Tuesday, October 2, 2007

NRC Trying To LOWER Safety Standards For Reactor Thermal Shock

The NRC today sent out a press release announcing their plans to issue for public comment a draft rule change that will greatly lower a KEY safety standard for continued operation of America's aging fleet of 104 Thermal Shock prone reactors. The press release (#No. 07-125) wrongfully boasts a blantant lie in the title, "NRC PROPOSES IMPROVEMENTS TO REACTOR VESSEL REQUIREMENTS". Lets be very clear from the get go, this proposed rule in no way shape or manner is and IMPROVEMENT of the rule, but instead destroys basic safety margins necessary to protect human health and the environment.

The NRC in the summary report for this proposed improvement to the Reactor Vessel Requirements states in part, "The proposed rule would provide new PTS requirements based on updated analysis methods. This action is desirable because the existing requirements are based on unnecessarily conservative probabilistic fracture mechanics analyses." We here at Green Nuclear Butterfly first draw the publics attention to the key phrase in that comment...unnecessarily conservative! Talk about a buzz word that should send Entergy's non working sirens into overdrive. Let's translate what is really being said...right now, it is believed that up to 47 of the reactors cannot meet, or will soon be unable to meet the criteria as they currently exist in, "The Pressurized Thermal Shock (PTS) rule, 10 CFR 50.61" and the nuclear industry knows that the number of reactors unable to meet this rule will grow exponentially during the license renewal process. Shutting down reactors, requiring very expensive partial fixes to this problem are not what the NEI and the nuclear industry want, so the SOLUTION? GUT THE RULE!

The thermal shock rule creates a SERIOUS problem for the nuclear industry, as failure to meet this criteria could force the NRC to shut down the reactors, which in turn would KILL the Nuclear Renaissance...cannot have that now can we? Corporate interests must take a FRONT SEAT to public health and safety...right?

This reality is verified when you read passages from the document that discusses the proposed rule, which you can download on ADAM's with this ascension number: ML070570283 One passage states, "Any reactor vessel with materials predicted to exceed the screening criteria in 10 CFR 50.61 may not continue to operate without implementation of compensatory actions or additional plant-specific analyses unless the licensee receives an exemption from the requirements of the rule." The NRC has a horrendous track record of granting their licensees piece meal exemptions from the very regulations meant to protect human health and the environment. Problem is, in the case of reactor core thermal shock, at some point during the period of license renewal, there is a very GREAT CHANCE that every PWR in the aging fleet of American Reactors will be unable to meet the requirements of 10 CFR 50.61. The answer? Change the rule, lower the SAFETY MARGINS!

It is pointed out here, that 10 CFR 54 requires a licensee seeking license renewal to submit a full and complete list of all exemptions they intend to carry forth into the superceding, and period of additional operation, with and analysis justifying why said exemption should be carried over into the new superceding license. Considering A) Entergy has not done this in their Indian Point LRA, and perhaps not in their other License Renewal Applications for sites like Vermont Yankee and B) I received a FOIA denial from the NRC claiming no such list exists, there is a very good chance that Indian Point and Vermont Yankee have already been granted partial exemptions to this vitally important regulation meant to protect human health and the environment.. Further, this proposed rule is basically defacto proof that Indian Point and Vermont Yankee are probably close too, or in significant violation of the existing rule.

NRC sttes, "No currently operating PWR reactor vessel is projected to exceed the 10 CFR 50.61 screening criteria before the expiration of its 40 year operating license. However, several PWR reactor vessels are approaching the screening criteria, while others are likely to exceed the screening criteria during their first license renewal periods." People look at me like I am crazy when I explain to them that these 20 year license renewals are really going to be 40 year license renewals...I deduced this fact through my own investigations of the proverbial bigger picture. The BOLDED print in the above statement is, in my opinion, pretty damning proof that my assertions on this point are correct. Further, the NRC is not actually telling the whole truth in the statement. I share here, words from and Entergy document used in seeking relief at IP 2.

NRC's proposed Improvement to this rule will eliminate one of the most important public health and safety cornerstones in the 10 CFR regulations. It is absolutely imperiative that every reactor community, every grassroots anti-nuclear group in the entire world prepare to slam our comments into the NRC. This rule must remain intact, or it is only a matter of a few years before America will suffer at least one Chernobyl, if not a series of them.

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