Tag Archives: energy

Massachusetts residents living downstream from Vermont Yankee tell Douglas to shut down the plant now

From: http://vtdigger.org/2010/02/11/massachusetts-residents-living-downstream-from-vermont-yankee-tell-douglas-to-shut-down-the-plant-now/

February 11, 2010

Dear Governor Douglas:

I believe the tritium leak at ENVY is a greater environmental disaster than you realize. Just one gram of tritium contaminates 500 billion liters of water up to the fed. limit of 20,000pCi/L. The leak has been allowed to continue at full speed for over one month. The level of tritiated water found in groundwater monitoring wells is now at 2.7 million pCi/L, near the level of the reactor water itself.  This represents a breach of containment, understood as the systems in the reactor and powerplant intended to isolate radioactive contamination from the public.

The groundwater belongs to the public, not to ENVY. ENVY’s leak has polluted our groundwater to the second highest level of all tritium leaks from reactors in the country. NRC rules have allowed contamination of groundwater resources at 27 leaking nuclear reactors. This is illegal in Vermont. Your agencies can stop the leak by shutting down the reactor, but they are waiting for you to give the nod. You must protect public trust resources. Please instruct your agencies (DPS, ANR, VDH) to act swiftly to turn off the reactor water that is contaminating the groundwater by shutting down the reactor.

It is not necessary to run the reactor at overpressure levels to find the leak. Drilling wells just maps the toxicity and extent of the plume, it does not find the leak. All power plants have design drawings, sophisticated gauges and flow meters on their pipes and engineers who can do mass balance calculations to detect leaks.  This has gone on far too long, is based on industry lies and incompetence and NRC tolerance of groundwater pollution, and MUST BE STOPPED IMMEDIATELY. Please do the right thing and act.

Thank you for your rapid consideration of my concerns.

Sally Shaw

Gill, Mass.

An 11th generation Vermonter and mother, living in the EPZ.

A letter from Sally Shaw’s husband, Bart Bales, follows.

Leak detection in plant systems with regard to the VT Yankee tritium leak.

By Bart Bales, P.E., M.S.M.E

February 9, 2010

This is an evaluation of the facts surrounding the VT Yankee tritium leak as reported in the press and to the public through the VT Dept. of Health’s website. It is the opinion of a registered mechanical engineer with twenty-five years of professional experience in energy engineering. It provides approaches to leak detection in power plant piping systems in general, and evaluates the approach being employed, according to public information, to find the tritium leak at VT Yankee.

1.    A plant operator should have up-to-date schematics for all piping and the expected pressures and flow rates throughout the piping network.

2.    Design pipe layouts and as-built pipe layouts are necessary elements for responsible operation and maintenance of a power plant.

3.    Use of design and as-built drawings and specifications along with gauge and instrumentation operating parameters should provide information sufficient to determine expected flow rates and pressures in the piping networks.

4.    The design documents at VT Yankee should enable plant personnel to identify a limited number of pipes that could contain tritiated water.

5.    Plant personnel should determine actual flows through and between elements and components of those piping networks that contain tritium, and determine quantities in various storage vessels by a mass balance calculation.

6.    These calculations can determine flows from within the plant enclosure to the piping network and storage vessels outside the enclosure and should provide information sufficient to identify the leaking pipe loop.

7.    Differences in flows into and out of parts of the network can help localize the leak as the mass balance will indicate a shortfall in expected values for the piping network containing the leak.

8.    This is a more prudent approach to leak detection that can allow the plant system to be operated at lower and safer pressures and flow rates until the leak is found and repaired.

9.    It is expected that there would be existing flow meters on all the various piping loops, especially those conveying radioactive liquids or gases. These should be calibrated, serviced or replaced and rendered reliably functional to determine flow rates and diagnose leaks.

10.     Maintenance of full pressure ratings throughout the power plant should not be necessary to accomplish leak detection. Maintenance of even moderate pressures in the piping will produce a sufficient gradient for leak detection.

11.     There is no justification for maintaining pressures at uprated or even original design conditions for leak detection.

12.     Fluid flow through holes in the leaking pipes erodes the edges of these holes.  Larger holes result in even higher rates of leakage.

13.     It should be recognized that the higher the pressure the greater the flow through leaks, and the faster the introduction of contaminants into the groundwater.

14.     A higher influx rate into the groundwater increases the rate of migration of the plume into adjacent areas and into the Connecticut River.

15.     A more responsible leak detection protocol would be to shut down the plant, evaluate and model analytically, prioritizing the pipe systems most likely to be leaking tritium, then test each system progressively in order of probability that it is the source of the leak.

16.     This approach to leak detection methods from inside the plant employs existing flow gauges or installation of mechanical measuring gauges, and use of ultrasonic or inflow measurements.

17.     For a plant operator or engineer to lack knowledge of location of piping networks and their contents is an unacceptable situation, especially in the handling of potentially hazardous fluids.

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NRC challenged in U.S. Court of Appeals for easing safety requirements at Indian Point

Finally! An autocratic agency with Byzantine regulations is being called to account by the State of New York and Representative Richard Brodsky.   Granting exemptions to existing licensing at the behest of Entergy without public hearings is a violation on the NRC’s charter to protect public health and safety.  The serious matter of fire safety cannot be brushed aside.   This issue strikes to the very heart of the way safety and the public’s right to know has been systematically ignored. Under any reasonable, transparent review process this would have been handled as part of an amendment licensing process and not through a obscure back door out of the public eye.”  – Marilyn Elie, Founding member of Westchester Citizens Awareness NetworkPublic Advocacy Groups and Attorney General to Argue Against Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Unsafe Fire Safety Exemption Granted to Indian Point before the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

On Monday, May 11 oral arguments will take place at the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit Ceremonial Court Room, 9th floor, 500Pearl St., New York City at 10:00 a.m. in a case that has been brought against the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) by several public interest groups including the Westchester Citiz en’s Awareness Network (WestCAN), the Rockland County Conservation Association, Inc. (RCCA), the Public Health and Sustainable Energy (PHASE), the Sierra Club’s Atlantic Chapter, and Assemblyman Richard Brodsky (D-Westchester), and  New York State Attorney’s General Office has filed an amicus brief.  The groups challenge the NRC’s decision to exempt Indian Point Nuclear Facility Unit 3 from fire safety regulations that reduced fire safety standards from one hour to twenty-four minutes.

Under the NRC regulations, a nuclear power facility built prior to 1979 must enclose the cable and equipment necessary for a safe shutdown by using a fire barrier with a one-hour fire rating. According to the exemption Indian Point’s fire rating has been reduced to twenty-four minutes, a 76% reduction fire safety standard.

Since 1993, the NRC has known that the fire barrier utilized at Indian Point does not meet the one-hour duration.  According to the 1993 test, the fire barrier only lasts 23.2 minutes, however the NRC took no action until 2005.  The 2005 test confirmed that the fire barrier failed to perform for one hour and exceeded temperature limits within thirteen to forty-two minutes.

In 2006, the NRC issued a letter to certain nuclear plants requesting that they propose a resolution for the problems associated with the fire barrier.  In response, the owners of Indian Point nuclear facilities, Entergy Nuclear Operations, Inc., requested an exemption from the one hour fire safety standard.    On August 16, 2008, the request was revised requesting a reduction from one hour to twenty-four minutes for certain areas.  Thirty-four days later the NRC granted the exemption.

The NRC must not prompt any exemptions to regulations which increase the likelihood of catastrophic risks.  The public has been made vulnerable by the NRC’s secretive reduction in fire safety without notice or opportunity for hearings.”  Annie Wilson for Sierra Club – Atlantic Chapter

The result of the NRC’s decision to grant the exemption from one hour to twenty-four minutes means that a single fire must be detected, fire brigade assembled and fully extinguished in less than twenty-four minutes.  Like most operating nuclear reactors, Indian Point Unit 3 contains miles of electrical cables that control and power safety systems, including valves, pumps, motors, and gauges designed to ensure the prompt shutdown of the nuclear reactor.  A fire at Indian Point that damaged those cables could disable the critical systems served by the cables preventing safe shut down and ultimately may lead to a major radiation release that could have a disastrous impact on the health and property of the people of New York.

Petitioners will argue that the NRC improperly granted the “exemption”, lacked authority to grant exemptions, failed to allow required public participation, failed to give proper notice, failed to consider relevant evidence in making its decision, and violated National Environmental Policy Act.  Petitioners will further argue that the NRC created a potentially illegal loophole by permitting mischaracterization of the request as an “exemption” rather than an amendment, thereby violating the Atomic Energy Act.

Entergy is sailing up the river in a boat loaded with non-compliance. They are supposed to protecting the public, not accommodating private industry.”  Maureen Ritter of PHASE (Public Health and Sustainable Energy)

The NRC’s decision drastically compromises the safety of the Indian Point nuclear facilities.  Upwards of twenty million people work, live, or travel within fifty miles of Indian Point.  This case marks the first time the NRC’s right to grant exemptions without notice and hearings has been challenged.

The case will be argued on Monday, May 11 before Honorable John M. Walker, Jr., Honorable Sonia Sotomayor, and Honorable John Clifford Wallace of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

Assemblyman Richard Brodsky will be arguing for the Petitioners.  Assistant Attorney General John Sipos, Esq. will be arguing on behalf of the New York State Attorney General’s Office.  A representative will be arguing on behalf of the NRC, as well as a representative from  Entergy Nuclear Operations, Inc.

Fires are recognized as one of the most significant safety hazards at nuclear power plants, they are not uncommon. The NRC’s reckless willingness to dramatically reduce the safety margins to 24 minutes is an egress abdication of is responsibility.    The regulations that were exempted are critical safety regulations related to the electrical cables and where enacted in response to the Brown’s Ferry fire.   Brown’s Ferry fire started in the insulation of electrical cable trays, it raged for nearly 7 hours, burnt and reactors were out of control for almost two days.” Michel Lee, Board member of Nuclear Information Resource Service (NIRS) and Chair on Council on Conservation & Intelligent Energy Policy (CCIP)

Wasserman asks, “Who Pays for America’s Chernobyl Roulette?”

April 28, 2009

The Pricetag of Price-Anderson

Who Pays for America’s Chernobyl Roulette?

By HARVEY WASSERMAN

As the US attempts to dig out from economic collapse, a little-known nuclear industry liability could seriously derail Obama’s attempt to revive our finances.

It is the federal disaster insurance on 104 rickety atomic reactors. Because the industry cannot get its own insurance, we taxpayers are on the hook.

There is no “rainy day” fund to finance the clean-up after a reactor disaster. No one in government or industry can reasonably explain how we would pay for such a catastrophe.

Chernobyl’s lethal cloud began pouring into the atmosphere 23 years ago this week. Dr. Alexey Yablokov, former environmental advisor to the late President Boris Yeltsin, and president of the Center for Russian Environmental Policy, estimates the death toll at 300,000.

It also gutted the regional economy, and accelerated the Soviet collapse. By conservative accounts Chernobyl’s explosion has so far cost a half-trillion dollars, with its financial toll continuing to accrue.

A disaster at a US reactor could dwarf that number.

Chernobyl exploded in a remote rural region in an impoverished country. Eighty kilometers away, Kiev was heavily dusted with radiation.

Most American reactors are in what were once considered remote regions. But Indian Point is about half as far from Manhattan as is Chernobyl from Kiev. Likewise San Onofre from Los Angeles, Turkey Point from Miami, Byron from Chicago, Grand Gulf from Baton Rouge, Seabrook and Pilgrim from Boston, Limerick and Peach Bottom from Philadelphia, Calvert Cliffs from Baltimore, Perry from Cleveland, Prairie Island and Monticello from Minneapolis.

All these reactors were designed and built decades ago. Not one has private insurance beyond a tiny percentage of the potential damage.

When the nuke power industry first got going, utility executives refused to invest, citing the insupportable costs of a potential disaster.

Back then, the Sandia Laboratory’s WASH-740 Report warned that a melt-down at an American reactor could permanently irradiate a land mass the size of Pennsylvania. The fiscal costs, like the potential death toll, were essentially inestimable.

So reactor backers got Congress to pass the 1957 Price-Anderson Act, which protected utilities from all but a tiny portion of the potential damage. The industry assured the public that “within a few years” atomic technology would have advanced so far that private insurers would clamor for the business.

That was 52 years ago. No private insurer has stepped up to cover that first generation of reactors (check your home-owners policy for the standard exclusion clause). Neither will they do so for future reactors. The entire “new generation” of atomic plants now being so mightily hyped is also to be insured by the federal government, ie you and me.

The potential financial impact is beyond comprehension. The cost of abandoning several thousand square miles of the Hudson Valley down to Manhattan, or the Atlantic shore north of and into Boston, or the coastal regions along and into Los Angeles and the California central Valley, simply cannot be calculated. Mere trillions—2? 5? 20?—become meaningless. The collapse of the currency, the utter chaos of the economic system, the burial of health care, the devastating impact on millions of lives…all defy description.

All will be the responsibility of the federal government. By limiting responsibility of the reactor owners it has forced us to assume liability for the claims of those who survive long enough to sue.

There is no contingency plan for this in the federal budget. No secret reserve. No magic monetary bullet. Should one of these plants melt or explode, American economic life as we have known it could be essentially over.

READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE: http://www.counterpunch.org/wasserman04282009.html

Nuclear power’s implications go far beyond energy

Nuclear power is the orange amongst apples when evaluating America’s energy future. There exist factors that must not be ignored that do not apply to alternative sources.

In addition to the relatively unknown impact of long-term exposure to low level radiation for those living near a nuclear power plant, or the cataclysmic effects of a major accident such as the one that occurred at Chernobyl, there exist far-reaching consequences that come at an unfathomable price; one which no nation can afford.

nuclear power is always toxic

This, today, from the New York Times via the Boston Globe:

N. Korea reprocessing spent nuclear rods

Says material will be used to make nuclear weapons

http://www.boston.com/news/world/asia/articles/2009/04/26/n_korea_reprocessing_spent_nuclear_rods/

By Choe Sang-Hun

New York Times / April 26, 2009

SEOUL – North Korea announced yesterday that it had begun reprocessing thousands of spent nuclear fuel rods, adding that it would use plutonium extracted from the rods to make nuclear weapons.

Reprocessing the rods, which were unloaded from the nuclear reactor in Yongbyon, 60 miles north of Pyongyang, the capital, “will contribute to bolstering the nuclear deterrence for self-defense in every way to cope with the increasing military threats from the hostile forces,” an unidentified North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman told the nation’s official news agency.

Reassembling the partly disabled Yongbyon complex to its operational state could take at least several months. But specialists and officials in Seoul have said North Korea could have quickly reopened the reprocessing plant to produce plutonium from thousands of spent fuel rods. Specialists say the rods can yield enough plutonium for one or two bombs.

Read the entire article: http://www.boston.com/news/world/asia/articles/2009/04/26/n_korea_reprocessing_spent_nuclear_rods/

NRC definitely having “issues” dealing with New England

Nuclear Regulatory Commission under fire over fire

Rep. Markey looking for answers from regulators on Pilgrim safety oversight


The Patriot Ledger
Posted Nov 05, 2008 @ 05:30 AM

QUINCY —

U.S. Rep. Edward Markey is using a fire last week at the Pilgrim nuclear power plant in Plymouth to turn up the heat on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Markey sent a letter to the federal agency on Friday, posing a long list of questions about the Oct. 29 fire in an outbuilding at the plant property that the plant operator says was contained to one room.

The Malden Democrat, a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce committee, has longstanding concerns about the NRC’s oversight of its fire safety rules. Markey believes that the agency isn’t doing enough to ensure that nuclear plant operators meet or exceed the agency’s fire safety standards.

“I have yet to be persuaded that the NRC is on a path to do the right thing and require the nation’s plants to be brought (into) compliance with NRC’s fire protection regulations,” Markey wrote in the letter to NRC Chairman Dale Klein. “This latest event only heightens my concern and my interest in assuring that all appropriate measures are undertaken to protect these facilities against dangerous fires.”

Diane Screnci, a spokeswoman for the nuclear agency, said the two NRC inspectors assigned to the plant are investigating the fire’s cause and reviewing plant owner Entergy Corp.’s steps to ensure such a fire doesn’t happen again. Screnci said the agency received Markey’s letter and will respond as quickly as possible to the congressman.

Read the entire story >

Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee is counting on YOU

… to help bear the expense of cleaning things up once the plant is at last permitted to enter its delayed retirement.

TimesArgus.com reports an AP story by Dave Gram [http://www.timesargus.com/article/20081119/NEWS02/811190355/1003/NEWS02] :

Vermont Yankee decommissioning fund suffers large loss

November 19, 2008

A sign warns of radioactivity inside the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. State officials note the fund that holds money for decommissioning the plant has taken another big hit.

A sign warns of radioactivity inside the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. State officials note the fund that holds money for decommissioning the plant has taken another big hit.

MONTPELIER — The fund set aside to pay for dismantling the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant when it shuts down was already about $400 million short of what would be needed to do the job, according to an estimate by a subsidiary of the plant’s owner.

Then it lost nearly $76 million more amid the turmoil in the financial markets during the past 13 months, with more than $33 million of that loss coming last month, according to the state Department of Public Service.

The health of the decommissioning fund — money set aside to haul away the plant’s radioactive components when it is retired — has been a hot issue this year. Gov. Jim Douglas vetoed a bill passed by the Legislature calling on Vermont Yankee owner Entergy Nuclear to shore up the fund, amid complaints from lawmakers that

Vermonters might end up stuck with the bill

.

Read More >

Big Oil Earned $236 Per American Driver In The Last Year

July 31, 2008

UPDATE: Chevron has since released their second-quarter 2008 profits. They earned $5.98 billion in the last three months, up 11 percent from the same period last year. While slightly less than predicted in our report, it doesn’t significantly change the per-driver share of the five companies’ U.S. profits over the past year, which remains approximately $236 per American driver.

Oil and gasoline prices have broken all records this year. Oil reached $147 a barrel, and gasoline hit a new high of $4.11 a gallon earlier this month. And oil prices were 90 percent higher over the past three months than they were a year ago. These sky-high prices have created record profits for the largest oil companies in the world—but these profits have come at a time of high costs for American families.

ExxonMobil announced today that it earned $11.7 billion in the past three months, the most profitable quarter ever for an American company. Other major companies announced huge second quarter profits of their own this week: Shell earned $11.6 billion, ConocoPhillips earned $5.4 billion, and BP earned $9.4 billion in the second quarter of 2008. Chevron is expected to release its second quarter profits tomorrow morning, but Wall Street is predicting a 30 percent growth in profits.

All told, the five companies are expected to announce that they earned over $40 billion in global profits in the last three months alone, 26 percent higher that the same period last year (based on information from the Wall Street Journal and ConocoPhillips). These staggering second quarter earnings mean that these companies are on pace to break last year’s record profits.

High prices may be good for oil company profits, but they’re bad news for American families. Higher gasoline prices are costing ordinary families hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars a year. The U.S. profits of the five largest oil companies from the first half of this year.

In the past 12 months, the five largest oil companies have earned $148 billion, including an estimated $47 billion in the United States. To put these numbers in perspective: If these U.S. profits were distributed evenly among American drivers, it would equal about $236 per driver.

Particularly at a time of record oil industry profits, Congress should reject Sen. John McCain’s tax plan that would shower tax breaks worth $4 billion a year on the five largest American oil companies. ExxonMobil alone would claim $1.2 billion a year in lower taxes that they clearly don’t need.

Congress should also close special tax breaks for the oil industry and end sweetheart terms for oil drilling in federal waters. These steps could eliminate $26 billion in oil subsidies over the next decade, raising resources that could be used for emergency aid to families struggling with energy costs or to weatherize homes to reduce heating and cooling bills and create jobs.

President George W. Bush should immediately release a small amount of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Releasing oil from our stockpile is the fastest way to help families—the additional oil could arrive in markets within 13 days. We drew upon the oil reserves before Operation Desert Storm in 1991 and after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. It is a proven way to dampen speculation and bring down prices.

Record oil and gasoline prices this year have driven oil and gasoline company profits to their highest levels ever: $148 billion in the last 12 months alone. But these profits have not come without a cost. They represent approximately $236 for every driver in America. It is regular families, not oil companies, who are suffering in the modern economy. Congress should reject federal subsidies for oil companies, and President Bush should immediately release oil from our stockpile to bring prices down.

MORE >

Burlington Free Press Editorial: More Safety Concerns for Vermont Yankee

July 18, 2008

Editorial: More safety concerns for Vermont Yankee

The revelations of substandard work carried out to repair the Vermont Yankee cooling tower that collapsed last summer brings concerns about the competency of those running the nuclear power plant to new heights.

There is simply no excuse for short cuts on any work having to do with a nuclear power plant. The consequences of failure are simply too great, although in this case a Vermont Yankee official says the problem involves no radioactive materials and poses no threat to public health.

A leak was discovered last week in the same cooling tower that suffered a spectacular collapse last year that spilled thousands of gallons of water onto the ground. The new problem was critical enough for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to send its director of operations, William Borschardt, to look into the matter.

Borschardt said the leak was the result of inadequate repairs done last year. Vermont Public Service Commissioner David O’Brien said a leak in another cooling tower appears to have been caused by work done since last year where an inadequate number of brackets were installed.

How could Vermont Yankee management fail to grasp the importance of making sure the repairs were done right given that the cooling tower collapse sharply raised public concerns about the plant’s safety?

If there is no danger of a radioactive leak, then the big issue becomes: If this is the level of work we can expect from Entergy, the plant’s owner, when dealing with such a high-profile problem, then what is going on in areas that receive less public and regulatory scrutiny?

This is a critical question as Vermont Yankee goes through state and federal review to extend its operating license 20 years. The future of the plant is extremely important to Vermont as it supplies about a third of the power consumed in the state, and is a major factor in Vermont’s having the lowest electricity rates in the region and a small carbon footprint.

There is little doubt that Vermont benefits from the electricity generated by Vermont Yankee. The state so far has no way to replace that power at a similar cost should the plant be shut down when its operating license expires in 2012.

Should the force of the political winds blowing against a license extension increase, Vermonters will pay the price. With energy prices continuing to rise, there is only so much more cost Vermonters can afford to absorb. Vermont Yankee must get this absolutely right.

But safety trumps cheap, reliable power, and even the most structurally or mechanically sound power plant is only as safe as the people who manage the operation.

Can MIT’s Solar Revolution create nuclear power’s replacement?

MIT, Chesonis Foundation announce solar revolution

Goal: Bring the sun’s power to the people

April 22, 2008

Promising to transform solar power from a “boutique” option to an affordable, dependable, mainstream energy solution, MIT and the Chesonis Family Foundation today launched a “solar revolution” with the ultimate aim of making solar energy America’s primary carbon-free fuel.

The Solar Revolution Project (SRP), funded by a $10 million gift from the Foundation, will explore new materials and systems that could dramatically accelerate the availability of solar energy. The SRP will complement and interact closely with other large solar projects at MIT, creating one of the largest solar energy clusters at any research university.

The Chesonis gift will allow MIT to explore bold approaches that are essential for transforming the solar industry. Specifically, it will focus on three elements –capture, conversion and storage — that will ultimately make solar power a viable, near-term energy source.

Read the entire article >