California earthquakes, Diablo Canyon, earthquake hazard, earthquake risk, earthquakes, High Level Nuclear Waste, NRC, nuclear power, nuclear risks, nuclear waste storage, seismic design, Seismic hazard, Seismic risk, Spent Fuel Pools, Tsunami Risk, US NRC
In the mainstream news on Monday was discussion of a secret document from last year, found online at the Friends of the Earth web site. As the US NRC is voting today on an Environmental Impact Statement, which excludes seismic considerations from 4 nuclear sites, 3 on the west coast, and with a major California earthquake on the weekend, it is timely:
“U.S. inspector wanted reactor shut on quake fears: report
Posted:Mon, 25 Aug 2014 23:31:14 GMT
(Reuters) – A federal nuclear inspector urged U.S. regulators to shut down a California nuclear power plant until tests showed its reactors could withstand shocks from nearby earthquake faults, according to the Associated Press and an environmental group” http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/environment/~3/09Genj0_LOg/story01.htm
“Diablo Canyon: Secret document details federal safety inspector’s alarm over plant’s vulnerability to earthquakes,” Posted Aug. 25, 2014 by Kate Colwell, Agency expert says reactors must be shut until proven safe” See more at: http://www.foe.org/news/news-releases/2014-07-diablo-canyon-secret-document-details-federal-safety-alarm
This is explains the document’s points in readable language: http://www.ucsusa.org/assets/documents/nuclear_power/diablo-canyon-earthquake-risk.pdf
Missing seems to be discussion of the problem of the spent fuel rod pools and that seismic risk at 4 sites, including 3 western sites, was excluded from the NRC’s Generic Environmental Impact Statement which will be voted today: https://miningawareness.wordpress.com/2014/08/25/us-nrc-kicking-the-radioactive-waste-can-down-the-road-for-140-years-in-the-short-term-option-for-high-level-nuclear-waste-spent-fuel-rods/ [Aug. 27 update: All that can be surmised is that they want to allow relicensing of these nuclear power plants and then have them retrofitted if there is a more serious earthquake hazard problem. Some non-nuclear construction retrofits were found to be lacking during the recent California earthquake, which was far from Diablo Canyon.]
Two interesting pages from the NRC Inspector’s report (Dr. Michael Peck) are posted below. One seems to indicate that safety issues of spent fuel pools were not considered-apparently not required to be considered by the NRC. In the document, we find other earthquake related considerations, but not the issue of the spent fuel pools, per se. [August 27th clarification-update: As of 2012, “the NRC is requiring all operating reactor licensees to perform an updated seismic hazard evaluation for each site, which will include an evaluation of spent fuel pool seismic risk (NRC 2012b). Should new information indicate spent fuel pool risk is significantly greater than previously considered, the NRC would take the appropriate regulation action to ensure protection to public health and safety“. (NRC, Aug. 2014, “GEIS Continued Storage of Spent Nuclear Fuel“, pp. F-10-F-11) On August 26th the NRC noted that: “The continued storage rule adopts the findings of the GEIS regarding the environmental impacts of storing spent fuel at any reactor site after the reactor’s licensed period of operations. As a result, those generic impacts do not need to be re-analyzed in the environmental reviews for individual licenses.” Do they or don’t they have to reanalyze? It sounds like they will re-license and then require retrofit if there is a problem.]
In fact, the inspector appears mostly concerned that the law be followed for he seems willing to allow exemption from the law. From “Differing Professional Opinion – Diablo Canyon Seismic Issues“, document by Dr. Michael Peck (made available by Friends of the Earth, at the link above): “Recommended Action: The NRC to initiate enforcement action to ensure PG&E complies with plant technical specification required actions to shutdown the Diablo Canyon reactors. The reactors should remain shut down pending demonstration that SSC safety functions can be meet at the higher seismic stress levels or until the NRC approves necessary dispensation and/or exemptions from the applicable regulatory and Operating License requirements.” (p. 3) (Emphasis our own) Wasn’t it abusive Vatican dispensations and indulgences for sins that caused the Reformation? Isn’t it time to either reform or get rid of the NRC?
Regarding the Spent Fuel Pools:
(structure, system, or component (SSC)
safe shutdown earthquake (SSE) design
double design earthquake (DDE)
He was apparently transferred for raising these concerns:
(Emphasis added on both pages. Original at FOE link).
The California Energy Commission made the following points about the Diablo Canyon Spent Fuel Pools (spent fuel pools are also a concern for closed reactors):
“The inventory of the Diablo Canyon spent fuel pools as of June 2013 was 2,112 spent nuclear fuel assemblies, including 1,060 assemblies from Unit 1 and 1,052 assemblies from Unit 2.298 PG&E’s 2011 IEPR response indicated that the spent fuel pool inventory was 2,164 assemblies and that the ISFSI contained 16 storage casks, each containing 32 spent fuel assemblies. In 2012, PG&E loaded an additional 7 casks, bringing the number of storage casks to 23. PG&E planned to load an additional 6 casks during the summer of 2013.
Although PG&E has made progress in moving used fuel assemblies from wet to dry storage, the density in the spent fuel pools is still roughly four times the design capacity of the original spent fuel racks. Furthermore, if relicensed,299 PG&E intends to store the spent fuel generated during the 20-year relicensing period in the spent fuel pools at close to the existing density.
In July 2010, the NRC issued requests for additional information for PG&E structures aging management programs reviewed during the aging management program audit. Request for additional information B2.1.32-4 requested further information in response to reports from Diablo Canyon personnel that the spent fuel pool has had a persistent minor leak for many years. It was unclear to staff if leakage of the borated water has degraded either the concrete or embedded steel reinforcement that is inaccessible for inspection. PG&E’s response indicated that the Unit 2 spent fuel pool has had persistent minor leakage varying from 50 to 975 milliliters (ml) per week, with a typical range of 300 to 500 ml per week, and that the evaluations to date have not been able to identify conclusively the root cause of the leakage. The path of the leakage is through the liner to the spent fuel pool leak chase monitoring location. Structures that could be potentially affected by the presence of the borated water are the spent fuel pool concrete and structural steel. PG&E concluded that, based on evaluation of industry experience on spent fuel pool leakage, the amount of leakage being experienced was acceptable as there is a negligible adverse effect on the concrete and reinforcing steel. However, the extent of damage to the Unit 2 spent fuel pool concrete and embedded steel reinforcement remains unknown in inaccessible areas. PG&E’s current and planned wet storage practices at Diablo Canyon comply with NRC license requirements, the safety of which is supported by a July 2013 consequence study conducted by the NRC. The study sought to examine if faster removal of older, colder spent reactor fuel from pools to dry cask storage significantly reduces risks to public health and safety. This study compared potential accident consequences from a pool nearly filled with spent fuel and a pool in which fuel that had cooled sufficiently had been removed. The regulatory analysis for the NRC study indicates that expediting movement of spent fuel from the pool does not provide a substantial safety enhancement for the reference plant.
However, the NRC study does not appear to be supported by National Academy of Sciences conclusions from the report Safety and Security of Commercial Spent Nuclear Fuel Storage: Public Report (2006) that dry cask storage offers several advantages over pool storage. Dry cask storage is a passive system that relies on natural air circulation for cooling, rather than requiring water to be continually pumped into cooling pools to replace water lost to evaporation caused by the hot spent fuel. Also, dry cask storage divides the inventory of spent fuel among a large number of discrete, robust containers, rather than concentrating it in a relatively small number of pools. The National Academy of Sciences report also concluded that while successful attacks on spent fuel pools are difficult, they are a possibility and could lead to the release of large amounts of radioactive material.” See pp. 203-205 “California Energy Commission. 2013. 2013 Integrated Energy Policy Report“. Publication Number: CEC-100-2013-001-CMF http://www.energy.ca.gov/2013publications/CEC-100-2013-001/CEC-100-2013-001-CMF.pdf
MUCH OF NORTH AMERICA IS DOWNWIND FROM CALIFORNIA. Of course, we know from Chernobyl and Fukushima that the entire world is downwind. WAKE UP CALL!
August 27, 2014 postscript:
The NRC document, “Generic Environmental Impact Statement for Continued Storage of Spent Nuclear Fuel, August 2014, Waste Confidence Directorate Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Washington, D.C.” is available online. We recommend that you download your own copy to arrive at your own conclusions. It is 1,310 pages long. If nothing else it is an example of the adage that too many cooks spoil the soup as there were 40 individuals who participated in writing it. We have not read it in its entirety, but rather skimmed through many times and searched for key words. (We have recently read through a similarly idiotic, long-winded, GEIS for ISL uranium mining by the NRC). Beware that it seems misleading, deceptive and contradictory. For instance they define “short-term” storage as 60 years. For nuclear it is very short-term but when most people see “short-term” they are not thinking 60 years, but in days or months. The 40 individuals who wrote it should be fired, but are probably kept on because of their apparent doublespeak incompetence. One good worker could have written a coherent document in a short time.