DANGERS OF FIRE IN FUEL STORAGE POOLS
San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace was among 34 organizations filing an amended rulemaking petition on June 26, 2014.
The petition asks the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to revise its environmental analysis of “spent” fuel storage impacts based on new and significant information generated in the NRC’s Expedited Spent Fuel Transfer proceeding. In that proceeding, the NRC admitted for the first time that even a small nuclear reactor pool fire could render 9,400 square miles uninhabitable and displace 4.1 million Americans on a long-term basis. This information must be considered before licensing or re-licensing any nuclear reactors.
LICENSE RENEWAL CHALLENGE
SLOMFP’s seismic contention challenging PG&E’s application for license renewal is expected to come into play in 2016. Hearings on the contention have been awaiting the submission by PG&E of all seismic studies required by the NRC. The studies were submitted to the NRC on September 10, 2014.
Those studies will be reviewed by the California Public Utilities Commission’s (CPUC) Independent Peer Review Panel (IPRP), as well as the NRC. Only then can the evidentiary hearing of MFP’s legal challenge to license renewal proceed. The substance of that challenge is that PG&E fails to consider information regarding the Shoreline fault that is necessary for an understanding of seismic risks to the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant.
TRANSPORTATION OF HIGH BURNUP SPENT FUEL IN UNTESTED CASKS
In May of 2014, MFP attorney Diane Curran, acting on behalf of 20 organizations, challenged NRC approval of the use of a specific cask design, “32PTH2,” for transporting radioactive wastes from high burnup fuel. This cask has not been thoroughly tested and was approved without the public notice and opportunity for the public to participate in the decision-making process, as required by federal law. The NRC admits that it does not have enough technical information about its behavior or the conditions under which it can be safely transported.
High burnup fuel results when fuel rods are left in the reactor core for up to 3 years. This leads to wastes are many times more radioactive than those resulting from regular fuel rods – those left in reactors for only 18 months, as originally planned. High burnup wastes are too hot to be controlled in the reactors, so they must be removed and added to the spent fuel pools. Diablo produces about 70 tons of high level waste annually, and since the mid- ‘90’s that waste is all high burnup.
MOTHERS FOR PEACE AND FRIENDS OF THE EARTH SEEKING EVIDENCE OF NRC AND PG&E COLLUSION
In September of 2014, Friends of the Earth, joined by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, Mothers for Peace and the Santa Lucia Chapter of the Sierra Club filed a Freedom of Information Act request to determine whether the NRC and PG&E improperly worked together on a public relations strategy to counteract widespread news coverage of the evidence of the NRC’s own expert that Diablo Canyon can not be shown to be able to withstand a major earthquake. According to the FOIA request, filed with the NRC in Washington:
The PG&E seismic report, released on the same day [as the decision on the inspector’s dissent] indicates a possible relationship between the regulator and its licensee that has brought up widespread public concern regarding the independence of the regulator. There have been numerous concerns as to how the two documents could have been released simultaneously, given that [the handling of the inspector’s dissent] has been kept secret.
Dr. Michael Peck, the former chief inspector at Diablo Canyon, in June 2013 filed a dissent known as a Differing Professional Opinion, or DPO, raising concerns that the plant might not withstand an earthquake on one of several fault lines that were not known when it was designed and built more than 40 years ago. Peck called for the shutdown of the plant until and unless PG&E could prove it is safe.
NEW CONTENTION ON RADIOACTIVE WASTE STORAGE FILED BY MFP AND 9 OTHER ORGANIZATIONS SEPTEMBER 29, 2014
Nine environmental groups and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) filed lawsuits in the D.C. Court of Appeals challenging the NRC decision to proceed with an “extended waste storage rule” which concludes, based on no evidence whatsoever, that radioactive wastes can be stored on site – either in pools or dry casks – for 600 years with no risks to public safety!
The NRC has not even considered the question of whether reactors should be licensed given the environmental risks and high costs of spent fuel storage and disposal.”
ONCE THROUGH COOLING
MFP is working in concert with Friends of the Earth and the Safe Energy Project in Santa Barbara to persuade the California State Water Resources Control Board (Water Board) to enforce State policy to stop all Once Through Cooling on the California Coast.
In 2010, California enacted a new policy intended to address the water and marine environmental protection problems posed by the antiquated once through cooling systems of power plants up and down the California coast. The new Once Through Cooling policy required that all coastal power plants – fossil fueled or nuclear - have in place cooling systems that conserved water and protected the marine environment by 2015.
San Onofre and Diablo Canyon were granted exemptions that allowed them to have until 2015 to provide argumentation for if and how they could comply with the policy. With San Onofre closed, Diablo is the only remaining power plant out of compliance with California policy.
• Diablo Canyon alone causes some 80% of the damage done to the marine environment from all of the California coastal power plants combined.
• Diablo Canyon’s antiquated once through cooling system draws in 2.4 billion gallons of water per day and discharges that water back into the ocean some 20 degrees Fahrenheit hotter. In the course of this intake and outflow, it is estimated that annually the reactors’ cooling system sucks in more than one billion fish in early life stages—most all die.
• Defense of the Once Through Cooling policy and the inclusion of Diablo in the policy is vital for the protection of the marine environment.
• Diablo should be treated the same as all other plants. Power and money should not win out over protection of the environment.
On November 18, 2014, Mothers for Peace Board members Sherry Lewis and Elizabeth Brousse attended and spoke at the Water Board meeting in Sacramento, at which this issue was discussed for over 6 hours. Key input was given by FOE consultant Bill Powers. The Water Board has instructed its staff to draft options, and the public will have an opportunity to comment on those draft options early in 2015. The Water Board expects to make a final decision “late winter”, which we assume to be March or perhaps early April.
COMMENTS ON EPA CARBON POLLUTION EMISSIONS GUIDELINES
On December 1, 2014, Attorney Diane Curran submitted comments on behalf of thirty-two organizations and a Texas State Representative on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed "Clean Power Plan" to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from existing stationary Electric Generating Units.
A few of the comments include:
- The EPA has set carbon emissions targets far below levels that are necessary to achieve meaningful and timely carbon reductions;
- EPA's designation of natural gas and nuclear energy as "best system of emission reduction" (BSER) electricity sources is arbitrary and capricious;
- Significant carbon emission reductions are demonstrably feasible and cost-effective in all U.S. states by using renewables and energy efficiency.
See the full comments at http://mothersforpeace.org/20141201CommentsonEPACPPby32EnvironmentalOrganizations1.pdf