[ RadSafe ] Nuclear News - Ruling nears in radiation case

Perle, Sandy sperle at mirion.com
Tue Apr 8 10:03:13 CDT 2008


Ruling nears in radiation case
Spain nuclear plant leak below legal limit: watchdog
Federal nuclear cleanup group discusses Oak Ridge site
Millstone Nuclear Power Plant Incident Investigated
Japan 07/08 nuclear plant usage falls to 60.7 pct
Tennessee nuclear plants earn good grades from NRC  	
Nuclear Regulatory Commission Fines Digirad for Violations at Nuclear Medicine
Arthur V. Peterson, 95, nuclear engineer

Ruling nears in radiation case

WASHINGTON - Former employees of the Chapman Valve Co. plant in Springfield are eligible to file for federal compensation for certain illnesses resulting from handling radioactive material dating back to the 1940s, a federal agency has ruled.

In Tampa, Fla., tomorrow, the Advisory Board on Radiation and Worker Health may vote to grant a special classification, called special exposure cohort, which would make it easier and faster for the Chapman workers to receive compensation, according to a federal spokesman.

The provision applies to workers who handled uranium and other radioactive materials if they worked more than 250 days at the plant on Dean Street in Springfield's Indian Orchard section.

But while the research staff at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and a private government contractor are recommending that the advisory board expand the scope of eligible Chapman Valve employees to include those at Dean Street, the agency is not recommending that the Springfield company be granted a special classification, said Chris Ellison, a health communications specialist for the institute, last week.

"(We) will present our findings," he said. "I don't know what the board will do, and I don't know if they will add the (special classification) class for Chapman Valve."

Instead, the federal agency is recommending that all claims "go through the normal process of dose reconstruction, which does not mean they all will not get paid," said Ellison.

The plight of Chapman Valve employees who worked during the 1940s when the plant was milling uranium for nuclear defense purposes has become a priority concern of U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal, D-Springfield, and U.S. Sens. Edward M. Kennedy and John F. Kerry, D-Mass.

They are concerned that the workers have been shut out of the process to get paid for their job-related cancers by an inability to attain a standard for eligibility.

The lawmakers are lobbying John Howard, director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and Paul Ziemer, chairman of the Advisory Board on Radiation and Worker Health, to approve the SEC petition filed by former Chapman workers.

They argue that while the advisory board's hired experts "conclusively determined that enriched uranium was present in the Chapman Valve facility," they also concluded "that we are still no closer to determining exactly when and how the uranium came to be at the facility."

Seven years ago, Congress established the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act to address compensation for employees who handled toxic substances during the Cold War.

Of 406 claims filed by Chapman Valve workers, only 63 were approved, totaling $5.1 million in compensation. Three years ago, the government reported that it paid out more than $1 billion to about 13,800 claims across the country. But at that time, 268 claims filed by Chapman Valve workers had not been approved, and 162 were denied primarily because the employees were not at the plant in 1948-49.

The Massachusetts lawmakers argue that the compensation act - which gives up to $150,000 to workers who become seriously ill - was established "to provide 'timely compensation' for these Cold War victims."

The three wrote, "The special exposure cohort is Congress's acknowledgement that because these were programs carried out in secret more than 50 years ago, many workers would not have the records they need to prove their claims."

Neal said, "While I am pleased that NIOSH and its advisory board have concluded that enriched uranium was present in the Chapman Valve building, it is disappointing this decision does not represent the end of the review process."

Ellison said the advisory board is expected to consider Chapman Valve, including expanding its eligibility scope and granting it a special designation on Tuesday.

Spain nuclear plant leak below legal limit: watchdog

MADRID (Reuters) - Radioactivity from a leak detected at Spain's Asco I nuclear power plant during refueling last November was below legal limits, Spain's nuclear watchdog said on Tuesday.

The Nuclear Safety Commission sent inspectors to the plant after being told on Friday that a routine inspection had detected radioactive particles on the outside of buildings at Asco I, in the northeast Catalonia region.

Environmental group Greenpeace on Saturday said it had information that radioactivity levels were "significant" and protested about the delay in detecting contamination from the leak and making the information public.

Spain's Socialist government has pledged to close down the country's eight nuclear power stations and the country has become a leading producer of electricity from renewable sources like wind and solar power.

Asco I is a pressurized water reactor (PWR) and is wholly owned by Spain's second largest utility Endesa. It was opened in August 1983 and its operating permit is due to expire in 2011.

The CSN said in a statement that particles were found in patches, rather than being uniformly spread around the plant, and consisted of cobalt-60 and manganese-54, amongst other materials.

It added that total radioactivity detected was about 235,000 becquerels (Bq), or below a legal limit of 320,000 Bq for radioactivity from cobalt-60 ingested by a member of the public.

"These results show that the radioactive impact of the event on workers, members of the public and the environment is well below established regulatory limits," the CSN said.

Cobalt-60 is produced when materials like steel absorb radioactivity from reactors, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It has medical uses, like radiotherapy, but can be dangerous as it emits gamma rays, exposure to which over time can cause cancer.

Although the leak happened in November, particles were not detected outdoors until March 14, when checks were stepped up.

Greenpeace charged the CSN with downplaying the leak and only making it public after the environmental group protested.

It also disputed the CSN's conclusion that exposure to radioactivity was within legal limits, saying that readings had been taken months after the leak, in which time radioactive materials would have decayed or been dispersed.

The CSN said its president, Carmen Martinez, had asked to give evidence to the Spanish parliament.

Federal nuclear cleanup group discusses Oak Ridge site

The Oak Ridger - The U.S. House of Representatives' Nuclear Cleanup Caucus held a recent briefing on the progress of the Oak Ridge Office's Environmental Management program, as part of an annual series of meetings on the Department of Energy's nuclear cleanup program.

U.S. Congressman Zach Wamp, R-3rd District, is an original member of the Cleanup Caucus and spoke at the event, welcoming Oak Ridge participants.

"This briefing gives our site managers and contractors the opportunity to provide valuable insight to congressional offices around the country about the specific progress made and the challenges faced at Oak Ridge," Wamp said in a news release.

The briefing was led by Gerald Boyd, manager of the DOE Oak Ridge Office, and Stephen H. McCracken, assistant manager for environmental management, who offered an overview of major projects completed since 2000 and a status report on remaining projects.

"Our site has done well, all things considered. We are laboring through the difficult budgeting challenges and will squeeze out as many resources as we can to get this done," Wamp said.

Millstone Nuclear Power Plant Incident Investigated

The operator of the Millstone 2 nuclear power plant in Waterford is investigating how 1,000 gallons of water from a reactor cooling system inadvertently leaked into a water storage tank Sunday, a mistake a company spokesman said has never before happened at the facility.

No water was released into the environment, although the incident did cause a "minute amount" of radioactive gases to leak through an air vent in the storage tank, according to spokesmen for Dominion, the plant's owner, and the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Based on Dominion's calculations, the release involved "extraordinarily low levels of radiation" far below the amount allowed under federal guidelines, NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan said.

The tank has an air vent, but the filter on the vent was not operating at the time of the incident, so some radioactive gases escaped, Dominion and the NRC said.

The water leak was detected about 12:30 p.m. as the reactor was being shut down for a scheduled maintenance and refueling. The leak reportedly was stopped within an hour. Millstone's other operating reactor, Unit 3, was unaffected, the NRC said.

The incident triggered an "unusual event" notification of the NRC and the state Department of Environmental Protection; that is the lowest of four categories of emergencies at nuclear power plants.

There have been seven "unusual events" at U.S. nuclear power plants this year; there were 15 in 2007, the NRC said.

There have been "unusual events" at Millstone before, but this particular mishap "has never happened before," Dominion spokesman Pete Hyde said. "We sent [the water] to the wrong tank."

Nancy Burton, director of the Connecticut Coalition Against Millstone, said the tank's air vent lacked a radiation monitor and called the incident "greatly troubling." She called on the NRC to order Dominion to install such monitors on all potential radiation pathways.

Sheehan said no sanctions would be imposed on the plant for now, pending Dominion's investigation. Hart said Dominion "will thoroughly investigate what happened," and he expected a report would take two weeks or more to complete.

Japan 07/08 nuclear plant usage falls to 60.7 pct

TOKYO, April 8 - Japan's total nuclear power plant utilisation rate by the 10 nuclear generators fell to an average 60.7 percent in the year that ended in March, down from 69.9 percent a year earlier, government data showed on Tuesday.

The data also showed that the utilisation rate in March averaged 52.9 percent, down from 56.2 percent in February and 71.4 percent in the same month a year ago, the Ministry of Economy Trade and Industry said.

The February run rate of 56.2 percent was the lowest since 55.0 percent in July 2003.

Nuclear output has been reduced since Tokyo Electric Power Co , Japan's top utility, shut down its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant, the world's biggest, after a major earthquake on July 16.

Tennessee nuclear plants earn good grades from NRC  	 

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) -- The Nuclear Regulatory Commission says Tennessee's two nuclear power plants don't require any extra oversight.

In separate reviews, NRC inspectors found the Sequoyah station near Chattanooga and the Watts Bar plant near Spring City "operated in a manner that preserved public health and safety and fully met all cornerstone objectives" during 2007.

As a result, the NRC will conduct only baseline inspections this year of the plants, which are owned and operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission Fines Digirad for Violations at Nuclear Medicine

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Monday issued a $6,500 fine to radiology equipment maker Digirad for two violations at nuclear medicine centers.

Digirad licensed an unauthorized doctor to operate nuclear imaging equipment, the agency said. Digirad, which is based in Poway, Calif., claimed the physician was authorized to use the equipment because he had received training from an already-approved physician. Regulators said that training never actually occured.

In a second violation, regulators said Digirad failed to monitor radioactive materials while they were in storage. The agency said the materials should have been stored at secure Digirad-owned sites, rather than at their client's locations.

Company officials met with regulators in January to explain the apparent problems and outline fixes. Digirad spokesman Mark Casner said the company has already made corrections that go "above and beyond the government regulations," and plans to pay the fine.

Arthur V. Peterson, 95, nuclear engineer

Arthur V. "Pete" Peterson, a retired Army colonel who oversaw the development of the atomic bomb as part of the Manhattan Project during World War II and a pioneer in the development of nuclear power, died March 24 of natural causes in his sleep at a retirement home in Seattle. He was 95.

His career in nuclear engineering began in 1942 when the Army suddenly transferred him from the 36th Combat Engineer Regiment at Fort Bragg, N.C., to join the Army"s secret Manhattan Project, the group assigned by President Roosevelt to develop and build an atomic bomb.

Col. Peterson worked closely with a team that included Nobel laureates Enrico Fermi and Arthur Compton at the University of Chicago to build the world"s first atomic reactor. On Dec. 2, 1942, under the abandoned west stands of the university"s football stadium, Stagg Field, the first self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction was achieved.

When the project spilled over from Chicago to Oak Ridge, Tenn., then to Hanford, Wash., and then to Los Alamos, N.M., Col. Peterson was named director of the combined operations for the production of fissionable material. A number of processes were under way, and it was his job to combine the efforts to produce the atomic bomb at the earliest possible date. He made innumerable trips to locations across the country where work on the bomb was progressing. He left the country only once " to consult with Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower in England just before D-Day.

When the country turned after the war to the development of peaceful uses of atomic energy for research and power generation, Col. Peterson helped lead the effort to bring the benefits of atomic energy to the world. In 1946, he was named chief of the Fissionable Materials Branch, Production Division, of the new Atomic Energy Commission in Washington. In 1953, thinking that atomic energy also could be developed through private industry, he became general manager of the new Atomic Energy Division of American Machine and Foundry Co. in New York City. Under his leadership, about 20 research reactors were built in countries around the world.

In 1958, Col. Peterson formed his own consulting firm, AVP Associates, and kept working on nuclear power planning and development well into his 70s.

Col. Peterson was born in Morristown, N.J. Fascinated by science, building and new technology (including radio) during his childhood on the East Side of Manhattan, he graduated from Stuyvesant High School with honors, and in 1930 entered New York University, graduating in 1934 with a bachelor"s degree in civil engineering.

Sander C. Perle 
Mirion Technologies, Inc., Dosimetry Services Division 
2652 McGaw Avenue
Irvine, CA 92614

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