[ RadSafe ] Nuclear News - States Limit Costly Sites for Cancer Radiation

Perle, Sandy sperle at mirion.com
Thu May 1 12:19:19 CDT 2008


States Limit Costly Sites for Cancer Radiation
Strasbourg court rules against Russia in Siberian radiation case
Sydney's nuclear reactor to restart
New nuclear reactor could be built in Oldbury
Azerbaijan releases Russian equipment for Iran's Bushehr nuclear plant
Italy's nuclear waste too hot for Utah
DIAMOND to tackle UK nuclear waste issues
Nuclear's CO2 cost 'will climb'
Name set for nuclear plant spin-off
Massive turbine rotor replaced at Beaver Valley Nuclear Power Station
Nuclear plants get good reviews

States Limit Costly Sites for Cancer Radiation

Seeking to rein in medical costs, a commission in Michigan on Wednesday moved to prevent hospitals in the state from each spending $100 million or more to provide a new form of radiation treatment for cancer.

The commission, which sets standards for major hospital construction, said it would allow only one center to be built in the state for the treatment, which is known as proton beam therapy. It ordered the state's largest hospitals - four of which had already proposed their own centers - to collaborate on that one project.

"The costs of multiple centers, each having the most expensive medical equipment yet developed, would be tremendous," the state's Certificate of Need Commission said.

Proton therapy, which uses huge nuclear particle accelerators encased in thick concrete walls, can deliver radiation more precisely than the X-rays now generally used to treat cancer. That can reduce the side effects from stray radiation and might improve the cure rate.

But critics say that the technique's advantage over X-rays has not been proved, except in certain rare tumors, and that proton therapy might not be worth the substantial extra cost. They say hospitals are engaged in a wasteful "arms race" for the prestige and profits that come from having a proton center.

There are now five proton centers in the United States, most built in the last few years, and at least a dozen more have been announced.

But there are signs of resistance to such expansion. The Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board said in early April that it would probably reject one of two proton centers being planned within miles of each other in the suburbs of Chicago.

The Michigan decision endangers a plan by Beaumont Hospitals, one of the largest health care systems in the state, to build its own $159 million proton therapy center on its campus in Royal Oak, outside Detroit. It had agreed to work with ProCure Treatment Centers, a company that specializes in building proton centers and arranging their financing.

Beaumont's announcement in March led other hospitals, perhaps in fear of being left behind, to submit their own proposals. That led to proposals for a collaboration.

"It was getting a little frenetic," said Nancy M. Schlichting, the chief executive of the Henry Ford Health System, who conceded that her hospital had been caught off guard by the Beaumont proposal.

She said that collaboration made sense and that her hospital would join. "When you're spending this kind of money," she said, "it seems to me we should take the appropriate amount of time and work together to create the best outcome."

But executives at Beaumont and ProCure said they suspected the collaboration proposal was really an attempt by rival hospitals to slow down their project or kill it. They said a collaboration of five or more hospitals, as contemplated by the state, would be unworkable.

"If they want speed and certainty, it's clear they need to go forward with ProCure and our hospital partner, Beaumont," said Hadley Ford, the chief executive of ProCure.

Dr. Frank A. Vicini, the chief of oncology at Beaumont, said his medical center would push ahead in case the collaboration collapsed. The governor, Jennifer M. Granholm, can veto the commission's ruling, but people on both sides said they expected her to wait to see how much progress the collaboration made. Beaumont and ProCure said they were offering minority stakes to other hospitals.

The Michigan commission, acknowledging that a collaborative project could bog down, said it might change its decision if progress were not made. It said that at least five hospitals would have to agree to participate in the collaboration and contribute a collective $13 million by June 5. They would have to have a business plan ready by Sept. 6.

The collaboration proposal was supported by some big employers and labor unions in the state, which is ailing economically.

"We need to constrain health care costs," said Larry Horwitz, president of the Economic Alliance for Michigan, a coalition of unions and employers, including Detroit's major automakers. "We certainly don't need a mammoth escalation in health care costs, especially if it's duplicative spending in an area that has not been medically validated."

Strasbourg court rules against Russia in Siberian radiation case

TOMSK, April 30 (RIA Novosti) -- The European Court of Human Rights has ordered Russia to pay around $95,000 in compensation to residents of a Siberian town over the length of time taken to consider claims connected to a 1990s radiation leak, a local NGO official said on Wednesday.

The applicants had earlier sued the Siberian Chemical Combine over a radioactive leak in April 1993 that affected two towns, Georgiyevka and Naumovka.

The residents of the two towns lodged compensation claims in 1997. In 2002, a Russian court granted the Georgiyevka claim, ruling however that Naumovka was too far removed from the epicenter of the leak to have been significantly affected.

In 2003, with an appeal on the original decision still outstanding, residents of Naumovka filed a complaint with Strasbourg over the excessive length of the proceedings, demanding 50,000 euros in compensation each.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled in their favor, but found their claims excessive.

"The European court has ruled that Russia pay 2,000 euros to 29 residents of the town of Naumovka each in moral damages," said Alexei Toporov, director of Siberian Environmental Agency, a Tomsk-based non-governmental organization.

Russia is one of the most frequent defendants at the European Court of Human Rights. The court has considered a total of 46,700 cases against Russia over the past ten years, comprising 20% of all lawsuits submitted.

The court has made 397 rulings on Russia in the past 10 years, or 5% of the total number of cases during this period. A total of 23,000 cases are currently pending against Russia.

Sydney's nuclear reactor to restart

Sydney's nuclear reactor could resume operations this month, after a 10-month shutdown caused by fuel problems.

In July 2007, the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO), which operates the Open Pool Australian Lightwater (OPAL) research reactor, discovered that several fuel plates had displaced from their original positions in the core of the reactor.

ANSTO shut down the reactor and determined that the design of the fuel plates needed to be modified.

The nuclear safety authority announced on Thursday it had approved the new fuel plate design.

Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) chief executive John Loy said he had approved ANSTO's submission for the modified fuel plates at the OPAL reactor in the southern Sydney suburb of Lucas Heights.

"ANSTO may now undertake the first part of its Return to Service Program and load the modified fuel into the OPAL reactor," Dr Loy said in a statement.

Dr Loy said he was satisfied that the modified design was appropriate and could be undertaken without undue risk to the health and safety of people or the environment.

A spokeswoman for ANSTO said a new fuel core was ready to be inserted in the reactor, and this could be done within days.

However, permission from ARPANSA would be needed before the reactor could be started up.

An ARPANSA spokeswoman said approval for the start-up was likely "in a matter of days" after the installation of the fuel.

New nuclear reactor could be built in Oldbury

OLDBURY could be the site for a new £2.8billion nuclear reactor.

America-based Energy Solutions has teamed up with Japanese company Toshiba-Westinghouse to table a bid to construct and operate the power station.

The reactor would be built on 51 hectares of Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) land.

It comes after the government announced its support for the nuclear option to meet Britain's future power needs.

It is said to be welcoming bids from private energy companies to fund and build the plants.

The choice to build a new power station at Oldbury, however, has come as a surprise after it was ranked 11th in a list of 14 preferred sites.

Independent consultants drew up the list based on the criteria that existing nuclear facilities were the most suitable for development owing to existing infrastucture.

They also felt that local communities had become accustomed to having a nuclear site as a neighbour.

Their report said that Oldbury would be "potentially feasible" but also noted important barriers that would need to be overcome, including cooling difficulties and environmental sensitivity.

Oldbury's current nuclear reactor, which has been operating for 40 years and is run by Magnox, is to be decommissioned from service at the end of this year.

Plans for the new power station have divided opinion.

Shut Oldbury spokesman Jim Duffy hit out at the consortium's plan to use an "unproven nuclear reactor".

Mr Duffy said: "It's a great matter of concern that bids are going in to build an untested reactor with an odd and potentially dangerous, money-saving design.

"The regulators admit they are badly understaffed so it's doubtful they will have the resources to fully test and licence these reactor designs in such a short period."

But members of the Oldbury site stakeholder group say they do not fear a new reactor near their homes.

Richard Gray, of Shepperdine Road, said: "A nuclear power station is not necessarily a bad neighbour to a community.

"Magnox has introduced positive infrastructure, such as better roads, and always supported the community.

"I've grown up and lived here for over 30 years with the power station on my doorstep, it's no big hassle.

"The only thing I can complain about is the station can be an eyesore. I'd hope a new station is built further back on the land from homes."

No one from the companies behind the bid was available for comment.

Azerbaijan releases Russian equipment for Iran's Bushehr nuclear plant

BAKU, Azerbaijan (AP) May 1: Azerbaijan released a shipment of Russian equipment for Iran's first nuclear power plant on Thursday, more than a month after it was halted at the border, a customs official said.

The cargo passed through the Astara customs checkpoint on the border with Iran, said the official with Azerbaijan's State Customs Committee. He spoke on condition of anonymity since he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Azerbaijan had halted the cargo of heat-isolating equipment headed for the Bushehr plant on March 29, and demanded more information from Russia about the nature of the material. Azerbaijani officials said they feared the equipment could violate United Nations sanctions.

The Russian state-run company building Bushehr, OAO Atomstroiexport, accused Azerbaijan of deliberately obstructing the cargo.

Iran is paying Russia more than $1 billion to build the light-water reactor - Iran's first atomic energy plant. Construction has been held up by disputes between Tehran and Moscow over payments and a schedule for shipping nuclear fuel.

The United States and other Western nations that fear Iran is seeking to acquire nuclear weapons have criticized Russia in the past for building Bushehr.

Washington, however, softened its position after Iran agreed to return spent nuclear fuel to Russia to ensure it does not extract plutonium from it that could be used to make atomic bombs.

The United States and its Western allies also agreed to drop any reference to Bushehr in the sanctions resolutions passed by the U.N. Security Council as a result of Russian pressure.

Russia says the plant's contract is in line with all international agreements aimed at preventing nuclear weapons proliferation

Italy's nuclear waste too hot for Utah

SALT LAKE CITY, May 1 (UPI) -- The plan to bury Italian nuclear waste in Utah hit a snag.

EnergySolutions planned to import 20,000 tons of radioactive waste from nuclear reactors in Italy but now state and federal regulators said they need more information, the Salt Lake Tribune reported, after it was found the waste might be too hot.

Company spokesman John Ward said EnergySolutions will screen the waste from Italy's defunct nuclear program four times: once before sending it across the Atlantic, again before recycling it at the company's Tennessee treatment plant, again after usable metal is melted and recast as shielding and once more before 1,600 tons of waste is buried in Tooele County, about 80 miles west of Salt Lake City.

They said that anything too radioactive will be returned to Italy, under an export license that the company also has applied for.

But Arjun Makhijani, president of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, said the company's import application before the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission suggests the material is too hot to be permitted under state law.

DIAMOND to tackle UK nuclear waste issues

The long-term problem of how to manage and dispose of Britain's nuclear waste is to be tackled by a UK consortium headed by the University of Leeds.
Over the past 60 years, Britain has established 20 nuclear sites and facilities, as part of its civil nuclear programme. These are now managed by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA). Current estimates of the cost of decommissioning the sites and handling waste management and disposal stand at around £70 billion.

The DIAMOND (Decommissioning, Immobilisation And Management of Nuclear wastes for Disposal) consortium will draw on expertise from the universities of Manchester, Sheffield, Imperial College, Loughborough, University College London and Leeds, in a four-year programme which has received £4.2 million funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

Areas covered by the programme will include legacy wastes, site termination, contaminant migration and materials design and performance. A key strength of the consortium's approach is that it will bring together skills and knowledge from a diverse range of academic disciplines, including radiochemistry, waste immobilisation, materials performance and mathematical modelling.

Researchers will also work closely with the NDA and stakeholders in the nuclear industry to make sure research addresses relevant issues. At the same time, researchers will get the opportunity to experience 'real life' challenges in industry.

Professor Simon Biggs, from the School of Process, Environmental and Materials Engineering at the University of Leeds, is leading the consortium. He said:

"By challenging the status quo and seeking new and innovative solutions we believe this programme of research will generate real savings on the treatment and disposal of legacy waste, site decommissioning and remediation."

A key priority is to address a growing EU-wide skills gap in the nuclear research field, through training the next generation of nuclear waste specialists. The consortium is looking for industrial partners and is also offering PhD and postdoctoral research opportunities at all member institutions.

Dr Jim Young, DIAMOND programme manager, said:

"The value of the consortium's approach is that projects will be co-supervised by academics with expertise in different fields of knowledge, which will enhance creativity and increase the potential for a step change technology breakthrough."

Nuclear's CO2 cost 'will climb'

Fuel rods being loaded into a nuclear power station's reactor core (SPL)
Some anticipate a major expansion of nuclear power

The case for nuclear power as a low carbon energy source to replace fossil fuels has been challenged in a new report by Australian academics.

It suggests greenhouse emissions from the mining of uranium - on which nuclear power relies - are on the rise.

Availability of high-grade uranium ore is set to decline with time, it says, making the fuel less environmentally friendly and more costly to extract.

The findings appear in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

A significant proportion of greenhouse emissions from nuclear power stem from the fuel supply stage, which includes uranium mining, milling, enrichment and fuel manufacturing.

Others sources of carbon include construction of the plant - including the manufacturing of steel and concrete materials - and decomissioning.

The authors based their analysis on historical records, contemporary financial and technical reports, and analyses of CO2 emissions.

Experts say it is the first such report to draw together such detailed information on the environmental costs incurred at this point in the nuclear energy chain.

Nuclear impact

The report is likely to come under close scrutiny at a time when governments around the world are considering the nuclear option to meet future energy demands and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Lead author Gavin Mudd, from Monash University in Australia, told BBC News: "Yes, we can probably find new uranium deposits, but to me that's not the real issue. The real issue is: 'what are the environmental and sustainability costs?'

New uranium deposits are likely to be deeper underground and therefore more difficult to extract than at currently exploited sites, said Dr Mudd.

In addition, he said, the average grade of uranium ore - a measure of its uranium oxide content and a key economic factor in mining - is likely to fall. Getting uranium from lower-quality deposits involves digging up and refining more ore.
Even in the worst case scenario for CO2 emissions, the impact of nuclear on greenhouse emissions is still very small
Thierry Dujardin, NEA
Transporting a greater amount of ore will in turn require more diesel-powered vehicles - a principal source of greenhouse emissions in uranium mining.

"The rate at which [the average grade of uranium ore] goes down depends on demand, technology, exploration and other factors. But, especially if there is going to be a nuclear resurgence, it will go down and that will entail a higher CO2 cost," Dr Mudd explained.

Overall, the report suggests that uranium mining could require more energy and water in future, releasing greenhouse gases in greater quantities.

New technology

Thierry Dujardin, deputy director for science and development at the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA), said the analysis made an important contribution to clarifying the impact of nuclear energy on CO2 emissions.

"It is the beginning of the answer to a question I have raised in many fora, including within the agency," he told BBC News.

But Mr Dujardin said he did not fully agree with the authors' conclusions.

"Even in the worst case scenario for CO2 emissions, the impact of nuclear on greenhouse emissions is still very small compared with fossil fuels," he explained.

The NEA official admitted that lower grades of ore might have to be exploited in future, but he added that emissions from mining were only a small part of those produced in the nuclear supply chain as a whole.

He said he was also confident that entirely new deposits would be found as the industry stepped up its exploration effort.

The nuclear industry is carrying out research into recovering uranium from rocks used in the industrial production of phosphates. Various technologies based on solvent extraction can be used to get the element from phosphate rocks.

And in the longer term, some predict that so-called fast breeder reactor technology would increase by up to 50-fold the amount of energy extracted from uranium.

Paul.Rincon-INTERNET at bbc.co.uk

Name set for nuclear plant spin-off

BRATTLEBORO - A California business strategy firm that has done work for Sony, Verizon Wireless and the premium flashlight firm Mag-Lite, has come up with the new name for the owner of the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant: Enexus Energy Corp.

Entergy Corp. announced the new name of its spin-off company via a press release, and noted the name of the new operating company of its six nuclear power plants would be equally crafted: EquaGen LLC.

Entergy said the new name, Enexus, was a combination of the two words "energy" and "nexus" and was designed to convey what the company called "the appeal of reliable nuclear power, which it claims is virtually emissions-free.

"'Enexus' describes nuclear power's role in the nexus between the world's growing energy demand and the United States' need for clean, environmentally friendly power," said Yolanda Pollard, a spokeswoman for Entergy in New Orleans.

Enexus, like Entergy Nuclear, will be based in Jackson, Miss., and its corporate leadership will include many key leaders from Entergy Nuclear.

The company said Enexus will have its own board of directors and be publicly traded.

The names, along with corporate logos and mottos, were the work of RiechesBaird Co. of Irving, Calif., which according to its Web site works in the areas of business strategy, brand development and integrated marketing. There was no mention of Entergy on its Web site.

Alex Schott, a spokesman for Entergy in New Orleans, said Wednesday the new names would not be used until the tax-free spin-off is approved by state and federal regulators.

The spin-off, which had been called SpinCo., NewCo and JV, for joint venture, has to be approved by the New York Public Utilities Board, the Vermont Public Service Board, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Schott said the states of Massachusetts and Michigan, home to two of the nuclear reactors included in the proposed new company, did not have to approve the change because each state's laws do not regulate wholesale power producers, so-called "merchant plants."

Scott said the employees at the nuclear plants would still be employees of Entergy Nuclear.

While Vermont state legislators have cast a skeptical eye on the proposed restructuring and have passed legislation that would require the new company's corporate parent Entergy provide some kind of financial guarantee that it would be responsible for Vermont Yankee's ultimate decommissioning, Entergy has said it plans to go ahead with the restructuring with or without Vermont.

Vermont Yankee's decommissioning trust fund is current at about $425 million, but the latest estimates are that $800 million will be needed to fully dismantle and clean up the Vernon site, once the plant shuts down.

Gov. James Douglas so far has not signed the bill, saying he needs additional information about the status of the fund.

Massive turbine rotor replaced at Beaver Valley Nuclear Power Station

SHIPPINGPORT - For a first time in 21 years, workers removed the massive rotor from a high-pressure steam turbine Thursday at the Beaver Valley Nuclear Power Station's Unit 2 reactor as part of scheduled maintenance during a refueling outage.

The rotor is being replaced by a new one weighing 63 tons with a life span of 40 to 50 years. The old rotor was original to the Unit 2 reactor, which went online in 1982.

Steam produced by the reactor turns the rotor, which helps turn a generator to produce electricity. In addition to the high-pressure rotor, Unit 2 has two smaller low-pressure steam turbines.

The three working in tandem turn the generator.

FirstEnergy Corp., which owns the Shippingport plant, believes the change will allow it to increase electrical output at Unit 2. Company spokesman Scott Waitlevertch said the company won't know the exact amount of increase until summer or early fall after testing is complete.

Forged in Japan and machined in Germany, the new rotor was trucked to Shippingport from Charlotte, N.C., where it received additional machining and was balanced.

Waitlevertch said workers, who removed the old rotor Thursday, would now begin installing the new one, a job expected to take until the first week of May.

Nuclear plants get good reviews

LOGAN TWP. The operator of the three nuclear power reactors in Lower Alloways Creek Township received generally good grades during the annual review of plant performance by the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission here Wednesday night.

The annual assessment meeting held at the Holiday Inn Select here brought together officials from the NRC, the U.S. agency which oversees the operation of the nation's 104 nuclear power plants, and PSEG Nuclear which runs the reactors Salem 1, Salem 2 and Hope Creek on Artificial Island.

The NRC found that in 2007 "PSEG operated the plants safely and in a manner that preserved public health and safety and protected the environment."

"Safety is not something we take lightly or take for granted," said Bill Levis, president and chief nuclear officer for the utility.

The three plants comprise the second largest commercial nuclear power facility in the U.S.

But the NRC did find issues with what is termed procedural compliance and procedure adequacy at both the Salem and Hope Creek stations. This issue was identified at the Salem Station in mid-2007 and at Hope Creek more recently.

Involved are written procedures and the way they are implemented. Sometimes the procedures leave room for different interpretations, the NRC said.

PSEG Nuclear is taking corrective action in the area and Sam Collins, the NRC's Region 1 administrator, called the items "fairly low-level types of issues.

NRC Spokesman Neil Sheehan said identification and action on issues early on prevent them from becoming problems impacting operations later.

While both the Salem 2 and Hope Creek units operated in 2007 without problem, at Salem 1 in the last quarter of the year, one of the emergency backup diesel generators failed, marking the third time in three years for such an incident at the plant. These generators are designed to provide power to the plant in case of a situation when outside power is cut.

PSEG has taken corrective action and is expected to have the NRC conduct a final inspection and hopefully close the issue shortly.

When considering nuclear power plant performance, the NRC uses color-coded performance indicators and inspection findings. The colors start with "green" and then increase to "white," "yellow" or "red," commensurate with the safety significance of the issues involved.

At the conclusion of 2007, there were no performance indicators for Salem 2 or Hope Creek that were other than "green."

Salem 1, meanwhile, because of the backup generator problem, had a "yellow" performance indicator which has required additional oversight by the NRC.

"We need to continue to focus on human performance," said Tom Joyce, senior vice president of PSEG Nuclear and the person in charge of day-to-day operations at Artificial Island.

Joyce said safety and top performance of the plants is a main goal of the utility.

"So if there is a problem, people will say that is unusual,' not there they go again'."

"We share best practices with other operators in the industry to strive to keep performance up," Joyce said.

The year 2007 also marked a year of transition for the Island. The three reactors returned to being an independent operation.

When a proposed merger between Exelon and PSEG Nuclear's parent, Public Service Enterprise Group, was in the works, the Island's nuclear operations were to become blended with those of Exelon which operates nuclear plants across the U.S.

However, when the merger deal fell through, the three-unit site transitioned back to becoming an independent operation. Although ambitious, the transition was completed last year.

For 2008, PSEG is placing emphasis on four areas: Industrial safety excellence, equipment reliability excellence, refueling outage excellence, strengthened nuclear fundaments and strengthened stakeholder confidence.

Jane Nogaki, vice chair of the New Jersey Environmental Federation, was one of several members of the public to question the NRC and PSEG Nuclear officials.

Nogaki asked if Island employees feel comfortable raising safety issues with their superiors.

"We see people are free to raise issues," said NRC Hope Creek Resident Inspector Blake Welling.

Norm Cohen, coordinator for the Unplug Salem Campaign, a group which wants to see the three plants shut down, told NRC officials he feels the agency continually lets the utility "off the hook" on issues.


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