Sandy Perle sandyfl at cox.net
Tue Mar 6 16:22:34 CST 2007


*Officials push for Yucca nuclear dump
*Romania to increase use of nuclear power
*Bodman: Nuclear Power To Be Key Topic In India 
*Dominion could pursue nuclear plant
*Pilgrim operator asked about 4 matters related to safety
*Border Radiation Detection Devices Not Practical


PARIS, March 6, 2007 (AFP) - France's nuclear safety commission gave 
a green light Tuesday for the construction of a 3.3-billion euro (4.3-
billion dollar) nuclear reactor in Normandy near the English Channel.
    Commission president Andre-Claude Lacoste told journalists he had 
forwarded "a favourable recommendation" on the 1600-megawatt reactor 
to relevant ministers.
    Construction of the so-called "third-generation" European 
Pressurized Water Reactor (EPR), located near the town of 
Flamanville, is slated to begin by the end of the year.
    France derives around three-quarters of its electricity from 
nuclear power, the highest ratio of any country in the world, and 
many of its reactors are approaching obsolescence.
    Opponents of nuclear energy, including several minor presidential 
candidates, have called for protest rallies to be held in five French 
cities on March 17.
    Lacoste said that the Flamanville reactor has "been the object of 
a much broader and deeper evaluation that other French electricity-
generation nuclear plants at the safety report stage."
    The EPR design was developed in the 1990s by Germany's Siemens 
and France's Framatome-ANP, which is part of the state-owned nuclear 
energy group Areva.
    It reportedly uses 17 percent less fuel than the types of reactor 
currently operating in France, and is designed to generate power for 
60 years.
    The 58 reactors currently in service -- built under a vast 
programme launched 30 years ago during the first oil crisis -- will 
begin to age out of operation beginning in 2015.

Officials push for Yucca nuclear dump

WASHINGTON - The Energy Department unveiled legislation Tuesday to 
spur construction of a national nuclear waste dump in Nevada and 
increase its capacity. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (news, bio, 
voting record), D-Nev., immediately vowed to block the bill. 
That could spell more problems for the troubled        Yucca Mountain 
nuclear waste dump, already years behind schedule. The Energy 
Department official who heads the project warned that without new 
funding that's part of the bill, a 2017 goal for opening the dump 90 
miles northwest of Las Vegas could not be met.

"If we don't have that we are certainly not going to be able to 
maintain the 2017 date," said Edward F. "Ward" Sproat, director of 
the Energy Department's Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste 

Sproat also said that if the Yucca Mountain's capacity isn't 
increased from the current limit of 77,000 tons, as the bill 
proposes, he would have to recommend to Congress next year that a 
second nuclear waste dump be built.

That would be a hard sell, as few states would want to host a nuclear 
waste dump. Sproat indicated that the prospect of a second nuclear 
waste dump could help convince Congress of the need to move forward 
with Yucca Mountain and approve the department's legislation.

"It's part of what I would call the congressional education process," 
Sproat told reporters at a briefing organized by The Energy Daily.

The new bill is similar to legislation the Energy Department offered 
last year that didn't advance. The political environment is even 
tougher for the measure this year now that Reid, an ardent Yucca 
Mountain opponent, is in charge of the Senate.

"This is just the department's latest attempt to breathe life into 
this dying beast and it will fail," Reid said. "I will continue to 
leverage my leadership position to prevent the dump from ever being 

The bill doesn't specify how much more than 77,000 tons of nuclear 
waste should be allowed in Yucca Mountain, though federal 
environmental impact studies have estimated the dump could safely 
hold at least 132,000 tons.

There's already more than 50,000 tons of nuclear waste piling up at 
nuclear power plants in 31 states with nowhere to go, something 
that's threatening taxpayers with mounting liability costs since the 
federal government was contractually obligated to begin storing 
nuclear utilities' waste starting in 1998.

Reid's solution is to leave the nuclear waste at the sites where it 
already is, put it in dry cask storage units and allow the Energy 
Department to take ownership of it onsite to eliminate the problem of 
liability to utilities. He and Sen. John Ensign (news, bio, voting 
record), R-Nev., introduced their own legislation Tuesday to make 
those changes.

In recent years Reid has also succeeded in cutting        President 
Bush's budget request for Yucca. The project's 2007 budget, at $405 
million, is nearly $150 million less than the administration wanted, 
which Sproat said is forcing project managers to put various 
initiatives on hold, including work on a rail line to transport the 

The Energy Department's bill would ensure that annual revenues in a 
special nuclear waste fund paid for by utilities would be dedicated 
to Yucca Mountain outside the overall federal budgeting process, so 
that Yucca wouldn't have to compete with other programs for funding. 
This would guarantee Yucca Mountain dedicated funding of at least 
$750 million per year.

Romania to increase use of nuclear power  

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) - Romanian Prime Minister Calin Popescu 
Tariceanu called Tuesday for the building of two more nuclear 
reactors to be speeded up.
"Due to the world energy crisis and rising prices, nuclear energy is 
being reconsidered," said Tariceanu, adding that Romania's economy 
was growing rapidly and needed to diversify its energy resources.

Romania has a functioning Canadian-design nuclear reactor in 
Cernavoda and a second one is scheduled to become operational later 
this year. The working plant provides about 10% of Romania's energy 

The two new reactors in Cernavoda, about 90 miles east of Bucharest, 
are expected to be operational in 2012 or 2013, with construction 
estimated to cost $2.6 billion.

Bodman: Nuclear Power To Be Key Topic In India 

WASHINGTON -(Dow Jones)- Nuclear power will be a primary topic of 
discussion while U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman is visiting with 
energy officials in India later this month, the secretary told 
reporters Tuesday.

A central issue will be "cooperation on civil nuclear energy," Bodman 

In addition, Bodman said he plans to discuss any plans India might 
have to create a strategic oil reserve.

"If they are moving along, we'll talk about how you use it, what it's 
for," Bodman said.

DOE officials have said India, China and other countries that are 
building up new strategic petroleum reserves should use those 
stockpiles only in the event of supply disruptions and not to 
manipulate global oil prices.

Bodman said he planned to be in India three or four days. 

Under the pact, the U.S. has agreed to help India advance nuclear 
technology as long as the fast-growing developing country commits to 
certain nonproliferation principles that limit the spread of 
dangerous nuclear materials.

U.S. officials say the agreement will help energy-hungry India - the 
fifth- largest oil consuming nation in the world in 2006 - diversify 
its energy sector away from a reliance on fossil fuels to emission-
free nuclear power for electricity generation.

Over the objections of some critics on Capitol Hill, the U.S. 
Congress approved the civilian nuclear deal for India late last year.

The action made way for U.S. companies like General Electric Co. (GE) 
and Westinghouse Electric Co. to sell nuclear technology to India for 
the first time.

India's sole nuclear generator is state-run Nuclear Power Corp. of 
India Ltd, and the country currently doesn't allow private investment 
in nuclear power generation. But with the civilian nuclear energy 
deal in play, India is looking to open up the sector.

While in New Delhi, the secretary is scheduled to speak at a March 20-
21 conference sponsored by the U.S. Energy Association about 
investment opportunities in the South Asian power markets.

Representatives from India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Singapore and 
other countries are slated to speak as well.

Additionally, Bodman said he might discuss with Indian officials any 
plans the country might have to create a strategic oil reserve.

"If they are moving along, we'll talk about how you use it, what it's 
for," he said.

DOE officials have said India, China and other countries that are 
building new strategic petroleum reserves should use those stockpiles 
only in the event of supply disruptions and not to manipulate global 
oil prices.

Bodman said he planned to be in India three or four days.

Dominion could pursue nuclear plant

The massive re-write of Virginia's utility laws that is awaiting Gov. 
Timothy Kaine's signature would help push Dominion Virginia Power 
closer to being the first company to order a new nuclear power plant 
since the 1970s.

Dominion has repeatedly said that the legislation must be passed this 
year to get a new nuclear plant built. The Richmond-based utility was 
already in the front of the pack of companies moving through the long 
government approval process to get a plant approved.

Besides meeting various federal standards, any utility that wants to 
build a plant must raise billions of dollars. That's where the 
Virginia bill helps. It guarantees higher profits for a nuclear 
plant, and allows Dominion to start passing the cost to its customers 
during construction.

Where and when does Dominion want to build a nuclear plant? Who else 
is as far along as Dominion so far? What's next after a site is 
approved? Why has Dominion said the Virginia bill must pass this year 
to get a plant built?

NRC wants more info from nuclear plant: Pilgrim operator asked about 
4 matters related to safety

PLYMOUTH (The Patriot Ledger) Mar 6 - As they review the Pilgrim 
nuclear power plant´s bid to operate for 20 additional years, nuclear 
regulators are asking the plant operator to look more closely at four 
safety items.

Those items must be addressed if the plant is to receive a license to 
operate through 2032 - two decades past the original license 
expiration date.

Pilgrim officials said they expect to be able to satisfy regulators.

``We will work on developing responses,´´ plant spokesman David 
Tarantino said. ``(Regulators) need some further clarification and 
information, and we will provide that information.´´

Some of the issues were discussed in January during a public meeting 
in Plymouth. At that meeting, regulators unveiled findings of a major 
inspection related to the relicensing effort.

One such concern was water found on the floor of chambers surrounding 
the bottom of the plant´s dry well. The dry well is a containment 
vessel that surrounds the plant´s reactor core and is the first line 
of defense in an accident.

Officials from the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission want Entergy 
Corp., Pilgrim´s owner, to show that the water did not come from the 
reactor and that it has not harmed bolts that hold down steel plates 
used on stabilizers for the reactor.

Tarantino said plant officials are still analyzing the water to make 
sure that it is not radioactive. Plant personnel do not believe it 
could have come from the reactor; pH studies of the water indicate 
that it is groundwater, he said.

``The question really is: Has this water caused a corrosion of those 
bolts that would impair their ability to function,´´ Tarantino said.

NRC officials also want Entergy to:

-Provide more information about how it plans to inspect seals in the 
plant´s fire prevention system.

-Provide more information about a diesel generator in the plant´s 
security system.

-Change the calculation the plant has used to determine the rate at 
which nuclear reaction in the reactor core is causing the metal to 
become more brittle.

Border Radiation Detection Devices Not Practical, Homeland Security 
Official Says

WASHINGTON -  At a busy border crossing, a truck passing through a 
radiation scanner sets off an alarm. It could be a nuclear device, 
but it's far more likely to be kitty litter, ceramic tile or a load 
of bananas.

"Nuclear materials such as uranium and plutonium are not the only 
materials that emit radiation," Vayl Oxford, who directs the Homeland 
Security Department's nuclear office, told a House Appropriations 
panel Tuesday.

The machines, first installed after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist 
attacks, measure gamma radiation, but cannot distinguish between low 
levels of gamma rays that occur naturally in innocent materials, and 
the makings for weapons that terrorists might use.

So the inspectors must pull the truck or container aside for a second 
inspection with a hand-held scanner, which, at the nation's busiest 
ports or border crossings, can lead to backed-up lines that anger 
drivers and slow commerce.

"Naturally occurring radioactive materials ... place an enormous 
burden on our customs offices, who must respond to all radiation 
alarms, including those caused by innocent goods," Oxford told the 
Appropriations subcommittee for homeland security. He explained that 
distance, dense materials like steel and lead, and the speed at which 
trucks carrying cargo move - about 5 mph - all affect the scanners' 
That's the dilemma of protecting the United States from nuclear 
terrorism - a trade-off among accuracy, inconvenience and the expense 
to taxpayers. "The 11 million containers that transit the ports every 
year (are) an enormous moving haystack that could conceal a deadly 
needle," said Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky.

Government agencies need "to find this proverbial needle in the 
haystack and prevent it from causing real harm in a way that does not 
bring the American economic engine to a grinding halt," Rogers said.

About 600 scanners have been installed at ports and border crossings 
around the U.S. Government officials are working with several 
companies to develop new nuclear detectors that won't waste time and 
that can actually differentiate the potassium in a banana from that 
in highly enriched uranium.

Tests being conducted in Nevada this month pit new detectors against 
the older ones, to determine whether the higher accuracy claimed by 
the makers of the new machines is enough to justify their higher cost 
- around $377,000 each, more than six times the cost of the older 

Later this spring, the new machines will undergo a real-world test on 
the New York waterfront so Customs officers can judge for themselves 
if they're an improvement. They're also to be used in similar tests 
along roads leading to the city as part of an effort to set up a 
protective perimeter starting in 2008.

Some investigators question whether cutting the time wasted by false 
alarms might actually increase the deadly possibility of nuclear 
material slipping by an inspector.

Last October, the congressional Government Accountability Office 
reported that the new machines, touted as having fewer false alarms, 
showed a frightening incidence of "false negatives" - meaning the 
scanner either misidentified the material as nonthreatening, or 
failed to detect it at all. That danger is particularly high if the 
nuclear material is placed beside a nonthreatening substance such as 
kitty litter, the report said.

It's no idle worry. Al-Qaida and like-minded terrorists have shown a 
desire both to obtain nuclear materials and to produce mass 

"Criminals and terrorists can obtain a key component for producing 
nuclear weapons and smuggle it undetected through the airports of 
countries on high alert against terrorist threats," concluded a 
report published in February by the EastWest Institute, a think tank 
that studies global security issues.

In a 2006 report, the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency listed 
16 confirmed incidents of trafficking in highly enriched uranium or 
plutonium globally from 1993 to 2005.

Concerns about terrorists obtaining nuclear material increased 
dramatically after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, but the Bush 
administration's efforts to deal with the issue were scattered across 
different agencies.

As early as 2002, the GAO lamented the lack of any government-wide 
plan to guide U.S. efforts to combat nuclear smuggling. It said "some 
programs were duplicative, and coordination among U.S. agencies was 
not effective."

It was not until April 2005 that the Domestic Nuclear Detection 
Office, which Oxford heads, was created in the Homeland Security 
Department to coordinate the government's development of technology 
to detect nuclear materials.

Later that year, at the Nevada test site just north of Las Vegas 
where the military once tested atomic weapons, the nuclear office 
began testing new machines, using sophisticated technology that can 
distinguish among different types of radioactive material. The older 
machines currently in use at ports and border crossings measure 
whether there is an elevated amount of radiation, but cannot identify 
its source.

To test the new machines, the nuclear office sent trucks carrying 
radiological materials on 7,000 runs down a row of scanners developed 
by 10 companies. They chose three finalists whose models are still 
under evaluation.

Oxford will recommend to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff 
following this month's tests whether the machines should be certified 
for use. The agency plans to spend $80 million this year to buy 104 
of the advanced models, and ultimately wants to put them at 380 
border sites. Congress has said that can't happen until the machines 
are proven effective.

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 cox.net 

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

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