4/30/14 April 30, 2014 Press Release
Nuclear Regulatory Commission Lags U.S. Department of Energy in Regulating Hanford Nuclear Plant: Physicians’ group cites Inspector General report recommending closure of WESF facility due to earthquake danger – NRC takes ‘wait and see’ attitude with Columbia nuclear plant
In testimony submitted at noon today to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Petition Review Board, the Oregon and Washington chapters of Physicians for Social Responsibility accused the NRC of “taking a very lackadaisical approach toward the safety of the workers … the people of the Tri-Cities, and everyone downstream along the Columbia River.” They continue their call for a shutdown of the Columbia Generating Station nuclear power plant “until [the NRC] can make certain that it will not suffer a catastrophic accident.”
Steven Gilbert, PhD, a Washington PSR board member said: “it is impossible to ignore the contrast in approach between the U.S. Department of Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission with regard to dealing with seismic hazards at Hanford to key facilities. “
The US Department of Energy’s Waste Treatment Plant construction was halted in 2005 for a year until seismic upgrades could be made to it, after US Geological Survey researchers found much greater potential for ground motion from earthquakes than previously known. This year, the US DOE’s Office of the Inspector General stated in a March 26 memorandum accompanying the “Long-Term Storage of Cesium and Strontium at the Hanford Site”:
“One possible threat is a severe earthquake that may result in loss of power and/or loss of water in the [Waste Encapsulation and Storage Facility] WESF pool. The Department’s Office of Environmental Management considers WESF its largest ‘beyond design threat’ facility, and has identified movement of the capsules to dry storage as a potential interim measure to mitigate the risk posed by these threats.”
“It is unfathomable that the US DOE, which groups like ours frequently criticize for its waste handling practices, would prove to be clearly superior to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in taking the earthquake dangers at Hanford seriously,” Dr. Gilbert said. He noted that the NRC seems content to wait for the nuclear plant operator Energy Northwest to release its own seismic study in March 2015, four years after the Fukushima accident.
“Given that an accident caused by a beyond design basis earthquake at the WESF is exactly the scenario we fear for the CGS nuclear plant at Hanford,” Dr. Gilbert continued, “and that the vulnerable spent fuel pool at the CGS cannot be completely emptied without shutting down the reactor and waiting for several years – we believe that closing the reactor now until appropriate seismic upgrades can be made at the plant is the most prudent course.”
The Northwest physicians groups, along with a coalition including local Sierra Club chapters, Columbia Riverkeeper, Heart of America Northwest, and the Alliance for Democracy, cite seismic studies completed by the US Geological Survey that indicate ground motion more than twice the amount the nuclear plant is able to withstand. This could result in structural damage and lead to a catastrophic meltdown at the plant, similar to those experienced in Fukushima, Japan in 2011.
The Columbia Generating Station nuclear power plant is a 30 year-old GE Boiling Water Reactor of similar design to the Japanese plants. It is located on the Columbia River, ten miles north of Richland, Washington, on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation and is the only operating nuclear power plant in the Pacific Northwest.
PSR also submitted a new study to the NRC from the geologist Terry Tolan, who had completed PSR’s review in October 2013 of geological information on the Hanford Site. Tolan’s new study on flooding hazards asserts that, in the NRC’s worst case flooding scenario – a terrorist attack completely destroying the Grand Coulee Dam – the NRC did not take into account two major issues:
1) the chaos a huge wall of water – completely inundating the City of Richland – would create in destroying the infrastructure and making access to the site difficult, if not impossible for additional personnel and equipment; and,
2) the combination of elevated groundwater levels and a worst case dam burst at Grand Coulee would raise ground water levels four feet higher than the design basis ground water level for the CGS, “and could put structures, systems, and components at risk.”
PSR, in its testimony to the NRC’s Petition Review Board, cited the danger of this potential threat of an inland ‘tsunami’ as another reason to close the Hanford nuclear plant.
3/26 CGS Article below by Dave Lochbaum Director of Nuclear Safe Project
3/24 Willamette Week
3/8 Press Release from PSR:
For Immediate Release: Saturday, March 8, 2014
Chuck Johnson, Oregon and Washington PSR: 503-777-2794, firstname.lastname@example.org
Physicians Respond to Scientists’ Negative Report on Columbia River Nuclear Power Plant – Call it a “Pattern of Behavior”
Portland, OR & Seattle, WA – The Oregon and Washington chapters of Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) responded to a report from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) released on Friday, March 7, which stated that, while the nuclear power industry had seen a decline in the number of “near miss” incidents, the Columbia Generating Station nuclear power plant north of Richland, WA operated by Energy Northwest had experienced three such incidents during 2013.
The UCS report, “The NRC and Nuclear Power Plant Safety in 2013: More Jekyll, Less Hyde,” described the three “near miss” incidents at the CGS nuclear plant as the most by a single plant since they began issuing these annual reports in 2010.
UCS describes “near miss” incidents, which the Nuclear Regulatory Commission calls “accident sequence precursor” incidents, as those in which the NRC dispatches an inspection team to investigate an event or condition that increases the chance of reactor core damage by a factor of 10 or more.
The first two “near miss” incidents tagged in UCS’ report were regarding security-related issues on February 6 and September 13, 2013. Neither was described in detail because security-related information is withheld from the public by the NRC.
“The fact that two security-related ‘accident sequence precursor’ incidents would happen in the same year is extremely disturbing,” said Dr. Steven Gilbert, Washington PSR board vice president. “We cannot know whether the two incidents are related, but it is a terrible sign that security issues have been identified and may not have been fully corrected at the plant after the first incident. PSR’s previous reports on the geology and economics of this reactor have shown that, along with the inherent danger to operate it and the long-lived radioactive waste it generates, the benefits associated with running this nuclear plant are not worth the risks.”
The third “near miss” incident related to the discovery of a failing air conditioning unit in an area of the plant in which cooling is critical to the safe operation of the plant in an accident. The tubes on both the air and water sides of the air conditioner were fouled to the point that it was only able to operate at 30 percent capacity, less than ½ the allowable degradation of 65% considered to provide adequate cooling to the sensitive wires and equipment in an accident.
UCS’ Report author David Lochbaum, a nuclear engineer, gives the NRC inspectors high marks in fully diagnosing the source of this problem despite “the plant owner [Energy Northwest] repeatedly narrow[ing] the scope of the problem and its resolution.” Lochbaum credits the NRC resident and special inspection team inspectors with “steadfastly reject[ing] ‘band-aid’ fixes, [and] requiring that the underlying causes be identified and fixed.”
Lochbaum further opines that “time will tell whether the trio of near-misses at the Columbia Generating Station was merely bad luck or indicative of broader programmatic deficiencies.”
Dr. John Pearson, Oregon PSR board member, is less charitable. “My colleagues and I are concerned by what appears to a pattern of behavior at the CGS nuclear reactor,” Pearson said. “The three ‘near misses’ at Columbia follow a year in which they were listed as being a ‘degraded cornerstone’ reactor by the NRC – one of the four worst reactors in the country – for their decade-long miscalibration of stack radiation monitors. This year, they continue to have problems keeping their stack monitors working properly and are now sending out bids to replace them.”
In addition, Energy Northwest, the nuclear plant operator announced earlier this week it is suing the manufacturer of steam condenser modules that, according to a March 3, article in the Tri-City Herald, “were not designed and manufactured to fit together properly and quickly and did not fit the existing conditions.” This announcement calls into question the reliability of the expensive condenser replacement that kept the CGS nuclear power plant shut down for over five months in 2011.
The Columbia Generating Station, which is the only one completed of the five plants begun by the Washington Public Power Supply System (WPPSS), contains a General Electric boiling water reactor similar to those destroyed during Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.
Physicians for Social Responsibility, was founded in 1961 and has a national membership of 50,000 health care professionals and 25 local affiliates. The Oregon and Washington affiliates have been calling for the shutdown of the Columbia nuclear plant, located on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, in coalition with representatives of the Sierra Club, Heart of America Northwest, the Alliance for Democracy, Columbia Riverkeeper, No Nukes Northwest, and other groups.
PSR has completed studies by acknowledged experts on potential earthquake danger of twice the ground motion the plant was designed to withstand and cost savings of up to $1.7 billion if the aging 30 year old reactor was replaced by competitive bidding in the electricity market. See here: http://www.psr.org/chapters/
This was from today, 2/26/14. Working on WA State to remove provocative and incorrect language which obfuscates the truth about the dangers of nukes and CGS in WA State. This was the result today:
Thanks everyone for the great work to oppose this dog of a bill. Even if it is just a study, it can be dangerous. Your organizing really made a difference
Now, all the references to ‘safe” and cost-effective” have been removed.
It is still a sop to the Tri-Cities and Energy NW, with the meetings over there.
I spent time speaking with the committee chair to ask him to kill it; and with our allies such as Gael Tarleteon and Cindy Ryu (please send them thank yous along with Zack Hudgins who voted no with Cindy), and Norma Smith – whose amendment was adopted to remove the biased findings.
Bottom line here is the Chair and the Republican Prime Sponsor, who chairs the Senate counterpart committee, have numerous interests and bills they are negotiating and trading. They share some strong common interests in energy. There is another bill with a study of all energy sources and climate change, which makes this one a waste of time and money. But, the House Chair views it as having no harm if there is a redundant study and some meetings to appease the Senate Sponsor. So, politics has a little win over rationality. The study of nuclear power can be trashed by our groups if the committee makeup is as biased as we expect, and if they refuse to listen to all viewpoints. The danger is when they reccomend that nuclear should count as a renewable energy source for our renewable energy utility investment under Initiative 937.
Plus, we get to point out in message that OUR ratepayers in Seattle, Vancouver, etc.. will pay the bills for new ENW nukes, while the 3-City nuclear advocates will hardly pay anything for it because they get almost all of their energy from BPA hydro or their own hydro.
Again, you all got the ears of a good number of Reps from your organizing! Keep it up and we may be able to bottle this up and keep it from the House Floor.
Gerry Pollet, JD;
Heart of America Northwest
“The Public’s Voice for Hanford Clean-Up”
Groups differ on state nuclear bill Read the article here.
Changes need to be made to a bill creating a task force to evaluate the use of nuclear power to replace electricity generated by fossil fuels in Washington, according to Physicians for Social Responsibility.