear.COMment: I haven't heard of an 'Oak' missile before, but Putin's comments about asymetric approach and mobile system rings true. I've been reading a book published last November by US Army War College's Strategic Studies Institute ("Russian Nuclear Weapons: Past, Present and Future") which reports that Russia declared nucear policy can be categorized as an "Asymetric Escalation Posture", which is "geared for the rapid and asymetric first use of nuclear weapons". This posture is "the most aggressive option available to nuclear states", the book reports, adding that "To credibly threaten first use, this posture must be largely transparent about capabilities, deployment patterns, and conditions of use." [excerpts are from pp. 328-9]

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July 30, 2012

A nuclear.com editorial: It's wrong to lump nuclear plant loan guarantees into 'No More Solyndras' bill: Regulatory uncertainty is a major factor in the risk of failure of new nuclear build. If we want new nuclear plants, loan guarantees are a way to balance that risk.

July 20, 2012

Nuclear is safer than coal or natural gas, even giving full credit to Stanford study on Fukushima health effects

Coal 138, gas 42, nuclear 30: Nobel Prize-winning physicist Burton Richter calculates the years of human life lost due to generating a terawatt hour of electricity

Read more

July 19, 2012

Spent fuel - what was sold to the public as a temporary storage measure is now being repackaged as "extended storage"

The following is an excerpt from Prairie Island Indian Community's comments on a draft NRC report:

"When the Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation (ISFSI) at Prairie Island (PINGP) was initially proposed in the early 1990s, it was to be a temporary measure to keep the plant running and plant personnel working until Yucca Mountain could be opened. Our tribe and others expressed concerns about the long-term storage of spent fuel in dry casks and the possibility that the waste would never leave Prairie Island. We were assured that the ISFSI was to be an interim or temporary solution until the national geologic repository at Yucca Mountain could begin accepting waste. We doubt that the State of Minnesota would have approved PINGP's ISFSI if commissioners and legislators and members of the public had known that the waste would be on-site for more than 200 years as the NRC discusses in its Waste Confidence Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) report, let alone the 300-year 'analytical' time period this Draft Report uses."

Source: Philip R. Mahowald (General Counsel - Prairie Island Indian Community), "PIIC comments on the draft report, 'Identification and Prioritization of the Technical Information Needs Affecting Potential Regulation of Extended Storage and Transportation of Spent Nuclear Fuel', July 3, 2012

July 16, 2012

An oldie but goodie quote

... we proceeded on a premise that the generation of electricity by nuclear power involves a potentially dangerous technology which requires continuous and rigorous care in its use. If in the course of our deliberations we had felt it was clear that the necessary care would be impossible, that the nuclear hardware would be so liable to failure that it should not continue to be used, or that human beings are so fallible that they could not operate this technology. we would have said so. Without going this far, we do say that people can be careless, that equipment may fail and that bad judgements are sometimes made. Our task was to point out approaches which might minimize the number of failures by people or machines and prevent the results of any failure from causing harm to the citizens of the Commonwealth.

- Introduction to January 1980 report of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts' Advisory Panel to the Governor and Cabinet Task Force On Nuclear Safety Following the Accident at the Three Mile Island Nuclear Power Station, Richard Wilson, Chairman (Harvard University), George Rathiens (Massachusetts institute of Technology), and Susan Wiltshire (League of Women Voters) [see full report here]

nuclear.COMment: Your humble nuclear.com editor finds the perspective of Wilson et al. to be much more thoughtful than that expressed by S. David Freeman ("Nuclear power demands perfection in its manufacture, its operations, and its maintenance.").


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