[ RadSafe ] Advocates laud safety of new nuclear reactors

Sandy Perle sandyfl at earthlink.net
Wed Sep 6 13:10:05 CDT 2006


Advocates laud safety of new nuclear reactors
Philippine Congress Urged To Probe Nuclear Waste Shipment
Nuclear plant's security faulted 
Westinghouse Chemistry Monitoring System Contract for Bulgarian NPP
Focus shifts to more nuclear operations 
Bush marks Labor Day with call for nuclear energy, lower taxes Mon 
Radiation Oncologists Use 'Cone Beam' CT To Improve Treatment

Advocates laud safety of new nuclear reactors

CORVALLIS, Ore. - Jose Reyes' research lab looks like a three-story 
tangle of pipes and instruments. But to nuclear engineers like him, 
it's evidence that generating electricity by splitting atoms can cost 
less and be done more safely than in the past.

Reyes heads an Oregon State University team that's built a quarter-
scale model of the Westinghouse AP1000 nuclear plant - which the 
company hopes will lead an atomic-energy renaissance in the U.S. and 
the rest of the world.

Even though the lab looks complicated, the model is far simpler than 
the plants built in the 20th century. Without using radioactive 
material, it tests the AP1000's "passive-safety" system, which relies 
on gravity rather than a battery of mechanical pumps to carry water 
to a reactor in an emergency.

"I think Oregon State was working much like the consumer products 
testing lab for nuclear power plants," Reyes said.

The tests, conducted under contract with Westinghouse and the U.S. 
Department of Energy, were critical in the reactor receiving Nuclear 
Regulatory Commission certification last December. The lab can test 
other reactor models as well.

The safety system, Reyes said, would make nuclear leaks far less 
likely, and virtually eliminate the threat of a meltdown of the 
nuclear core. The simpler, modular design will help bring down the 
cost of construction and make overruns less likely.

The 1979 partial meltdown of the Three Mile Island nuclear plant in 
Pennsylvania contributed to a virtual halt in new plant construction 
- along with high costs and energy-demand forecasts that turned out 
to be wrong. There are currently 103 U.S. nuclear plants, producing 
about 20 percent of the nation's electricity.

But fears of global warming and the rising cost of natural gas and 
coal may finally change the image of nuclear power as the industry 
markets a new generation of reactors, such as the AP1000 and General 
Electric Co.'s ESBWR, or Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor.

Interest in new plants has increased sharply since August 2005, when 
President Bush signed an energy bill that streamlines applications 
and offers loan incentives, tax credits and federal insurance for new 
plants. Licensing could be approved within a few years, depending on 
when applications are filed with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

But there are plenty of skeptics. They point out that, because the 
AP1000 and ESBRW have not yet been built, it's still uncertain how 
much they will cost or how safe they will actually be.

"It's been tested in scale models," David Lochbaum, director of a 
nuclear safety project for the Union of Concerned Scientists, said of 
the passive-safety system.

But if there's a gap between tests and actual operation, "it could be 
a nasty surprise," said Lochbaum.

The model at OSU was built to test how the passive-safety design 
would hold up during all sorts of emergencies that would require a 
quick shutdown of the reactor - even without human intervention.

The model uses no fissionable material. Instead, electricity heats 
water to temperatures reached in a nuclear plant, and the water is 
moved through the model, testing each of the safety features.

The cooling system in the previous generation of reactors operated 
much like a car radiator, requiring constant pumping of cool water to 
prevent overheating.

In the passive-safety designs, the cooling system is more like the 
tank of a toilet. Flip a single handle and cool water rushes down to 
the reactor if it overheats. Designers say that if the operator needs 
to leave the plant during an accident, that handle will be tripped 
automatically, and the reactor will cool itself.

The passive-safety system also contributes to making this generation 
of power plant less expensive to build because there are far fewer 
parts, nuclear advocates say. The system eliminates the need for huge 
cooling towers, redundant pumps and backup diesel generators.

The AP1000, according to Westinghouse, has 87 percent less cable, 83 
percent less piping, 50 percent fewer valves and 36 percent fewer 
pumps than the previous generation of reactors.

Estimates on the cost of new reactors vary widely, and it is 
difficult to compare current costs with past projects that required 
years to build and many design modifications, analysts say.

"We say broadly the passive plants are simple and have fewer active 
components, and should cost less to build," said Ed Cummins, nuclear 
engineering manager for Westinghouse. "Utilities are not risk takers. 
Investors want steady earnings and low risk."

GE has been racing with Westinghouse - a wholly owned unit of the 
United Kingdom's BNFL PLC - and other manufacturers, such as Areva NP 
in France, to build the next generation of nuclear reactors.
So far, Westinghouse has the U.S. lead because it has a design 
already certified by the NRC. A dozen new plants are under 

Nuclear opponents say that even if the new safety features work under 
all conditions, there's yet another problem to be resolved: As of 
yet, the United States has no permanent storage facility for spent 
nuclear fuel.

Potential delays in site approval for new nuclear plants and 
licensing are also a concern.

Reyes said the NRC needs to "expedite its new and untested process 
for a combined construction and operating license."

On the construction side, Reyes said, "the U.S. has lost significant 
capability in fabricating key components for nuclear plants."

Right now, Reyes said, "there's a single U.S. manufacturer of large 
nuclear components, and we're buying most large replacement 
components from France. We must also rebuild the skilled work force 
needed to construct nuclear plants."

Reyes concedes these are "significant challenges," but says they are 
"being faced by an industry that is highly energized, disciplined 
with regards to safety and profit, and driven by goals of energy 
independence and environmental quality."

But nuclear opponents are telling people not to get their hopes up. 
Among them is Portland attorney Greg Kafoury, a veteran of battles 
against atomic power in the Pacific Northwest.

"We were promised that the plants could not explode and we got 
Chernobyl," Kafoury said. "We were told they could not melt down and 
we got Three Mile Island. Now the industry says they can get it 
right. Why on Earth should anybody believe them?"

Philippine Congress Urged To Probe Nuclear Waste Shipment

MANILA, Sept 6 Asia Pulse - The Philippine Department of Environment 
and Natural Resources (DENR) and Congress should conduct an immediate 
investigation on the shipment to the country of about two million 
litres of waste from a nuclear plant overseas to determine and punish 
those responsible.

Lawmakers, led by House Deputy Majority Leader Antonio Cerilles and 
Leyte Rep. Eduardo Veloso, warned that if the government does not act 
decisively, the country could become a dumping ground of hazardous 
substances which could affect the safety of people and the 
Cerilles, former secretary of environment and natural resources, said 
the immediate concern of authorities should be to determine where the 
barge carrying the one million litres of nuclear waste was registered 
to know who should be held responsible for the nuclear waste import.

"Although it has been reported that the barge carrying the nuclear 
waste came from Palau, we still need to verify who owns the barge and 
its country of origin so all those responsible will be held liable," 
he said.

Cerilles said the nuclear waste transshipment through Philippine 
waters was in clear disregard of the Prior Consent Convention which 
requires that identified chemicals will not be exported unless prior 
consent has been provided by the government of the importing country.

"The Prior Consent Convention provides that exporting countries will 
also be legally obligated to inform importing countries about exports 
of chemicals banned or severely restricted in the exporting country," 
he said.

During his stint at the DENR, Cerilles said, he had the opportunity 
to attend the forum which was held in the Netherlands and he was 
elected vice president for Asia.

"I was a signatory for the Philippines of the Prior Consent 
Convention, hence, we have a right to be informed about any intention 
or move by other countries to import waste here and to reject such 
shipment," he said.

Veloso, former chair of the House committee on environment, said he 
will file a resolution calling on Congress to probe the nuclear waste 

"One or two million litres of nuclear waste is no laughing matter. 
This is enough for national alarm because of the possible ill effects 
of the nuclear wastes presence here on the health of the people and 
our environment," he said.

While it is fortunate that the Bureau of Customs managed to intercept 
the nuclear waste shipment, Veloso said, government still has to know 
how long this has been going on, those involved and whether there are 
private businessmen or government officials abetting this operation.

"Probers should summon officials of Powerzone Philippines to where 
the shipment was consigned and Goldmark Sea Carriers Inc., which owns 
the vessel. It's about time that we implement our anti-smuggling and 
environmental laws firmly to protect public safety and our 
environment," he said.

Nuclear plant's security faulted 

The Dallas Morning News, Sept 6 - Whistleblowers at the South Texas 
Project nuclear power plant have reported instances of security 
guards failing to follow protocol, leaving the facility vulnerable to 
intruders, according to a study by the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The nonprofit group released a report Tuesday outlining instances 
when security guards didn't follow rules, such as failing to search 
an equipment truck and allowing it to park 40 yards from a container 
of spent fuel and allowing a convicted felon into the plant. 

An official with the South Texas Project, which is 90 miles southwest 
of Houston and co-owned by NRG Energy and the cities of Austin and 
San Antonio, said the plant has addressed each of the complaints. 

"The issues that are identified in here have all been identified to 
us. We have investigated them and taken actions. We've done some 
fairly significant management changes," said Mark McBurnett, vice 
president of oversight and regulatory affairs for two new reactors 
that the South Texas Project intends to build. 

The report further states that guards' radio equipment doesn't work 
properly, some mock intrusion drills don't reflect real-world 
situations, and cleaning and maintenance staff has access to a room 
where weapons are stored. 

Mr. McBurnett said the guards told plant officials about the 
problems. He said the complaints seem to stem from friction during 
the last nine months between guards and management at the company 
that provides security at the plant, Wackenhut Corp. 

NRG is planning to expand the South Texas Project in the next 10 
years, and rival TXU Corp. plans to build six nuclear reactors at 
three sites, possibly in Texas.

Westinghouse Awarded Chemistry Monitoring System Contract for 
Bulgarian Nuclear Power Plant

PITTSBURGH, Sept. 6 /PRNewswire/ -- Westinghouse Electric Company 
today announced that it has been awarded a contract to provide 
Primary Side Chemistry Monitoring Systems for Kozloduy Nuclear Power 
Plant (KNPP) Units 5 and 6 in Bulgaria.
Westinghouse will provide an on-line chemistry analysis system to 
replace manual sample collection and laboratory analysis of 16 
primary chemistry parameters. The chemistry system will provide 
information to the Kozloduy plant computer system for display in the 
control room and at other Ovation® work stations. KNPP Units 5 and 6 
are 953 Mwe pressurized water reactors of VVER design.

Westinghouse will supply the hardware system, as well as project 
management, system integration, site activities and installation. 
While some preliminary installation work will occur in 2007, the main 
system installation for Unit 5 is scheduled for spring 2008 and, for 
Unit 6, in fall 2008.

The Westinghouse Primary Side Chemistry On-Line Monitoring System 
monitors the chemical parameters of the primary circuit and provides 
plant personnel with information they need to implement manual 
corrective actions during plant operation. These manual corrective 
actions are required to maintain optimal chemical parameters for 
proper and reliable operation of the unit. The project includes the 
design, supply, installation and commissioning of the equipment.

Diane Fisher, Westinghouse Repair, Replacement and Automation 
Services program manager for Kozloduy and Eastern Europe Projects, 
said, "This award follows the successful implementation of the 
Computer Information Systems, the Turbine Control Systems, the 
Radiation Monitoring Systems and the Primary Control Systems at 
Kozloduy NPP, and is a direct result of Westinghouse's performance on 
those projects."

Westinghouse Electric Company is the world's pioneering nuclear power 
company and is a leading supplier of nuclear plant products and 
technologies to utilities throughout the world. Today, Westinghouse 
technology is the basis for approximately one-half of the world's 
operating nuclear plants.

Focus shifts to more nuclear operations 

El Paso Times, Sept 5 - Carlsbad Mayor Bob Forrest says a plant to 
reprocess highly radioactive fuel from nuclear reactors could bring 
in as many as 5,000 jobs. Carlsbad is home to the Department of 
Energy's Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, which has become an economic 
mainstay of Eddy County. WIPP, which opened in 1999, buries defense 
program-related radioactive waste in underground salt beds.   

In addition, ground was broken last week near Eunice in adjacent Lea 
County for a $1.5 million uranium enrichment plant, which will make 
fuel for commercial nuclear reactors.

Now, the cities of Carlsbad and Hobbs and Eddy and Lea counties have 
formed an alliance to compete for the reprocessing plant. Forrest 
said the alliance has retained two companies, Washington Group 
International and Areva, to help.

Bush marks Labor Day with call for nuclear energy, lower taxes Mon 

PINEY POINT, United States (AFP) Sept 4 - US President George W. Bush 
marked Labor Day with a call for lower taxes and expanding nuclear 
power to ease US dependence on foreign oil. 
"So to make sure that we're the economic leader of the world, we've 
got to keep taxes low," Bush said in a speech at a maritime training 
center here.

"We ought to make the tax relief permanent," he said.

In May, the US Congress renewed for two years a package of tax cuts 
supported by the president.

Bush also urged more use of nuclear power, calling it a safe and 
clean alternative to fossil fuels.

"In my judgment, this country ought to continue to expand nuclear 
power if we want to become less dependent on foreign sources of 
energy," he said. "Nuclear power is safe, nuclear power is clean, and 
nuclear power is renewable."

Bush also championed the use of ethanol as an US-made alternative to 

There have been no new nuclear power plants built in the United 
States since a 1979 accident at Three Mile Island plant in 
Pennsylvania. The country's 20-some plants produce about 20 percent 
of US electricity, much less than coal.

In the United States, Labor Day traditionally marks the unofficial 
end of summer and the start of intense campaigning before the 
November elections.

Bush and Labor Secretary Elaine Chao touted the strength of the US 
economy on Labor Day, citing the country's unemployment rate of 4.7 

Union leaders, however, said that living standards were slipping amid 
rising health care costs and reduced pensions.

"We're in a health care crisis deeper than anyone could have 
imagined. And many working people worry whether they can ever 
retire," John Sweeney, president of the American Federation of Labor 
and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), the country's 
largest grouping of unions, said in a statement.

Radiation Oncologists Use 'Cone Beam' CT To Improve Treatment 

Science Daily, Sept 6 - While one of the Holy Grails in radiation 
oncology is to spare as much healthy tissue as possible during 
therapy, patients undergoing treatment for weeks at a time physically 
change. Patients can lose weight during a period of therapy. They 
might lose or gain fluid. Tumors may shrink or unfortunately, 
continue to grow. As a result, radiation target sites change, which 
can be problematic for treatment.

Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia and the Kimmel 
Cancer Center at Jefferson are among the first centers in the nation 
to study the effect of incorporating a new technology - cone beam CT 
- into a source of radiation, namely a linear accelerator, in an 
attempt to find an answer to this vexing problem.

The technology creates three-dimensional axial CT slices of a 
patient´s tumor, enabling therapists and doctors to compare these 
images with initial treatment planning images to determine how 
precisely focused the radiation set-up is. They can then make 
position adjustments if necessary to deliver a more targeted therapy 
to the patient. The hope is that this technology will lead to more 
highly customized radiation treatments, where higher doses are 
directed at the tumor while sparing the patient´s normal body 

"Right now, cone beam is used as one additional means of verifying 
the accuracy of the radiation treatments that we deliver," says 
Mitchell Machtay, M.D., the Walter J. Curran Jr., M.D., associate 
professor of radiation oncology at Jefferson Medical College of 
Thomas Jefferson University and vice chair of the Department of 
Radiation Oncology. Traditionally, patients are positioned for their 
daily radiation treatment by making marks on their skin, based on 
earlier tests, Dr. Machtay explains. "Once that is done, unless 
dramatic changes are seen, it´s hoped that those marks will hold up 
for two or three or six weeks of radiation and that the treatment 
will be given accurately.

"Ultimately, we believe that cone beam will lead to more highly 
customized radiation treatments, such as higher doses to the gross 
tumor and lower doses to normal structures within the body," explains 
Dr. Machtay, who specializes in treating head and neck cancers. He 
notes that this is particularly important for tumors of the head and 
neck, "where tumors and critical normal structures are tightly packed 
next to one another."

Richard Valicenti, M.D., associate professor of radiation oncology at 
Jefferson Medical College, uses cone beam CT for treatment planning 
for prostate cancer patients. "We´ve never had a way to directly 
visualize a target for radiation therapy before," he notes.

"Cone beam is a potential paradigm shift in checking the accuracy of 
a treatment," adds Dr. Machtay.

Jefferson is the most experienced center in the Delaware Valley in 
using the technology, notes Walter J. Curran Jr., M.D., professor and 
chair of radiation oncology at Jefferson Medical College and clinical 
director of Jefferson´s Kimmel Cancer Center.

In cone beam, the CT scanner is attached to a radiation delivery 
machine. Prior to the actual treatment, a set of 3-dimensional CT 
scan images is obtained. This is compared to the conventional CT scan 
that was used for planning the patient´s radiation treatment. If 
there are any differences in the patient´s current position, this is 
corrected before treatment is actually given

"Positioning no longer depends on the road map marks on the skin," 
says Dr. Machtay. "With cone beam, we are actually looking at a CT 
scan of the inside of the patient to see if he or she is lined up 
properly and if there´s been a change in the size or shape of the 

"We´re using it to collect quality assurance data, to see how much 
movement there is from the first day of treatment to every other day 
of treatment. We´re making the measurements and the adjustments 
necessary to hit the tumor.

"What we haven´t done yet is actually change the number of radiation 
treatments, the dosages of treatment or the size of the beams based 
on the CT scans," he notes. In theory, cone beam is more accurate and 
the radiation beams can be more pinpointed, meaning less radiation 
exposure to the rest of the patient. That can mean fewer side 
effects, and perhaps a higher dose of radiation.

In treatment planning for head and neck cancer radiation therapy, Dr. 
Machtay explains that at least a 5 millimeter safety margin around 
the cancer is typical. "If this margin is reduced to 2.5 mm, and we 
think of it three-dimensionally, that´s a lot less area of radiation 

Cone beam can be applied to any cancer type. And while clinical 
trials using cone beam radiation are in the planning stages, says Dr. 
Machtay, "it´s something that we would consider state of the art but 
not yet standard of care." The device is not yet approved by the FDA 
and currently is used on only about 25 percent of the patients 
receiving radiation therapy at Jefferson.

Sandy Perle
Senior Vice President, Technical Operations
Global Dosimetry Solutions, Inc.
2652 McGaw Avenue
Irvine, CA 92614 

Tel: (949) 296-2306 / (888) 437-1714  Extension 2306
Fax:(949) 296-1144

E-Mail: sperle at dosimetry.com
E-Mail: sandyfl at earthlink.net 

Global Dosimetry Website: http://www.dosimetry.com/ 
Personal Website: http://sandy-travels.com/ 

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