The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is mandated by Congress to ensure that the nuclear industry is safe. Instead, the NRC routinely puts the nuclear industry's financial needs ahead of public safety. Beyond Nuclear has called for Congressional investigation of this ineffective lapdog agency that needlessly gambles with American lives to protect nuclear industry profits.



"PG&E overlooked key seismic test at Diablo Canyon nuclear plant"

As reported by David R. Baker in the San Francisco Chronicle, "Pacific Gas and Electric Co. replaced $842 million of equipment at the heart of the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant without first making sure the new gear could pass a vital seismic safety test required in the facility’s license, The Chronicle has learned." (See full text of article here.)

The systems, structures and components in question include new lids, as well as replacement steam generators, for the twin unit nuclear power plant. The revelation comes in the aftermath of the permanent shutdown of California's other operating nuclear power plant, San Onofre Units 2 and 3, due to widepsread damage from defective replacement steam generators. That fiasco has turned into a multi-billion dollar boondoggle.

The Chronicle article quotes Dan Hirsch:

“I’m frightened that they’re making almost the exact same mistake we saw at Fukushima,” said Daniel Hirsch, a lecturer in nuclear policy at UC Santa Cruz...

“There was a too-cozy relationship between the nuclear industry and regulators in Japan, and that led to the fiction that it was very unlikely that you’d have an earthquake and a tsunami and a loss-of-coolant accident at the same time,” said Hirsch, who also serves as president of Committee to Bridge the Gap, a grassroots nuclear safety group.

The article also quotes Damon Moglen:

“If key safety equipment has been installed using the wrong data, (Diablo Canyon) needs to be shut down, and we need a public, transparent investigation into the adequacy of the license and the safety of this plant,” said Damon Moglen, senior adviser to the Friends of the Earth environmental group...

Friends of the Earth last year filed a lawsuit claiming the Nuclear Regulatory Commission illegally allowed PG&E to amend the seismic safety portion of its license without public hearings. The move came after one of the commission’s own former inspectors at Diablo Canyon argued that the plant was no longer operating within the terms of its license and should be shut down until PG&E demonstrated it could withstand earthquakes from several recently discovered fault lines, including the Shoreline. The commission rejected that idea.

“This is a regulator who’s not prepared to regulate and didn’t come down on a key safety issue,” Moglen said. “It’s a regulator who’s looking the other way.”

The article also reports:

'...The plant’s government regulators are a big part of the problem, critics allege.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which oversees the nation’s nuclear plants, should have caught PG&E’s mistake before the new steam generators and vessel heads were installed, they say. Instead, the commission learned about the error from PG&E, reviewed the company’s after-the-fact seismic assessment and agreed that the plant was safe. No fines or violation notices were issued...'.

NRC likewise allowed Southern California Edison to install the defective replacement steam generators at San Onofre with little to no regulatory oversight.

In related subject matter, the 1986 book The Whale and the Reactor: A Search for Limits in an Age of High Technology (University of Chicago Press), by Langdon Winner, warned about the risks presented by nuclear power to life on Earth. The author happened to see whales migrating past the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, just out to sea to the west. The realization struck him that this new technology, nuclear power, puts at risk even ancient forms of life, such as whale species tens of millions of years old.


"Appeals Court will hear case on cover-up of Diablo Canyon quake risks"

PG&E's Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, near San Luis Obispo, CAAs reported by a Friends of the Earth news release, subtitled "Friends of the Earth [FOE] petition says NRC illegally let PG&E alter nuclear plant's license," a 9th Circuit federal appeals court panel has rejected motions by Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, allowing FOE's lawsuit to proceed to a hearing on the merits.

FOE alleges that NRC and PG&E colluded to secretly alter the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant (photo, left) operating license regarding the capability of the twin reactors to survive earthquake magnitudes greater than the facility was ever designed to withstand. In recent years, the lengths and interconnections of earthquake fault lines, and their proximity to Diablo Canyon, were revealed to be significantly greater than previously understood.

FOE is demanding a public adjudicatory hearing on the increased seismic risks, something that should have happened in the first place. In the meantime, FOE is calling for both units to be shutdown, until its concerns are fully addressed.

Harvey Wasserman has blogged about FOE's preliminary legal victory at EcoWatch.


Links to NRC public mtg. on reactor pressure vessel issues, Feb. 19


Presentations (not necessarily in chronological order to match agenda):

Assessment of BTP 5-3 Protocols (Mark Kirk, NRC). [BTP = Branch Technical Position]

Part II: Assessment of Impact on Plants Using BTP 5-3 to Estimate RT-NDT(u) [Reference Temperature-Nil Ductility Transition (unirradiated)] (Simon Sheng, NRC).

Industry Focus Group, Activities Regarding the BTP 5-3 Issue (Wells, Southern Nuclear; Hardin, Electric Power Research Institute).

MRP/BWRVIP, Evaluation of BTP 5-3 (Hardin, EPRI; Server, ATI Consulting; Gamble, Sartrex).

Materials Orientation Toughness Assessment (MOTA) for the Purpose of Mitigating Branch Technical Position (BTP) 5-3 Uncertainties (Koehler, Xcel; Long and Hall, Westinghouse).

FAVOR Cladding Residual Stress Model (Kusnick, NRC).

2015 Revision of the FAVOR* Probabilistic Fracture Mechanics Computer Program (v.15.1) (Kirk, NRC; Bass, Dickson, Williams, Oak Ridge National Lab) [*FAVOR = Fracture Analysis of Vessels - Oak Ridge].

REAP (Reactor Embrittlement Archive Project) (Kirk, NRC; Williams and Bass, Oak Ridge).

Demonstrate Appendix G Margins for PWR RPV Nozzles, PA-MSC-1091R1, Methodology and Progress (Hall, Westinghouse).

Overview of Plans for Revising Title 10 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Part 50, Appendix H, "Reactor Vessel Material Surveillance Program Requirements" (Hardies, NRC).

Pressure Tests of Reactor Coolant System - With the Core Critical (Holmberg, NRC).


Entergy's Pilgrim atomic reactor has had a bad week

NRC file photo of Entergy's Pilgrim atomic reactor, a Fukushima twin-designOn Jan. 26th, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) slapped Entergy Pilgrim (photo, left) with two "White Findings" in the aftermath of four unplanned shutdowns in 2013, and Entergy's failure to properly carry out ordered follow up corrective actions. This means Pilgrim will remain on NRC's "degraded" performance short list of the worst (a.k.a. most risky) reactors in the country.

Pilgrim is identical in design and vintage to Fukushima Daiichi Units 1 to 4 -- a General Electric Mark I Boiling Water Reactor.

On Jan. 27th, Pilgrim bore the brunt of the "Juno" blizzard, and was forced to shut down shortly into the storm. As reported at NRC's website, a full week later, it remains shut down. NRC issued its PNOs (Preliminary Notifications of Occurrence) regarding this most recent unplanned shutdown on Jan. 28th (see the bottom two entries). Another, related, NRC PNO is dated Jan. 29th.

On Jan. 30th, Entergy Pilgrim got slammed again -- this time, by a letter from Pilgrim Watch's Mary Lampert, "PILGRIM WATCH COMMENT/QUESTIONS [re:] FLEX MOORING PLAN-LESSONS LEARNED FROM JUNO BLIZZARD." (See Attachment A.)

And on Feb. 2nd, the same day that NRC initiated its Special Inspection Team re: this most recent unplanned shutdown, Pilgrim Watch, joined by the Town of Duxbury Nuclear Advisory Committee, slammed Entergy Nuclear, as well as NRC, with a series of hard-hitting questions. They demand Pilgrim remain shut down until their questions are answered.


Burns to chair NRC

U.S. NRC Chairman Stephen G. BurnsAs reported by the Associated Press, the NRC announced that President Obama has appointed NRC Commissioner Stephen G. Burns (photo, left) to serve as the Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. He will begin as Chairman on Jan. 1.

Burns worked as a lawyer at NRC for 33 years, including as chief counsel to NRC Chairman Greg Jaczko from 2009 to 2012.

The nuclear industry, and its supporters in Congress, such as U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), opposed Burns' confirmation to the NRC Commission due to his support of former NRC Chairman Greg Jaczko's invoking of emergency powers at NRC once the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe began.

From 2012 to 2014, Burns served as head of legal affairs for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA).

It was that latter stint that moved Beyond Nuclear to oppose Burns' nomination and confirmation to the NRC Commission in the first place.

Citing a conflict of interest, Beyond Nuclear had previously called for NRC Commissioner William Magwood IV's immediate resignation from the Commission, once he had been tapped to direct the NEA. In fact, a coalition of groups called on Magwood to retroactively recuse himself from all Commission votes, dating back to when he began courting NEA for the position.

NEA is a nuclear power promotional institution. NRC Commissioners are supposed to regulate safety, not promote nuclear power. In fact, NRC was created, in the mid-1970s, to be the regulator of nuclear safety, while the U.S. Department of Energy was tapped to promote nuclear power. This happened after the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission was disbanded, after having been tasked with doing both at the same time -- a conflict of interest in which promotions most often trumped safety regulation.

The revolving door between NEA and NRC is inappropriate, blurring the lines between the promotion of the nuclear power industry, and the regulation of safety.