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NRC to recommend dangerous reversal for vulnerable Fukushima-style reactors

ATTENTION: NRC public meeting to abandon proposed rulemaking to assess filtered containment vents on US Fukushima-style reactors and cut out say from independent experts and public

Public Opportunity to Listen, Learn and Speak Out:

Thursday, December 11, 2014

9:00 AM (Eastern Time) to 12 Noon

TELCON Bridge Line 1- 888-394-5703
Passcode: 3413411#

For additional information how to connect to the live Webcast:

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff recently announced its “preliminary decision” to abandon a proposed rulemaking process to re-analyze whether or not nuclear power companies should be require assess whether nuclear power companies should be required to install external high-capacity radiation filters on revamped containment venting systems. The staff had previously concluded that filtered venting would better protect the public and the environment from a radioactive releases following a potential severe nuclear accident and operator actions to temporarily vent containment of high pressure, extreme heat and explosive gases at any one  of the 31 Fukushima-style reactors still operating in the US.

The regulatory move is a dangerous reversal and contradiction of the federal agency staff’s earlier conclusion in late 2012 that requiring the installation of filtered vents on vulnerable containment is “a cost-benefited substantial safety enhancement” for GE Mark I and Mark II boiling water reactors. In 2013, the Commission voted down the staff recommendation to require radiation filters on GE reactor containment vents and instead instruct sthe taff to re-analyze the radiation filtration strategy in a proposed rulemaking process that would engage public stakeholders and independent experts. 

The staff’s recent unilateral decision to now abandon the proposed rulemaking process cuts out independent expert opinions and public comment from the filtered vent re-analysis for the Mark I and Mark II “containment protection and release reduction” program. The external filtered containment vent system was vehemently opposed by the nuclear industry largely on projected cost and “unintended consequences.”

The NRC will hold a public meeting on December 11, 2014 (accessible by webcast and a telephone conference bridge line) to explain its plan for GE reactors and their vulnerable containment structures.  The undersized GE containment design is known to be highly prone to over-pressure failure in the event of a severe accident caused by any number of internal accidents such as fires and external events including severe earthquakes, floods and hurricanes or sabotage. The NRC and industry plan to vent the weak containment of a severe accident’s extreme heat, pressure, explosive gases along with a melted core’s radiation to the atmosphere in order to head off the structure’s permanent rupture. Originally, NRC staff made a very strong case for requiring the containment vent to be equipped with the external radiation filtering system. The staff now proposes to end any further consideration of  state-of-the-art radiation filter systems for the US reactors as is already deployed or being deployed on reactor containments around a post-Fukushima world

More Background

NRC staff revealed  in a brief public meeting December 4, 2014 regarding  the agency's  post-Fukushima severe accident mitigation action plans that include rule making on the installation of radiation filters on Mark I and Mark II hardened containment vent systems that it is their “preliminary finding” that external engineered high-capacity radiation filters on revamped containment vent systems  do not provide significant safety benefit to the public such that the agency would require their installation. The U.S. nuclear industry vehemently opposed the filtered vent. Nearly every other country in the world operating boiling water reactors have already installed filtered containment vents or committed to install them following the Fukushima disaster. 

This is a dangerous reversal of the NRC staff's previous and substantially documented November 29, 2012 conclusion and recommendation [SECY 2012-0157] that the NRC issue an order to all U.S. GE Mark I and Mark II boiling water reactors requiring them to install an engineered external filtered hardened containment vent . The NRC Japan Lessons Learned Directorate determined that a filtered vent was a “cost-justified substantial safety enhancement” and an Order to industry would be consistent with NRC regulation and supporting regulatory guidance.

On March 13, 2013, the NRC Commissioners voted (4-1) to not implement the staff's filtered containment vent recommendation and subsequently ordered on June 6, 2013 to instead require Mark I and Mark II operators to upgrade existing containment venting systems to be severe accident capable without the high-capacity radiation filters. 

In a March19, 2013 Staff Requirements Memo, the Commission instructed the staff to pursue a proposed rulemaking to reconsider whether or not installing external engineered filtered vents on these weak containment systems would be substantially beneficial to the public health and safety.

On December 4, 2014, the NRC staff briefly announced that it would recommend to the Commission to abandon the proposed public rule on filtered vents as “not necessary” and end the process that would open the re-analysis to wider independent expert opinion and analysis.

On December 11, 2014 at 9 AM Eastern, the NRC will hold a public meeting via webcast and telephone conference line to discuss its "preliminary finding" to reject its staff’s previously recommended filtered containment vent and disallow the participation of independent experts and impacted public in the re-analysis  of the "Containment Protection and Release Reduction Program" (formerly "filtered venting") for GE Mark I and Mark II Boiling Water Reactors.