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Nuclear Plants and Disasters: NRC Inspection Results

Nuclear Plants and Disasters: NRC Inspection Results

by John Sullivan and Ariel Wittenberg, Special to ProPublica, June 29

The NRC ordered the inspection in response to the March earthquake and tsunami that crippled Fukushima’s reactors. The purpose was to conduct a fast check on the equipment and procedures that U.S. plants are required to have in place in the event of a catastrophic natural disaster or a terrorist attack.

Agency officials unveiled the results in May, stating in a news release that “out of 65 operating reactor sites, 12 had issues with one or more of the requirements during the inspections.”

But ProPublica’s examination of the reports found that 60 Plant sites had discrepancies. that ranged from broken machinery, missing equipment and poor training to things like blocked drains or a lack of preventive maintenance. Some of the more serious findings include:

At the Arkansas Nuclear Oneplant outside Russellville, several portable pumps dedicated to flood control didn’t work.
At the Clintonplant outside Bloomington, Ill., a fire pump broke down during a test.
At the Sequoyah plant outside Chattanooga, Tenn., inspectors couldn’t find drain valves needed for flood control.
At the Diablo Canyon plant in California, a fence blocked the path for a hose to pump emergency water.

Plant officials said they have moved to fix those problems and that none would have prevented them from responding in an emergency. The NRC told ProPublica that all the issues raised by inspectors “fell well short of being imminent safety concerns” and were being addressed.

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In a summary attached to the inspection findings, however, the NRC expressed some concern.

“While individually, none of these observations posed a significant safety issue, they indicate a potential industry trend of failure to maintain equipment and strategies required to mitigate some design and beyond design-basis events,” the summary says.

The NRC reported fewer problems at the plants than ProPublica because it only counted those in which a plant had a problem demonstrating how its emergency preparedness plan would work. The agency said that, despite these questions, all the plants could protect their reactors.

The special inspection covered equipment and procedures for use in disasters that are beyond the scope of the plant’s design — major earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, hurricanes and terrorist attacks.

Many of the items covered in the special inspection are supposed to be checked by NRC inspectors on a regular basis. Items that were required after the 9/11 attacks to respond to large explosions and fires — like extra pumps, hoses and generators — are supposed to be reviewed as part of regular triennial fire protection inspections.

David Lochbaum, a nuclear engineer with the Union of Concerned Scientists, says the large number of problems uncovered in the special inspection shows that NRC must strengthen oversight.

“I think they need to look at the inspections,” said Lochbaum, whose group monitors safety matters. “Why did they find so much in these inspections? Shouldn’t these have been found sooner?”

Nuclear plants conduct emergency drills every two years, and Lochbaum said that one possible improvement would be for inspectors to check the condition of the emergency response equipment then.

Mary Lampert, executive director of the advocacy group Pilgrim Watch in Massachusetts, said many of the deficiencies uncovered by the NRC may seem minor but could quickly turn into bigger problems in an emergency situation.

“They all add up. They cannot wait for a disaster to start looking around for a screwdriver that is required to open a valve because time is typically of the essence,” she said.

Lampert said it is important for the NRC to keep an eye on the problems they found and not simply assume the nuclear companies will fix everything.

The Fukushima accident has focused the NRC’s attention on the risk that a natural disaster or attack could knock out a plant’s safety systems for an extended period and lead to a radiation release.

Although all plants are designed to withstand natural disasters, U.S. nuclear facilities are aging. Recent studies have shown that earthquake risks are now higher than they were predicted when some plants were built, although the NRC says reactors can still withstand the highest expected quake. Now historic flooding on the Missouri River is testing design limits at two Nebraska plants.

Flood waters are expected to come within a few feet of levels the Fort Calhoun and Cooper nuclear plants were built to withstand. At Fort Calhoun, a special berm providing backup protection collapsed Sunday after being damaged. Operators briefly turned on emergency diesel power but said there was no risk to reactor cooling systems. The plant has been shut down for refueling since early April.

On April 1, the NRC launched a task force of senior agency managers to examine the ability of plants to respond to events that might overwhelm existing safety systems and procedures. The panel is concentrating on disaster preparedness and the ability to survive a lengthy blackout, as at Fukushima.

The six-member group is scheduled to report its findings to the commission on July 19, and the NRC has held two briefings on the subject so far. Until the task force reports back, the NRC said it would not comment on what, if any, changes the agency might propose.

The Union of Concerned Scientists and other watchdog groups have said that Fukushima points to the need for some obvious improvements, such as adding backup generators and moving used nuclear fuel out of cooling pools and into safer storage locations.

The nuclear industry’s main trade group, the Nuclear Energy Institute, is teaming up with the Institute for Nuclear Power Operations and the research organization the Electric Power Research Institute to develop disaster preparedness guidelines for nuclear companies, said Thomas Kauffman, a spokesman for NEI.

Kauffman said U.S. nuclear plants have survived hurricanes, tornadoes and extended power outages without damage to their reactors, but the industry is looking hard at Fukushima nevertheless. “We want to take the lessons learned and make sure they are applied across the industry,” he said.

Chairman Gregory Jaczko raised the issue of emergency preparedness this month at an International Atomic Energy Agency conference in Vienna. According to a copy of his speech, he brought up the post-Fukushima inspection results.

“While I see nothing that calls into question the safety of our plants, I see areas where performance was not as good as would be preferred,”
Jaczko said. Changes are likely, he added, “although it is too early to say right now precisely what those changes might be.”

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Jaczko visited the Nebraska plants this week and declared that, while flood conditions were likely to continue for some time, the plants are safe.

“Water levels are at a place where the plant [workers] can deal with them,” Jaczko said at Fort Calhoun on Monday, according to the Iowa Independent. “The risk is really very low that something could go wrong.”

ProPublica intern Ariel Wittenberg contributed to this story.

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US Orders News Blackout Over Crippled Nebraska Nuclear Plant!!!

US Orders News Blackout Over Crippled Nebraska Nuclear Plant

A shocking report prepared by Russia’s Federal Atomic Energy Agency (FAAE) on information provided to them by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) states that the Obama regime has ordered a “total and complete” news blackout relating to any information regarding the near catastrophic meltdown of the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Power Plant located in Nebraska.

According to this report, the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Plant suffered a “catastrophic loss of cooling” to one of its idle spent fuel rod pools on 7 June after this plant was deluged with water caused by the historic flooding of the Missouri River which resulted in a fire causing the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) to issue a “no-fly ban” over the area.

Located about 20 minutes outside downtown Omaha, the largest city in Nebraska, the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Plant is owned by Omaha Public Power District (OPPD) who on their website denies their plant is at a “Level 4” emergency by stating: “This terminology is not accurate, and is not how emergencies at nuclear power plants are classified.”

Russian atomic scientists in this FAAE report, however, say that this OPPD statement is an “outright falsehood” as all nuclear plants in the world operate under the guidelines of the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INES) which clearly states the “events” occurring at the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Power Plant do, indeed, put it in the “Level 4” emergency category of an “accident with local consequences” thus making this one of the worst nuclear accidents in US history.

Though this report confirms independent readings in the United States of “negligible release of nuclear gasses” related to this accident it warns that by the Obama regimes censoring of this event for “political purposes” it risks a “serious blowback” from the American public should they gain knowledge of this being hidden from them.

Interesting to note about this event was the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Chief, Gregory B. Jaczko, blasting the Obama regime just days before the near meltdown of the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Power Plant by declaring that “the policy of not enforcing most fire code violations at dozens of nuclear plants is “unacceptable” and has tied the hands of NRC inspectors.”

This report further notes that the “cover-up” of this nuclear disaster by President Obama is being based on his “fantasy” of creating so-called green jobs which he (strangely) includes nuclear power into as his efforts to bankrupt the US coal industry proceed at a record breaking pace.

Unknown to the American people about Obama’s “war” on the US coal industry is it’s estimated to cost them over a 60% increase in their electricity bills by 2014 and cause over 250,000 jobs to be lost in an already beleaguered economy.

More ominous for those American people whose lives depend on the coal industry that is being deliberately destroyed is the Obama regime’s massive “security exercise” currently ongoing in the major coal mining States of Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia, and as we can read about, in part, as reported by InfoWars.Com:

“If you’re still living under the delusion that the TSA is just restricted to airports then think again. A joint VIPR “security exercise” involving military personnel has Transportation Security Administration workers covering 5,000 miles and three states, illustrating once again how the TSA is turning into a literal occupying army for domestic repression in America.

The TSA, in alliance with a whole host of federal, state, local agencies as well as military personnel, is currently conducting a massive “security exercise” throughout Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia.

“The participating teams are composed of a variety of TSA assets including federal air marshals, canine teams, inspectors and bomb appraisal officers. They will be joined by state and local law enforcement officials to supplement existing resources, provide detection and response capabilities. The exercise will utilize multiple airborne assets, including Blackhawk helicopters and fixed wing aircraft as well as waterborne and surface teams,” reports the Marietta Times.

Although the exercise is couched in serious rhetoric about preparedness, it relates to “no specific threat” and the details are nebulous to say the least and seems to revolve around little else than testing out high-tech surveillance equipment and reminding Americans who their bosses are.”

Obama’s fears of the American people turning against nuclear power, should its true dangers be known, appear to be valid as both Germany and Italy (whose people, unlike the Americans, have been told the truth) have turned against it after the disaster in Japan and vowed to close all of their atomic plants.

Perhaps even more sadly for the American people is this report stating that the Obama regime is “walking in lockstep” with Japan in their attempts to keep the truth of nuclear accidents from their citizens; which in the case of the Japanese can only be labeled as horrific as new evidence points to them knowing within hours of the Great Tsunami that their atomic reactors had melted down, but have only today ordered an evacuation of pregnant women from what are called “radiation hotspots.”

With a country that some scientists are now warning may soon become uninhabitable due to radiation damage, and with reports of mutant rabbits and radioactive whales now being reported, one wonders if in knowing the truth the American people would really want to follow Japan’s “example” instead of those people in Germany and Italy?

But, with an already documented 35% increase in the infant mortality rate for American mothers living in the western coastal regions of the US caused by radiation blowing onto them from Japan being ignored by these people there doesn’t seem to be much hope for them.

http://www.whatdoesitmean.com

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