This week’s news from Planet Nuclear is proving to be quite instructive about the underlying state of the atomic energy industry following the disaster in Japan in March.
Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds has consistently raised concern over containment in pressurised water reactors for over six years – a concern he says is vindicated by the evidence from the Fukushima multiple nuclear accident in Japan. A video of his evidence is above. Some other useful links, here :-
Meanwhile the US Nuclear Regulartory Commission is involved in a lengthy discussion with Westinghouse over their reactor designs, and in Europe, so-called “stress tests” for nuclear power plants are thrown into question.
And then, there’s the “twister” question – what risks do extreme weather pose to nuclear power stations ?
“U.S. Nuclear Regulators, Westinghouse Spar Over AP1000 Safety Review : By HANNAH NORTHEY of Greenwire : Published: May 27, 2011 : Westinghouse Electric Co. and U.S. regulators are wrangling over statements made about the safety of the AP1000 nuclear reactor design, which could be used in at least 14 proposed reactors in the United States. : Attention to the approval process and nuclear safety has piqued [peaked ?] in the aftermath of Japan’s nuclear crisis triggered by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that ripped through the Fukushima Daiichi plant. Westinghouse, a subsidiary of Toshiba Corp., yesterday said statements the NRC made about safety issues with the design led to misinterpretation and speculation about the AP1000. In a release on May 20, NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko called on the company to make certain safety changes to its design before the agency would consider the proposal, first submitted in December 2010. “NRC statements regarding the discovery of new issues relating to the approval of design amendments for the AP1000 nuclear power plant are being misinterpreted and sensationalized,” Ricardo Pérez, president of operations for Westinghouse, said in a statement yesterday. “NRC statements, including a news release issued May 20, do not reflect Westinghouse’s transparent and cooperative approach to the handling of the discovery and severity of the few remaining issues that need to be resolved before receiving approval from the NRC.” The design calls for a 1,100-megawatt electric pressurized-water reactor that includes passive safety features to cool the reactor after an accident without the need for human intervention…”
“Nuclear safety report says Japan accident poses design issues for UK reactors : 18 May 2011 : Companies proposing new-build nuclear stations in the UK have been handed a lengthy checklist of issues to review to demonstrate the nuclear industry has learnt the lessons of the nuclear crisis in Japan. Top of the list are reassessments of the layout of power plants, how nuclear operators would deal with a prolonged loss of power supplies and the risks associated with flooding. These actions are highlighted in the interim report on the Japanese crisis produced by Mike Weightman, the UK’s chief inspector of nuclear installations. Speaking this morning he insisted there was no need to curtail the operations of UK plant as a result of what occurred in Japan. But he refused to speculate on what this exercise would mean for the timetable surrounding the approval of the two new reactor designs currently under consideration for the UK. However he acknowledged:”There may well be [design] changes needed”. Companies have been given a month to respond to the 25 recommendations set out in his report. This will be followed by a more detailed document which will be published in September. Weightman himself is to lead a fact-finding mission to Japan on behalf of the International Atomic Energy Agency, starting next month…”
“Nuclear stress tests are a cop-out : 27 May 2011 : The stress tests announced by the European Commission are nothing more than a fig leaf for the industry, writes Rebecca Harms MEP : The recent nuclear disaster at Fukushima in Japan, and the ongoing fall-out, has brought the complacency of the nuclear industry and policy makers on the issue of nuclear safety into sharp focus. After years of attempting to lull the public into a false sense of security, it is clear that nuclear is not safe and the industry can certainly not be trusted to ensure the safety of its technology. Renewed public awareness and pressure necessitated a comprehensive and convincing response from policymakers. In Germany, the government thankfully recognised that its decision extend the lifetime of nuclear power plants was a dangerous mistake, although it remains to be seen if it will be consistent and actually follow through with sensible energy policies. At European level, however, the response has been cynical, with the nuclear industry and a handful of pro-nuclear governments orchestrating a response aimed at continuing with business-as-usual, in spite of the fact that concerns over safety clearly transcend borders. The nuclear stress tests proposed by the European Commission could have been an important tool for addressing concerns with nuclear safety, as part of a move to phase out nuclear power, starting with the most dangerous reactors. Instead, with the industry pulling the strings, these stress tests are little more than a PR exercise, aimed at reassuring the public, without properly assessing the safety of nuclear sites in Europe. Among the problems is the non-mandatory nature of the tests, which means that EU countries can simply exempt nuclear sites. The UK has already confirmed that it will exempt some sites which are sources of major concern. What is the point of a test under which the most risky sites are exempted? A fundamental problem with the tests themselves is the criteria of what they will assess, which have in effect been drawn up by the nuclear industry. Serious and binding stress tests, worthy of the name, would assess not only the risk of terrorist attacks but also design flaws, technical problems caused through disruption of operation or the ageing of nuclear reactors. But this would raise fundamental questions about the safety of nuclear power. Instead we are left with tests which will fail to assess the risk of terrorist attacks or other serious technical problems. In short, the tests will be stress-free for the nuclear industry but also provide no meaningful guarantees on nuclear safety. Another major flaw is the lack of clarity on what would happen if a reactor fails a stress test. Surely any plant failing a test should be shut down without delay?..”
“Nuclear power plant vulnerable to tornadoes : Published: May 27, 2011 : A nuclear power plant close to where tornadoes hit Joplin, Mo. was singled out weeks before as being vulnerable to tornadoes, according to the Associated Press. Inspections at the 1,170 MW Wolf Creek nuclear power plant in southeastern Kansas, owned by Wolf Creek Nuclear Operating Corp., showed that some emergency equipment and storage sites at the plant might not survive a tornado, but the critical elements, such as the plant’s Westinghouse pressurized water reactors, are protected. Plant operators and federal inspectors reportedly said Wolf Creek did not secure equipment and vehicles needed to fight fires, retrieve fuel for emergency generators and resupply water to keep nuclear fuel cool as it is being moved. NRC inspectors were reported to have found the plant’s fire truck parked in a sheet-metal building that would not protect it from severe weather or earthquakes…”