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Archive for Thursday, March 31, 2011

NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko IDs Wolf Creek nuclear power plant as one of three ‘we are most concerned about’

The Wolf Creek nuclear power plant, which went online in 1985, is shown in this Jan. 11, 2000, photograph.

The Wolf Creek nuclear power plant, which went online in 1985, is shown in this Jan. 11, 2000, photograph.

March 31, 2011

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— Three U.S. nuclear power plants need increased oversight from federal regulators because of safety problems or unplanned shutdowns, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said Thursday, although officials said all are operating safely.

NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko said the three plants — in South Carolina, Kansas and Nebraska — "are the plants we are most concerned about" among the 65 U.S. nuclear power plants in 31 states.

Jaczko did not identify the plants, but an agency spokesman said they are the H.B. Robinson nuclear plant in South Carolina, Fort Calhoun in Nebraska and Wolf Creek in Kansas.

An NRC spokesman said three reactors at the Oconee Nuclear Station in South Carolina had been on the watch list, but were removed two weeks ago after improved performance reviews.

The NRC stressed that all 104 U.S. nuclear reactors operate safely, and that the heightened review of the three plants was routine.

"The NRC felt the three required significant additional oversight but continue to operate safely," said Scott Burnell, an agency spokesman.

All U.S. nuclear plants are inspected frequently. If enough minor problems or issues are identified, a plant moves to a second level of inspection, Burnell said.

Items that aren't resolved in a reasonable time -- or new items of higher significance -- can move a plant to a third level of closer inspection and oversight. That is where the three plants in South Carolina, Kansas and Nebraska are listed, Burnell said.

The agency has two higher levels of concern for even more serious problems: one where senior NRC management becomes involved and a final level where a plant is shut down until officials determine it is safe to reopen. No U.S. plants are currently listed in either category.

Jaczko told a House energy panel the NRC has very strong safety program. The panel was meeting to review the agency's budget and safety concerns in the wake of the nuclear crisis in Japan.

Rep. Ed Pastor, D-Ariz., said he was not worried about the NRC's safety program.

"What about the condition of the reactors?" he asked. "Are they safe enough?"

Jaczko said that "right now, we have very good performance from the actual reactors," but then said there were six reactors in need of more intensive review.

"Those are the plants we are most concerned about," he said. "With the exception of those six plants, the remaining plants are operating with safety margins, and again all of the plants are meeting our safety requirements."

Burnell and other agency officials said the six reactors Jaczko referred to included three at Oconee, which were recently taken off the watch list.

Nine of the 104 U.S. reactors are listed in the second, minor level of concern, Burnell said.

Comments

AlexTJ 2 years, 11 months ago

I also doubt the LJWorld will print even a sentence about it once its officially released and people will go on living in fear.....

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AlexTJ 2 years, 11 months ago

Funny, Wolf Creek just got moved back to the NRCs corner 1, in other words "good standing." Looks like I was right and they fixed their issues.

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jstthefacts 3 years ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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ksjayhawk74 3 years ago

Don't worry, even if something terrible does happen at Wolf Creek, that's a good 80 miles away. 80 miles is way too far away to possibly affect us here in Lawrence.

related article...

"Nuclear Energy Advocates Insist U.S. Reactors Completely Safe Unless Something Bad Happens" http://www.theonion.com/articles/nuclear-energy-advocates-insist-us-reactors-comple,19740/

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AlexTJ 3 years ago

I'm all for more wind power! But... Without nuclear power we will have to build more coal plants which put out more radiation and pollution than nuclear plants (Surprise! Coal contains radioactive isotopes since it also comes from the ground. Burning it releases them into the air.). This is because wind power is not always available for base power but its great as a supplement! Even solar can not be relied upon for base power since, well, it requires the sun.

We will build more coal plants if we do not build more nuclear fission plants. Thats reality for you. It would be great to rely on the sun and the wind for all our needs but in the 20-30 year time frame we have, thats not going to happen. One day, when we have further developed solar power and nuclear fusion plants (great because they don't produce long lived isotopes, essentially the second they turn off there is no radioactivity or need to cool decay heat) we can rid ourselves of coal and nuclear fission. But for now, unless you want rolling blackouts (no one is going to allow this) we are forced to choose between the lesser of two evils: Coal or fission?

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Richard Heckler 3 years ago

Nuclear Power Is Not Clean or Green!

No contemporary energy source is as environmentally irresponsible, imposes such a high liability on taxpayers, or is as dangerous as nuclear power. Industry efforts to "greenwash" nuclear energy make a mockery of clean energy goals. Although nuclear reactors do not emit carbon dioxide, promoting nuclear risks to reduce greenhouse emissions is the classic jump from the frying pan into the fire!

The Real Dirt on "Clean" Nuclear Energy

* The mining, milling and enrichment of uranium into nuclear fuel are extremely energy-intensive and result in the emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels.

* Estimated "energy recovery time" for a nuclear power plant is about 10 to 18 years, depending on the richness of uranium ores mined for fuel. This means that a nuclear power plant must operate for at least a decade before all the energy consumed to build and fuel the plant has been earned back and the power station begins to produce net energy. By comparison, wind power takes less than a year to yield net energy, and solar or photovoltaic power nets energy in less than three years.

* The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has calculated that collective radiation doses amounting to 12 cancer deaths can be expected for each 20-year term a reactor operates, as a result of radioactive emissions from the nuclear fuel cycle and routine reactor operations. This calculation assumes no unplanned accidents and does not consider radiation releases from high-level nuclear waste "disposal" activities. Nor are nonfatal health impacts related to radiation exposure counted in this tally.

* Thermal pollution from nuclear power plants adversely affects marine ecosystems. "Once-through" cooling systems in use at half the U.S. nuclear reactors discharge billions of gallons of water per day at temperatures up to 25 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than the water into which it flows.
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igby 3 years ago

It's a water shorage issue?

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AlexTJ 3 years ago

No one has been "keepign a lid on this." The fact is no one cared before the tsunami incident.

The fact is Wolf Creek's degraded NRC status comes from its many shutdowns over the past year. A nuclear power plant shuts itself down automatically at the slightest change in its operation. The events that can cause this vary from as serious as an earthquake to the tiniest system anomaly. Even certain electrical fuses being just a few degrees too hot, which caused one of their five or six shutdowns, will trip the plant. In a trip, or SCRAM, all the control rods are immediately inserted and power is brought to zero in a matter of seconds so that the situation can be resolved safely. To put this in perspective, some nuclear submarines are said to trip multiple times daily on purpose to train personnel.

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Ken Lassman 3 years ago

Hey, folks, has the JW and other news media been sitting on this?

I checked the NRC website and they said this about Wolf Creek:

"Degraded Cornerstone Column Wolf Creek is in Column 3 because of two white Initiating Events Cornerstone PIs (Unplanned Scrams per 7000 Critical Hours in 1Q2010 and Unplanned Scrams with Complications from 3Q2009 through 1Q2010). Wolf Creek also has a white Mitigating Systems Cornerstone PI (Safety System Functional Failures) from 1Q2010 through 3Q2010."

Reporters, it's time to get on the stick! If you're not being told to keep a lid on this, of course. At this point, no news is big news, so admit the cat is out of the bag and start digging. The NRC website search showed that there was a flurry of reports that came out back last September, and there have been replies and requests going back and forth ever since.

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