[ RadSafe ] [nuclear news] German nuclear incidents bad press for operators

Sandy Perle sandyfl at cox.net
Fri Jun 29 11:54:00 CDT 2007


German nuclear incidents bad press for operators
Chavez says Venezuela might go nuclear
New Plans To Expand Texas Nuclear Power
US Senate panel restores funds for nuclear waste cleanup
Experts Survey Sunken Russian Nuclear Sub For Radiation
Groups File Appeal Against Michigan Nuclear Power Plant
Nuclear plants require strict security
More nuclear reactors may be built in CA

German nuclear incidents bad press for operators

FRANKFURT, June 29 (Reuters) - The closure of two northern German 
nuclear power stations after problems on Thursday could not have come 
at a worse time for German operators who seek to extend the lifetime 
of some plants.

Firefighters were still putting out a fire in a transformer 
substation on the site of the Kruemmel nuclear power generation block 
some 20 km (12 miles) south-east of Hamburg on Friday.

Police said the fire had not affected the 23-year-old reactor and 
there was no danger of radioactive leaks.

Also on Thursday, a short-circuit at the nearby Brunsbuettel nuclear 
plant which was built in 1977 switched off that unit, leaving both 
plants out of action for the time being.

"It is increasingly taxing to ensure the safety of these old 
reactors," the social minister for the German state of Schleswig-
Holstein, Gitta Trauernicht, told German radio.

Trauernicht heads the ministry that supervises nuclear safety in a 
state whose government is critical of nuclear power.

Brunsbuettel is due to close in 2009 under Germany's nuclear exit 
programme but its main operator Vattenfall Europe <VTTG.DE> has 
applied for an extension by trying to borrow other plants' quotas, a 
tactic also tried by other nuclear companies.

Only a week ago, Trauernicht declared: "Brunsbuettel is unsuited to 
an extension" and the federal environment ministry in Berlin rejected 
Vattenfall's first application.

Ivo Banek, spokesman for Vattenfall, said there was no reason to link 
Thursday's incidents to the longer-term question of prolonging 
nuclear plants' lifetime.

"On the contrary, these were defects that could also have happened 
elsewhere and there is no doubt that managers, security staff and the 
fire guard had them fully under control," he said.

After last week's rejection of its attempt to transfer production 
quotas from an idled plant of RWE <RWEG.DE> to Brunsbuettel to keep 
it open beyond 2009, Vattenfall has now asked to transfer quotas from 
Kruemmel, which must shut in 2015.

In other cases, RWE had its application to keep its Biblis A nuclear 
plant open beyond 2008 rejected, and south-west German utility EnBW 
<EBKG.DE> has also failed with an attempt to run its Neckarwestheim 1 
plant beyond 2009.

The ensuing legal tussles take place as Germany's coalition 
government is deeply divided over nuclear power.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives mostly support the nuclear 
industry's attempts to win more production time while renewable 
energies catch up to become more commercially sound.

But the centre-left Social Democrats mostly oppose nuclear.

Chavez says Venezuela might go nuclear

MOSCOW, June 29 (UPI) -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has 
suggested that his country might one day go nuclear, and defended 
Iran's right to pursue nuclear energy. 
Noting that neighboring Brazil has declared its nuclear energy 
intentions, Chavez said Venezuela "might do likewise," Globovision TV 
reported Thursday. 

Chavez's remarks in Moscow came ahead of President George W. Bush's 
scheduled visit to the Russian capital. 

The remarks also came as the Venezuelan leader discussed a deal for 
the purchase of five Russian submarines, valued at more than $1 

The leftist leader in recent years has sought to improve Venezuela's 
defenses, claiming the United States is intent on invading the South 
American country to take over its oil supply -- allegations 
Washington has denied.

New Plans To Expand Texas Nuclear Power

(AP) HOUSTON Exelon Nuclear has identified two possible southeast 
Texas locations for a nuclear project as the company prepares a 
federal application to build and operate a new plant.

Officials said the Illinois-based company hasn't committed to 
building a plant, but it expects to submit an application for the 
project to the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission in November 

The primary prospective site is about 10 miles south of Collegeport 
in Matagorda County. A secondary site is about 20 miles south of 
Victoria in Victoria County.

Spokesman Craig Nesbit said Exelon will work through an 18-month 
process with the commission before the application is submitted. 
After that, regulators would take three to four years to evaluate the 

The company expects to spend $23 million on the application process.

Matagorda County Judge Nate McDonald said the project would be 
welcome. The county is already home to the South Texas Project, a 
nuclear power plant near Bay City operated by a consortium of energy 

"We have nuclear electrical generation in the county now," McDonald 
said. "They have been a good partner for us, and this is another one 
of those. They are good, clean industries, they are well-financed, 
they bring excellent employment opportunities and a large tax base."

The state's other existing nuclear power plant is Comanche Peak, 
about 80 miles southwest of Dallas.

Operators of the state's power grid said 14 percent of Texas' power 
came from nuclear units in 2006.

Tom O'Neill, Exelon's vice president of new plant development, said 
the U.S. Department of Energy projects that Texas will need 48 
percent more generating capacity by 2030.

"Nuclear energy is safe and clean and has a low operating cost," 
O'Neill said in a prepared statement. "That's why we believe nuclear 
energy is a key part of Texas' future energy mix, because of its 
inherent environmental and energy independence benefits."

Most environmentalists are opposed to nuclear energy, pointing to 
risks such as breakdowns, leaks, the long-term disposal of nuclear 
waste and concern that terrorists could target the plants.

"The risks of nuclear power are extraordinary," said Tom "Smitty" 
Smith, director of the Texas office of Public Citizen. "One mistake 
could contaminate a large swath of Texas for tens of thousands of 

Senate panel restores funds for nuclear waste cleanup

WASHINGTON - A key Senate committee Thursday restored more than $20 
million in 2008 funding for the West Valley Demonstration Project 
that the Bush administration had proposed cutting from the 
Cattaraugus County nuclear waste cleanup site. 

Under a spending bill approved by the Senate Appropriations 
Committee, West Valley would receive $78.9 million in federal funding 
for the year. That´s up from $76.3 million last year - and far more 
than the $54.4 million that President Bush had suggested for 2008. 

While the Senate spending bill will have to pass the full Senate, be 
reconciled with a House version of the measure and then signed by the 
president, the Senate committee´s action dramatically reduces the 
odds of a big funding cut that local officials had been dreading. 

"This is great news for Western New York," said Sen. Charles E. 
Schumer, D-N.Y. "The funding for the West Valley Project will provide 
the resources necessary to accelerate the cleanup at this toxic 

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., agreed. 

"The president´s budget cuts would not only have jeopardized local 
jobs but would have hindered the cleanup work efforts at the site," 
Clinton said. "I will continue to press the administration and DOE to 
fulfill their responsibilities to fully remediate this site for the 
people of Western New York." 

When Bush´s proposal was announced in February, Terry Dunford, 
communications administrator for West Valley Nuclear Services Co., 
said the funding cut would most likely slow down the cleanup process 
and result in layoffs. 

Dunford said at the time that Washington Group´s West Valley Nuclear 
Services Co., which manages the facility, had 312 employees at the 
site. An additional 113 employees work for the federal and state 
governments as well as subcontractors at the site.

Experts Survey Sunken Russian Nuclear Sub For Radiation

Murmansk, Russia (RIA Novosti) Jun 29, 2007
A group of Russian and foreign experts Thursday began monitoring 
radiation levels at the site of a 2003 incident involving a Russian 
nuclear submarine in the Barents Sea, a Russian Navy official said. 
The K-159, a November class nuclear submarine with 800 kilograms 
(about 1,700 pounds) of spent nuclear fuel onboard, sank in 2003 
while being towed to Polyarny, in northwest Russia, for 
decommissioning. Nine members of the 10-man submarine crew died.
"The goal of the operation is to check radiation levels onboard the 
sunken submarine and the surrounding area in order to develop plans 
for a possible salvage operation in the future," a spokesman for 
Russia's Northern Fleet said.

Subject to technical feasibility, Russia has committed itself to 
recovering the submarine and safely disposing of its reactors as part 
of an international agreement set up to assist with the safe disposal 
of Russian nuclear waste material.

The operation is being carried out under a project jointly developed 
by Russia, Britain, the U.S. and Norway within the framework of the 
Arctic Military Environmental Cooperation agreement (AMEC), signed in 
September 1996.

The Russian official said unmanned underwater vehicles operating from 
the NATO research vessel Alliance would inspect the submarine, which 
sank to a depth of 238 meters (about 900 feet).

There has been no evidence of abnormal radiation levels at the wreck 
site during previous surveys, and the current operation will include 
further monitoring, the source said.

The Russian Navy has been hit by several accidents involving 
submarines. The worst of these occurred August 12, 2000, when the 
Russian nuclear submarine Kursk sank, killing all 118 crewmembers, 
after a torpedo exploded onboard.

In August 2005, the Priz AS-28 mini-sub with seven sailors onboard 
became entangled in a fishing net at a depth of about 190 meters 
(about 620 feet) in the Berezovaya Bay in the Bering Sea.

It was rescued after three days with the help of an unmanned British 
deep-sea rescue vehicle, the Scorpio 45.

Groups File Appeal Against Michigan Nuclear Power Plant 

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) -- Two nuclear energy watchdog groups have 
filed an action with a federal appeals court that says the storage 
pads where spent nuclear fuel is kept at the Palisades Nuclear Plant 
violate earthquake-safety regulations established by the Nuclear 
Regulatory Commission.

The 3-foot-thick concrete pads rest upon loose sand amid the dunes of 
the Lake Michigan shoreline in western Van Buren County's Covert 
Township, about 55 miles southwest of Grand Rapids. Some containers 
of spent, irradiated nuclear fuel sit 150 yards from the water, the 
organizations said Thursday in a joint written statement.

Palisades' two pads now hold more than 30 concrete-and-steel casks, 
each of which weighs about 150 tons when fully loaded with nuclear 
fuel rod assemblies.

The groups -- Nuclear Information and Resource Service and Don't 
Waste Michigan -- want the plant closed and turned to the federal 
courts for relief after exhausting all administrative remedies at the 
NRC, they said. They filed the appeal June 15 in Washington and are 
represented in court by attorney Terry Lodge of Toledo, Ohio.

"Underwater submersion could lead to inadvertent nuclear chain 
reactions in the fissile materials still present in the wastes," said 
Kevin Kamps, a nuclear-waste specialist at NIRS. "Burial under sand 
could cause the wastes to dangerously overheat. Either way, a 
disastrous radioactivity release could result."

Mark Savage, a spokesman for plant owner Entergy Corp., said 
Palisades' spent nuclear fuel is being properly stored at the site.

"Palisades has been in the past -- and continues to be -- in full 
compliance with all federal regulations and requirements associated 
with the dry-fuel storage facility, he said. "Our dry fuel storage 
containers are monitored daily and are in a safe condition, and 
Palisades will continue to store its used fuel until the federal 
government takes ownership of it for storage at Yucca Mountain, 

In April, Entergy, a New Orleans-based utility holding company, 
completed its $380 million purchase of the plant from Consumers 
Energy Co., a subsidiary of Jackson-based CMS Energy Corp. Under the 
terms of the sales agreement, Entergy will sell 100 percent of the 
798-megawatt plant's output to Consumers for 15 years.

Palisades has been producing power commercially since December 1971

Nuclear plants require strict security
Victoria would need to put in place a plan to deal with a terrorist 
attack on a nuclear power plant, according to a local emergency 
management expert in a nearby county.

Victoria is the secondary site under consideration for the nuclear 
power plant construction. Matagorda County is the primary site for 
the construction.

Bob Watts, director of emergency management for Matagorda County, 
said those plans should cover events such as terrorist attacks. The 
South Texas Project nuclear power plant is in his county.

"It just marries into the plans you already have in place," Watts 

Because of the security surrounding nuclear power plants, terrorists 
normally would look for an easier target to hit, he said. The plants 
are built in such a way that they can take a direct hit from a 747 
and not cause a catastrophe, he said. The bigger concern from that 
scenario would be what happens outside, such as a huge external fire 
that would erupt, he said.

"We feel secure with the plans our plant has in place," he said.

The South Texas Project, near Wadsworth, opened with South Texas 
Project 1 operating in August 1987 and South Texas Project 2 
operating in December 1988. Neither reactor has had any accidents.

Kelly Cripe, communications supervisor with South Texas Project, said 
the South Texas Project is protected by multiple layers of security.

"We have extensive perimeter defenses and detection and prevention 
systems," she said. "We have a specially trained and armed security 
response team. We also work very closely with local, state and 
federal law enforcement."

As the expansion occurs at the South Texas Project - two new reactors 
are proposed near Wadsworth - Cripe said her company remains 
committed to safe and secure production of electricity. She touted 
the company's safe track record and expects it to continue with the 

Mitch Singer, media relations manager with the Nuclear Energy 
Institute in Washington, said the NRC conducts a comprehensive drill 
at each plant once each three years, but officials at nuclear power 
plants conduct drills throughout the year.

O.C. Garza, public information officer for the city of Victoria, said 
the city would have to be prepared for any scenario. Of the 103 
plants operating nationally, the only accident occurred at Three Mile 
Island in Pennsylvania in 1979.

According the Nuclear Energy Institute's Web site, 104 commercial 
nuclear reactors are operating at 65 sites in 31 states. Of those 104 
reactors, 103 of them are operating. Thirty-four are boiling water 
reactors, and 69 are pressurized water reactors.

Victoria would not be any more likely a target of a terrorist attack 
that any other community its size, although chemical plants dot the 
area. Explosions and accidents that have occurred at these plants 
have been contained.

Still, the city has to be prepared, but Garza said he wasn't sure how 
civil authorities would prepare for evacuations and damage to 
property caused by a terrorist attack.

"I'm assuming that our city would take the same kind of posture and 
training and preparation that would do for other potential targets," 
Garza said, explaining that includes chemical plants and railroads. 
The city would work closely with emergency and safety crews so 
residents understand how they operate in the event of an attack or 

"We have that kind of situation with the plants around town and 
around the area, and we are there to support them if they need us, 
and they're here to support us with chemical spills and those kinds 
of things if we need some of the expertise and equipment their safety 
crews have," he said.

The safety engineer from the South Texas Plant spoke at one of the 
keynote sessions at the hurricane conference on May 3 in Victoria. He 
talked about the preparation plans in the event of a category storm 
hits his area.

"Those buildings are designed for about as massive a natural disaster 
and as a massive terrorism attack as you can plan on a facility," 
Garza said.

Since 9/11, nuclear power plants have implemented more security 
measures aimed at thwarting terrorist attacks.

"Like any other thing that provides power, it provides economic 
development - like a lot of things we have in our area - but at the 
same time, I feel comfortable that they have what I hope are very 
adequate defenses against" a terrorist attack, Garza said.

Jim Riccio, policy analyst for Greenpeace in Washington, D.C., said 
local officials and residents should ask tough questions, such as the 
risk of a terrorist attack.

"You can't really nail that probability down, which is why the 
federal government needs to be paying more attention to that," Riccio 

Riccio spoke in-depth about the economics of running nuclear power 
plants, such as the cost of building and operating them, in addition 
to the plants' safety and environmental problems.

"The industry hasn't proved itself worthy, safe or sound," he said.

He said people should be "very concerned" about a terrorist strike on 
a nuclear power plant.

Paul Gunter, director of the Reactor Watchdog Project with the 
Nuclear Information and Resource Service of Takoma Park, Md., said 
the 9/11 Commission Report showed that the terrorists' original plans 
were to hijack 10 airplanes, with two of those planes designated to 
strike nuclear power plants. Thus, plants should be protected to the 
minimum of what the commission's report said.

Riccio said nuclear power plant supporters should have learned their 
lessons from accidents such as Chernobyl in Ukraine in 1986. Gunter 
said studies by the National Academy of Sciences indicate that "tens 
of thousands" of lethal cancers could be spread out over hundreds of 
miles in the event of a nuclear plant explosion.

"It would be far-reaching," he said. "We've seen previous studies 
that it would be in the hundreds of billions of dollars in economic 

Doug Walters, senior director of security at the Nuclear Energy 
Institute in Washington, said that nuclear power plants are secure 
and that their security has been improved.

"I would argue were they were before we as bolstered security, but 
they're more so today," he said.

After 9/11, nuclear power plants installed additional vehicle 
barriers in 65 sites across the nation; there are 104 reactors. The 
number of security officers has increased from 5,000 to 8,000 people. 
Also, personnel have received training to deal with security threats.

As far as a plant being hit by a plane, plants are designed to 
withstand that kind of blast and prevent radiation spillage. He said 
terrorists definitely have nuclear power plants on their list of 
targets, but predicting a hit is difficult.

"I think, personally, a small group frontal assault on a robust 
facility on a nuclear plant is fairly remote," he said, "but we're 

More nuclear reactors may be built in CA, reversing thinking of just 
two years ago

PG&E is studying the feasibility of renewing the license of Diablo 
Canyon nuclear power plant for 20 more years of operation.Executives 
with California´s two nuclear power utilities told the state Energy 
Commission on Thursday that they are considering the possibility of 
building new nuclear plants as a means of meeting the state´s future 
energy needs. 

Jack Keenan with Pacific Gas and Electric Co. and Gary Schooyan of 
Southern California Edison said new nuclear power generation is part 
of the mix of energy sources they are considering using as they do 
long-range planning. 

"We need to keep that option open to us," Keenan said. "We are 
studying it very hard." 

PG&E operates San Luis Obispo County´s Diablo Canyon nuclear power 
plant, and Southern California Edison operates the San Onofre nuclear 
generating station near Carlsbad. 

The statements Thursday mark a shift since 2005, when the Energy 
Commission last held hearings on the future of nuclear power in the 
state. At that time, PG&E and Edison officials expressed little 
interest in new nuclear power stations. 

Neither utility has spent any company or ratepayer money 

on developing plans for new nuclear generation nor did they give any 
details about when or where new reactors might be built. 

PG&E spokesman Pete Resler could not be reached Thursday evening to 
address whether San Luis Obispo County might be considered as the 
site of additional nuclear power reactors. 

PG&E is also looking at the possibility of new reactors out of the 
state that could serve California customers, similar to the way Palo 
Verde nuclear power plant in Arizona provides power for Southern 

Both utilities are also studying the feasibility of renewing the 
licenses of Diablo Canyon and San Onofre for an additional 20 years 
of operation. Both plants´ original 40-year licenses will expire in 

Schooyan suggested that the Energy Commission should also consider 
working with utilities to get an early site permit from the Nuclear 
Regulatory Commission to hasten the regulatory approval process. 

Keenan estimated that it would take nine to 11 years to build a new 

This renewed interest in nuclear power by California utilities 
follows a national trend. Federal nuclear regulators expect utilities 
will request permission to build more than 30 nuclear plants 
countrywide in coming years. 

Nuclear power is considered a highly reliable electricity source that 
produces much fewer global warming-inducing greenhouse gas emissions 
than many other power sources. 

Rochelle Becker, an activist with the San Luis Obispo-based Alliance 
for Nuclear Responsibility, told the commission that nuclear power is 
a bad choice because it causes large stockpiles of highly radioactive 
used fuel to accumulate along the state´s earth-quake- prone coastal 

Becker urged state regulators to shift to renewable energy sources. 

She said she is skeptical that new nuclear plants would ever be built 
in California, because they are expensive to build and subject to 
cost overruns. California regulators should wait and see what happens 
in other states where new nuclear plants are proposed before thinking 
about new plants in California, she said. 

"I don´t think it´s going to happen," she said. "They don´t pencil 

New nuclear power plants in the state must overcome several 
substantial obstacles. The main one is a state law that bans new 
plants until the federal government opens a centralized underground 
nuclear waste storage repository. 

Another obstacle would be resistance from Californians and their 
lawmakers, who tend to be unfriendly toward nuclear power. 

Reach David Sneed at 781-7930. 

Should California allow more nuclear power plants?
Sander C. Perle
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 cox.net 

Global Dosimetry Website: http://www.dosimetry.com/ 

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