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Paul Gunter, Beyond Nuclear, 301-523-0201
Nuclear Regulatory Commission Agrees to Public Request to Review Dangerous Vents on US Fukushima-Style Reactors and Lack of Emergency Power for Cooling Waste Pools
TAKOMA PARK, MD - January 2 - A December 13, 2011 decision by a Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) safety panel that accepts several key publicly requested actions regarding safety at US Fukushima-style reactors, is publicly noticed today in the Federal Register, (dated January 3, 2012.)
On April 13, 2011, one month after the Fukushima nuclear disaster began, Beyond Nuclear – later joined by 8,000 co-petitioners – formally submitted emergency action requests to an NRC safety review panel regarding safety concerns at the 23 US operating Fukushima-style reactors. The petition also included the permanently closed – but nuclear waste laden – Millstone nuclear power plant.
The NRC’s chief safety officer, Eric Leeds, agreed that the NRC will now review several key publicly requested actions including revoking federal approval of the current failed GE Mark I containment venting system; and ordering all Mark I operators to install backup emergency power systems to ensure cooling in the reactors’ densely packed rooftop irradiated fuel pools.
“We are encouraged that NRC has agreed to look into revoking its prior approval of dangerous venting systems installed on these Fukushima-style reactors,” said Paul Gunter, Director of the Reactor Oversight Project at Beyond Nuclear. “The nuclear industry is advocating for the status quo, which is unacceptable post-Fukushima. If these reactors can’t meet their original licensed condition for containment as ‘essentially leak tight’ then they shouldn’t be allowed to operate,” he charged.
Beyond Nuclear has launched a national coalition effort to “Freeze Our Fukushimas” which aims to permanently suspend operations at all 23 General Electric Mark I Boiling Water Reactors in the United States similar to the dangerously flawed reactors that melted down and exploded in Japan following the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
Leeds dismissed a request from the petitioners for “immediate” enforcement action without which, the petitioners argue, US reactors can remain dangerously vulnerable to failure for decades.
The NRC safety panel also agreed with the public petitioners to review emergency back-up power systems (alternating current from generators and direct current from battery banks) be installed to cool densely-packed high-level radioactive waste cooling ponds that sit six to ten stories up in the Mark I reactor building where, per unit, hundreds of metric tons of highly radioactive and thermally hot spent fuel is being stored.
““Every community living in the shadows of these reactors with a rooftop high-level radioactive waste dump wants the emergency power systems installed now,” said Kevin Kamps, Radioactive Waste Specialist with Beyond Nuclear. “The industry must be able to ensure cooling can be supplied to hundreds of tons of irradiated nuclear fuel when the lights go out,” “Our recommendation is a significant upgrade over the current NRC task force’s aim to only supply emergency power to ‘makeup water,’ as we call for prevention of boil off in the first place,” he said. “We’re asking questions about the unintended consequences from that condensation raining down on control room electrical circuits and elsewhere,” he concluded.
A recent scientific study has provided compelling evidence that in fact a high-level radioactive waste fire at Fukushima Daiichi Unit 4 in Japan did occur, and caused large-scale releases of hazardous, radioactive cesium-137 directly into the environment, as the storage pools are not located within radiological containment structures. Individual GE Mark 1 storage pools in the U.S., as at Vermont Yankee, Pilgrim near Boston, and Fermi 2 near Detroit, hold more high-level radioactive waste than all four failed units at Fukushima Daiichi put together.
“Fermi 2 in Monroe, Michigan is the largest Fukushima Daiichi identical twin reactor in the world, and without electricity the storage pool will begin boiling away within four hours and twelve minutes, according to Detroit Edison documents,” said Kamps. “The potentially catastrophic reactor and radioactive waste risks at Fermi 2 could harm the entire Great Lakes and beyond,” he added.
December 13, 2011, NRC Nuclear Reactor Regulation Director’s Decision
“Receipt of Request for Action,” January 3, 2012, Federal Register, p. 143
April 13, 2011 Beyond Nuclear Petition for Emergency Enforcement Action
List of GE Mark Boiling Water Reactors in the United States