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[cdn-nucl-l] FW: ANS Late News Section / October 2001 Nuclear News
The ANS has released a message about the state of nuclear facilities in the
US. It demonstrates a great openness - I'm very impressed.
PS. Note the reference to Canada... We should thank someone for putting that
[mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]On Behalf Of Broadcasts
Sent: Friday, October 05, 2001 4:10 PM
To: Multiple recipients of list ans-latenews
Subject: ANS Late News Section / October 2001 Nuclear News
ANS Late News Section / October 2001 Nuclear News
FOLLOWING THE TERRORIST ATTACKS ON THE WORLD TRADE CENTER and the Pentagon
on September 11, all 103 operating nuclear power plants in the United
States, as well as nuclear fuel facilities and gaseous diffusion plants,
were on their highest alert at the urging of the Nuclear Regulatory
Commission. In a statement released by the NRC immediately following the
attacks, increased security was recommended "purely as a precaution." Most
details of heightened security were classified. While there were no credible
general or specific threats to any plants, increased security would remain
recommended for an unspecified amount of time, according to NRC spokesperson
Pam Alloway-Mueller. "The NRC remains in a heightened state of response and
we're coordinating [security at nuclear facilities] with federal agencies,
state and local officials, nuclear regulators in Canada and Mexico, as well
as the licensees [in the United States] themselves," Alloway-Mueller said on
September 19. While the terrorist attacks resulted in all U.S. nuclear power
plants going on simultaneous high alert for the first time ever, they had no
effect on the operation of those plants-meaning operating plants kept
producing power on the day of the terrorist attacks, and those plants in
refuelings or down for maintenance stayed in those modes.
On the day of the attacks, the NRC activated its Emergency Operations
Center at headquarters in Washington and assembled a team of top officials
and specialists. The same was done in each of its four regional offices-in
Pennsylvania, Georgia, Illinois, and Texas. In addition to communicating
with its licensees about the need to go to the highest level of security,
the NRC established communications with the Federal Bureau of Investigation,
the Department of Energy, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, among
others. NRC personnel were dispatched to the FBI's Strategic Information
An official of the Nuclear Energy Institute, the industry's trade group,
stressed that nuclear power plants have containment buildings that are
extremely robust structures that are built to hold up to attacks. NEI
spokesperson Melanie White said reactor containments are "hardened
facilities, using security terminology," and are required by the NRC to
withstand "hurricanes and airborne objects up to a certain force. They are
designed to provide the protection of the public health and safety" through
inherent features that include redundant safety systems and trained
In the event of ground attack, even prior to the September 11 attacks
that resulted in the heightened alert status, security measures in place at
nuclear power plants included physical barriers, armed guards, and personnel
procedures, White commented. Exercises are conducted regularly to test
security. White added that while NEI agreed with the NRC's call for
heightened security as a precautionary measure, nuclear reactors are
designed with defense-in-depth safety strategies. "So we believe we have
well-protected facilities," she said.
An official of the International Atomic Energy Agency, however, during
the IAEA's General Conference in Vienna, Austria, on September 17 said that
little could be done to shield a nuclear containment from a direct hit by a
large airliner. The Associated Press quoted the IAEA's David Kyd as saying,
"If you postulate the risk of a jumbo jet full of fuel, it is clear that
their design was not conceived to withstand such an impact." But Kyd added
that a nuclear reactor's relatively small size, when compared with the World
Trade Center or Pentagon, would make it difficult to hit with a large
aircraft, and so a glancing blow would be unlikely to release a catastrophic
chain of events. Other groups, however, contended that while a nuclear plant
if struck by an airliner would not cause the reactor to explode like a bomb,
it could cause destruction of the plant's cooling systems. This would cause
the nuclear fuel to overheat and produce a steam explosion that could
release lethal radioactivity into the atmosphere. In this regard, the
Nuclear Control Institute, an organization that calls itself a specialist in
problems of nuclear proliferation, urged for installations of anti-aircraft
weapons at nuclear power plants to defend against terrorist attacks.
The Department of Energy's Office of Nuclear Energy, Science and
Technology, in response to a Nuclear News telephone call on September 19 to
discuss the security of nuclear facilities, referred the call to the NRC.
The question of possible terrorist attacks on nuclear facilities had some
plant personnel tight-lipped about heightened security measures, except to
say that contact with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies had
increased. Ann Mary Carley, spokesperson for Exelon Generation, said on
September 19 that "for obvious reasons we're not talking about anything
security-related." While all nuclear power plants each and every day have
24-hour security, "when we have something so horrible as [the events of
September 11], we step [security] up to the next level," she said, "and
we'll do that for as long as we need to." Carl Crawford, spokesperson for
Entergy Nuclear, said only that Entergy's nuclear plants were in a state of
heightened awareness and had remained at that status since the terrorist
attacks. "That's about all we can say," Crawford said. "We can't describe
what [the increased security] is."
Craig Beasley, spokesperson for the Tennessee Valley Authority, said
security had increased at all TVA power sites, including coal- and gas-fired
units, but that it was greatest at TVA's nuclear plants. Beasley considered
confidential all information concerning the amount of security TVA plants
were receiving from federal, state, and local authorities.
Ray Golden, spokesperson for Southern California Edison, offered more
information on plant security. Upon finding out about the September 11
attacks in New York and Washington, SCE's San Onofre plant "went to a
heightened sense of security here. That's above what I would characterize
our normal high state of security preparedness," he said. Activities at San
Onofre included posting "security officers armed with automatic weapons at
the entrances to [the San Onofre site]," he said. "In addition, security
officers are conducting positive ID verification, matching employees to
their photo ID badges. We have stepped up the number of armed security
patrols, both within our property and within the protected area of the
plant." Golden added that San Onofre personnel had been in regular contact
with the California Highway Patrol, California State Parks, the FBI, and
U.S. Coast Guard, all of which, with the exception of the FBI, had increased
patrols in the area. "And, of course, I'm sure like everybody else, we have
instructed our employees to use their eyes and ears as a way of immediately
reporting any suspicious activity to our security division," he said.
But even before the September 11 attacks, San Onofre personnel were in
regular communication with federal, state, and local law enforcement
intelligence officials regarding security-related information, Golden noted.
He said San Onofre would stay in a heightened state of security until a
decision to ramp down was made by SCE's security division working with the
A news story out of South Carolina on September 16 reported that an
unidentified aircraft flew low over Duke Power's Oconee nuclear power plant,
in South Carolina, around midnight on Saturday, September 15. The Oconee
County Sheriff's Department called out state officers and the Highway
Patrol. A Sheriff's employee was quoted as saying that there was concern
about three helicopters that had been flying over the area, but that a
neighboring Air Force base had dispatched a pair of F-16s to monitor the
situation. Duke Power officials said there was no threat to the plant, and
the helicopters reportedly were conducting U.S. military exercises.
* NRC Commissioner Richard Meserve directed his staff to review the agency's
security regulations and procedures, in light of the terrorist attacks of
September 11. Detailed engineering analysis will be performed on the effects
of a large airliner crashing into a nuclear power plant or a spent fuel
storage or transportation cask. Nuclear plants and casks were not designed
to withstand attacks such as those that occurred in New York and Washington,
according to an agency statement released on September 21. But in the event
of such a crash, the NRC stressed that no "nuclear explosion" would result.
An airplane attack is not part of the NRC's design basis threat against
which its licensees have to defend. Details of the design basis threat are
classified, but it includes the characteristics of a possible sabotage
attempt that NRC licensees are required to protect against. The NRC will
continue to coordinate with law enforcement and intelligence agencies to
assess the implications of what the NRC called "this new manifestation of
terrorism." If the NRC determines that the design basis threat warrants
revision, such changes would occur through a public rulemaking.
Regarding transportation casks specifically, they are designed to protect
the public in severe accidents. The casks must be able to withstand 30-foot
drop puncture tests, exposure to 30-minute fires at 1475 ¡F, and submersion
under water for extended periods. Moreover, the location of loaded casks is
not publicly disclosed and such casks would present small targets to
aircraft. If, however, an airliner crashed into a cask, there could be some
localized impacts, according to the NRC. There also likely would be minimal
off-site radiological consequences in the event of an airliner's crashing
into a uranium fuel cycle facility. In all instances, comprehensive
emergency response procedures would be immediately implemented. In fact, all
NRC licensees with significant radiological material have emergency response
plans to enable the mitigation of impacts on the public in the event of a
There has never been an attack of any kind on a nuclear power plant, but
there have been intrusions. For example, according to the NRC, there was a
1993 car crash through the gates of Three Mile Island plant in Pennsylvania
by an individual with a history of treatment for mental illness. Such
intrusions have not resulted in harm to public health or safety.
* The physical protection of nuclear facilities was put on the agenda for
the IAEA's General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency
(held September 17-21 in Vienna) in the wake of the terrorist attacks in the
United States. On the last day of the meeting, member governments
unanimously passed a resolution on improving security against terrorist
acts, including the sabotage of nuclear facilities and nuclear materials and
in preventing their illicit use.
In response, Mohamed ElBaradie, IAEA Director General, said "We cannot be
complacent. We have to and will increase our efforts on all fronts . . .
from nuclear installation design to withstand attacks, to improving how we
respond to nuclear emergencies."
In the resolution, the countries called for a thorough review of relevant
Agency programs to see what can be done to enhance security. ElBaradei said
he will be looking at ways to increase its information, advisory, and
training functions to help countries ensure that:
-Nuclear regulatory infrastructure is in place.
-Nuclear material, other radioactive materials, and facilities are properly
protected against theft and sabotage.
-Detection measures and equipment at borders and elsewhere are effective in
combating illicit trafficking.
-Plans are in place to respond effectively to such events.
-Issues regarding nuclear installation safety are addressed.
During a concurrent session on the Agency's International Project on
Innovative Nuclear Reactors and Fuel Cycles, known as INPRO, the Agency's
Thomas Shea said that INPRO task groups would consider expanding the scope
of protection against acts of terrorism for new types of reactors. Many of
the innovative designs being proposed would not represent a large risk, even
if the reactor suffered large damage.
Even before the latest terrorist acts, concern was growing over illicit
trafficking of nuclear materials. According to the Agency, however, only a
small fraction (about 10 percent) of confirmed nuclear trafficking incidents
involved high-enriched uranium or plutonium. In fact, after a hiatus from
mid-1995 through 1998, only six such cases have been confirmed since early
1999. These never involved more than a few grams, and in some cases were
found in scrap material.
IN A MESSAGE DELIVERED BY U.S. ENERGY SECRETARY SPENCER ABRAHAM to the
General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna on
September 17, President Bush urged member countries to expand the role of
the IAEA "as a critical instrument to help combat the real and growing
threat of nuclear proliferation." By sending Abraham to Vienna just days
after the terrorist acts in New York and Washington, the President gave a
strong signal to the world of just how much he valued the work the Agency
Abraham told the conference-which was opened with a minute of silence,
followed by two songs sung by the Vienna Choir Boys in memory of the victims
of the U.S. attacks-that the global effort led by the IAEA to ensure that
nuclear materials are never used as weapons of terror "is the primary reason
. . . that President Bush asked me to be here." He further explained that
"We cannot assume that tomorrow's terrorist acts will mirror those we have
just experienced. This is why the work of the IAEA is so pivotal. Preventing
terrorist acts underlies our continuing and robust support for this Agency.
We know our security, and that of nations around the world, largely depends
upon what this Agency does to prevent the proliferation and the misuse of
The energy secretary also stressed the IAEA's role in helping meet global
energy demands "as vital to the well-being of our people and to
In ending his speech, Abraham harked back to the people, including
President Eisenhower, who set up the IAEA in the early years of the Cold
War, saying: "If that generation could summon the optimism and courage to
found the IAEA, there is certainly no reason for us to shrink from our
responsibility to protect the world from nuclear terrorism and to bring the
world abundant, safe, affordable, and clean energy. IAEA has fulfilled the
over-arching ambition that springs forth from the dreams of those nations
who would not submit to despair . . . to ensure that the atom served the
needs of mankind, rather than its fear. The IAEA has done that for nearly 50
years, I am confident it will do that for generations to come."
* Also during the conference, Abraham met with Russia's Atomic Energy
Minister Alexander Rumyantsev and IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei to
review progress on the Tripartite Initiative, which was devised to establish
an IAEA verification system for weapons-origin material designated by the
two countries as being "released from their defense programs." The
initiative was launched at the 1996 General Conference.
At the meeting, the parties discussed a number of issues that have to be
resolved before the verification program can begin. One essential
requirement is that the system allows the IAEA to "draw credible and
independent conclusions to assure that the objectives are met."
Another difficulty is that special verification equipment has to be
developed for use with classified forms of plutonium. This means that the
equipment will incorporate neutron and gamma-ray measurement systems
operating within a system of "information barriers," which allows inspectors
to derive sufficient information for the verification to be credible and
independent, while preventing access to classified information. A prototype
of such equipment has already been demonstrated in the United States. The
three parties are also collaborating on the development of an inventory
monitoring system that will assure that the IAEA knows at all times that an
item placed in storage remains there.
To learn from related activities in other countries, a workshop was held
earlier this year at the Plutonium Fuel Production Facility of the Japan
Nuclear Cycle Development Institute to consider how its state-of-the-art
safeguards systems employed for nonproliferation purposes could be adapted
for disarmament verification. In March, a technical visit was made to a
large plutonium storage facility at Sellafield, in the United Kingdom, to
observe measurement and monitoring activities.
Specific facilities being considered for storing the material include
Russia's Mayak Fissile Material Storage Facility, and the Savannah River
K-Area Material Storage Facility and the Lynchburg Babcock & Wilcox Uranium
Downblending Facility in the United States.
ENTERGY CORPORATION AND EXELON CORPORATION on September 14 launched The
Power of America Fund, an education-assistance endowment to help the
surviving children of victims of the September 11 terrorist strikes in the
United States. With the goal of raising $10 million, the fund was seeded
with $500 000 from each of the two power companies. Entergy and Exelon have
invited other power companies, their employees, and electricity customers to
join in the effort. By September 19, Electricit de France had pledged $100
000, increasing the amount in the fund to $1.1 million.
Said J. Wayne Leonard, Entergy's chief executive officer: "Our whole
industry, I'm sure, wants to make certain that the children left behind by
these American heroes, who died so tragically in an unspeakable attack on
this country, are not cut off from the opportunity for a college education
because of the death of their parent or parents. That would be compounding
this terrible national misfortune."
Corbin McNeill and John Rowe, co-CEOs of Exelon Corporation, expressed
similar sentiments in a statement: "The future of our country has always
rested with our children and the strong education system. This is a small
way we can help support the victims' families and America's future in this
Surviving children of any of the September 11 victims-the hijacked
airplane passengers and crews, those who died in the World Trade Center and
the Pentagon attacks, and rescue workers who lost their lives-will be
eligible for assistance from the fund. Grants would be provided upon these
children's initial enrollment at an accredited American institution of
The Power of America Fund will be administered by Education Testing
Services, of Princeton, N.J., which coordinates similar educational
endowments for many American corporations. Tax-deductible contributions
should be made payable to The Power of America Fund, 1055 St. Charles Ave.,
Suite 100, New Orleans, La. 70130.
"REPLACING NUCLEAR WITH NUCLEAR" is what Robin Jeffrey, British Energy's
executive chairman, has called for as part of a key part of the U.K's future
energy policy, which is now the subject of a high-level review (NN, Aug.
2001, p. 96). In its input to the review, British Energy stressed that the
market on its own will not achieve desired security of supply objectives or
environmental and economic targets. The company believes that the government
should set a market framework that avoids over reliance on gas for power
production, ensures a mix of sources and can achieve environmental goals.
The company said that by 2023, all current nuclear plants in the United
Kingdom will have closed, except for Sizewell B, the country's only
pressurized water reactor power station. To replace these plants with
nuclear units will require commissioning around 10 reactors of 1000- to
1200-MWe capacity between 2010 and 2025.
British Energy suggested two new designs, the AP1000 and the Candu NG,
which it said would be cheaper and quicker to build than current operating
plants and could be licensed in time. The company, however, which operates
reactors in the United Kingdom, Canada, and, in partnership with Exelon, in
the United States, warned that because new nuclear plants (like new coal and
renewable plants) will remain uncompetitive against gas-fired combined-cycle
plants for the near-term future, some action will be needed to allow further
How to bridge this "economic gap" was the subject of the presentation of
BNFL's chief executive, Norman Askew, at the inaugural symposium of the
World Nuclear Association (previously the Uranium Institute) in September.
Askew posed the key question: "How do you build new nuclear plants in a
He first described the current situation. The United Kingdom, Askew
explained, has not built any baseload plant of any type since becoming a
fully deregulated market. An overcapacity of 40 percent keeps the price low,
about £20 ($29) per MWh, below the entry cost of any type of new baseload
generation, including natural gas. Furthermore, he said, long-term
contracts, a necessary condition for any type of plant to be built, are not
now available in the marketplace. According to government figures, the
overcapacity will go to zero by about 2015. This means, Askew said, that the
price is not expected to rise to a level-about £30 ($44)-at which new
generation becomes possible for many years. Because gas is quickest to the
market, it will dominate. But even this depends on being able to place
Askew said that he is not looking for subsidies or for any direct
government intervention. But he said that to bring nuclear to the
marketplace, policy changes are needed, including the following:
1. Removing discrimination against nuclear generation on CO2 reduction. To
reduce carbon dioxide emissions and to support non-CO2-producing energy
sources, the government introduced the "climate change levy." Nuclear power,
however, is not recognized as a CO2-free generator and pays the levy. "That
discrimination in the marketplace should stop," said Askew.
2. Streamlining the planning and regulatory approval processes. According to
Askew, the time to market for nuclear plants has been 10 years in the United
Kingdom, raising the cost significantly. Nuclear plants also face "double
jeopardy," in that after a plant is built, a further public consultation
period is held to review the plant's economic case and to gain a radioactive
discharge authorization. No one will invest while this is the situation,
emphasized Askew. "[This review] can be done, but it must be at the
beginning of the process." He also wants a generic approval process
(analogous to the design certification process in the United States) and
then the local planning process can focus on site-specific local issues.
"This is needed," said Askew, if you want commercial nuclear plants in the
BNFL is also concerned about draft regulatory guidelines now being
considered, which, the company said, "give primacy to the progressive
reduction in radioactive discharges," and "would make any proposal for new
or replacement nuclear generation capacity unsustainable."
3. Deciding a policy for spent fuel and radioactive waste management. "We do
it safely already. There are no scientific or technical issues around this
subject at all," said Askew. But the industry needs to know its cost
obligations with respect to spent fuel. One solution he cited was a charge
per kWh to cover the cost of fully handling spent fuel as in the United
4. Reviewing requirements for long-term electricity supply contracts. The
government must consider how the conditions for placing long-term supply
contracts, a requirement for the construction of baseload generation, can be
put in place.
As an example of what is already available, Askew noted that the
Westinghouse AP600 reactor and its 1000-MWe uprated version, the AP1000,
should take only three years to build. The cost for the first unit will be
3.5 pence (5.2 cents) per kWh and 2.2 pence (3.3 cents) for a series. "We
believe this will be competitive," he claims. But the above changes in
policy will be required, he added.
THE DRAFT OF A NEW LAW TO PHASE OUT NUCLEAR POWER IN GERMANY was agreed on
September 5 by the German Cabinet. The law is based on the agreement signed
by Chancellor Gerhard Schr*der and the main German utilities in June (NN,
Aug. 2001, p. 98). The bill, titled "Law for the proper phase-out of nuclear
energy for commercial production electricity," restricts the lifetime of the
power plants to an average of 32 years, but it does allow a company to shut
down a plant early and transfer the remaining production to another unit.
The new legislation also places a number of obligations on plant operators
who will now be required to build interim spent fuel storage facilities at
their sites; to stop sending spent fuel for reprocessing after July 1, 2005;
and to increase insurance liability by a factor of 10, to E2.5 billion
The draft bill will now be sent to the Bundestag (the lower house of the
Federal parliament) for its first reading, and is expected to reach the
statute books by the end of the year.
The opposition party, the Christian Democratic Union, and the governments
of several German states regard the legislation as severely damaging for the
technological, environmental, and economic development of the country and
will try to reverse it. They also say that the government has no clear
concept for satisfying future energy needs or for disposing of spent fuel
and high-level radioactive waste after the present exploration program of
the Gorleben salt dome is completed. Moreover, the industry claims that 40
000 jobs will be lost and that the 12 interim stores at the plant sites will
cost consumers about DM 700 million ($330 million).
Bavaria, which will suffer economically by the phaseout, is expected to
ask the court to rule whether or not the federal government is required to
send the bill to the Bundesrat, the upper house of parliament, which
represents the states.
Copyright (c) 2001 by the American Nuclear Society, Inc.
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