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Monday
Jul022018

Your help needed by July 23rd to stop NRC insanity

Dave Lochbaum, Director, Nuclear Safety Project, UCSAction alert from Dave Lochbaum (photo, left), Director, Nuclear Safety Project, Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS):

 

Good Day:

 

The NRC is proposing to set aside federal regulations and deprive members of the public their legal rights by using a letter to the Nuclear Energy Institute to permit nuclear plant owners to experiment with new fuel pellets and fuel rods in the nuclear power reactors in your backyards without prior NRC review and approval, and without your getting a chance to agree or disagree with the experiment.

 

Suffice it to say that UCS opposes this NRC notion.

 

On June 7, 2018, the NRC opened a 20-day public comment period on their draft letter to NEI giving away the store.

 

On behalf of UCS, I requested an extension of the public comment period. The NRC processed the request to extend it before June 27th, the original deadline.

 

But the NRC reopened the public comment period this morning and it will remain open until July 23, 2018.

 

Please consider letting the NRC know whether you approve of plant owners conducting unreviewed and unapproved fuel experiments in your backyards.

 

It is easy to do and can be done in moments online.

 

First, go to www.regulations.gov

 

You will the following webpage. Enter "NRC-2018-0109" in the Search window and click on the Search button (or hit Enter on your keyboard)

 

 

Click on the COMMENT NOW! icon.

 

 

 

Now, there's a three-step process to provide comments. The first step is to type your comments in the Comment box. Alternatively or additionally, you can upload a file with comments by clicking on the CHOOSE FILES icon. The form (which is longer than shown in this screen snapshot) asks for your name. You have the option of providing your contact information or not doing so. After filling out comments and contact info, click on the CONTINUE icon.

 

Another page will show you the comments you entered, file name of any comment file(s) you uploaded (if applicable), and contact info if you provided it. Click on the EDIT button to back up and revise/supplement info. Once satisfied with the information, click the "I have read and understand the statement above" box and click the SUBMIT COMMENT icon. The next page will tell you that your comment has been submitted and give you a receipt number. You may elect to have the receipt emailed to you.


 

 

WHY THIS ISSUE IS IMPORTANT

The nuclear industry seeks ways to cut its costs. It is hoping that new fuel designs, called Accident Tolerant Fuel, will enable them to significantly reduce costs.

 

Some ATF designs feature fuel pellets made of material other than the traditional uranium dioxide.

 

Some ATF designs feature fuel rods made of material other than the traditional zircaloy.

 

For decades, the industry has developed new fuel designs that the NRC allowed to be implemented via a tried and true process. Owners would submit license amendment requests to the NRC seeking appval to load a small number of Lead Test Assemblies (LTAs) into the reactor cores. If these small, NRC-approved tests proved successful, the tested fuel designs could be used more broadly.

 

Sometimes, the new fuel designs required exemptions from certain federal regulations. In that case, owners would apply to the NRC for the exemptions.

 

Now, the NRC proposes to turn it all over to the industry. No license amendment requests (hence, no opportunity for public intervention) and no exemption requests.

 

If the unapproved experiments in people's backyards work, the industry hopes to realize significant savings. For example, some of the ATF designs seek to lessen the amount of hydrogen gas generated during accidents. Commendable goal. But if achieved, the industry will seek to eliminate hydrogen control measures at their plants (and the costs of maintaining them). Also, some ATF designs take longer to heat up to the melting point. If so, owners will likely seek to relax response times for emergency power systems and emergency makeup cooling systems.

 

NRC staffers have formally opposed this NRC plan, or scheme, or gambit. Harold Chernoff wrote a non-concurrence against the draft letter. He was aided by another NRC staffer who retired this past spring. A third NRC staffer filed a Differing Professional Opinion against the plan, scheme, or gambit. His or her DPO remains open, so it is not public and his or her identify is not known publicly.

 

I submitted a FOIA request in April for AFT/LTA records. The NRC is resisting providing the records that we are legally entitled to under the FOIA law.

 

Please consider formally providing comments about this NRC plan, scheme, or gambit.

 

Linked here is the draft NRC letter to NEI, Harold Chernoff's non-concurrence package, and the comments Ed Lyman and I submitted on behalf of UCS on June 27 in case the public comment period was not extended or re-opened.

 

You are welcome to endorse and upload UCS's comments. You are equally welcome or even more welcome to provide your own comments. It would help if you endorsed or supported Harold Chernoff's views. He is way out on a limb speaking up for safety within the NRC and could use as many people covering his flank as possible. I've know Harold since 1989, seven years before I joined UCS. He's a really good guy who is taking a really big career gamble speaking up for public safety.

 

It is imperative that NRC hear as many voices as possible opposing unreviewed and unapproved fuel tests in the nuclear power plants in their communities.

 

Thanks,

Dave Lochbaum

UCS