Posts Tagged ‘Nuclear Regulatory Commission’

STP US vs Foreign OwnershipU.S. Nuclear power plants and foreign control

In September 2012, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission denied an operating license to Unistar Nuclear Energy for its planned third reactor at Calvert Cliffs in Maryland because it is fully owned by France’s Électricité de France (EDF)-a foreign entity. Federal law prohibits a foreign entity from completely owning or controlling a U.S. nuclear plant. The company was given 60 days to find a U.S. partner, which it has been unable to do in the past two years, and if it fails to do so the license application will be fully terminated.

Federal law is clear that foreign controlled corporations are not eligible to apply for a license to build and operate nuclear power plants. The evidence is that Toshiba is in control of the project and this precludes obtaining an NRC license for South Texas Project 3 & 4.

While foreign investment in U.S nuclear projects is not prohibited; Toshiba is paying all the bills for the proposed STP 3 & 4 project. This makes it difficult to accept that Toshiba doesn’t control the project.

Toshiba North America Engineering, or TANE, has assumed exclusive, principal funding authority for the project, but they are a wholly owned subsidiary of Toshiba America, Inc, a Japanese corporation. Public Citizen contends that this makes them ineligible for licensing.

How did foreign ownership become a problem? New Jersey based NRG announced on April 19, 2011 that it would write down its investment in the development of South Texas Project units 3 & 4. Engineering work and pre-construction activities were halted, and NRG stated that Toshiba North America Engineering – TANE – would be responsible for funding ongoing costs to continue the licensing process.

The upcoming hearing will deal, in part with the issue of STP’s foreign control.

The Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) has rescheduled to Jan. 6, 2014, a hearing in Houston involving an application to build two new reactors at the South Texas Project site near Bay City, Texas. The ASLB is the independent body within the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that conducts adjudicatory hearings and renders decisions on legal challenges to licensing actions.

The hearing will start at 9:00 a.m. CST on Monday, January 6, in Room 425 of the Fourteenth Court of Appeals, 301 Fannin St. in Houston. The hearing will continue on January 7 until noon, if necessary. Members of the public and media are welcome to observe the evidentiary hearing, but participation in the hearing will be limited to the parties and their lawyers and witnesses. Those planning to attend the evidentiary hearing should arrive at least 15 minutes early to allow time for security screening, including searches of hand-carried items such as briefcases or backpacks. No signs will be permitted in the courtroom.

The hearing involves Nuclear Innovation North America’s application to build two Advanced Boiling-Water Reactors at the South Texas Project site. The hearing will examine whether the applicant’s planned corporate governing structure and financing comply with the NRC’s rules prohibiting foreign ownership, control and domination.

The board continues to accept written comments from interested members of the public, known as limited appearance statements. These statements are not testimony or evidence, but they may aid the board and/or the parties in considering the issues in the hearing. Statements may be submitted via mail to:, Office of the Secretary Rulemaking and Adjudications Staff, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, D.C. 20555-0001; via fax to (301) 415-1101 or via e-mail to [email protected] Copies of the statements should also be submitted to: Administrative Judge Michael M. Gibson, Atomic Safety and Licensing Board Panel, Mail Stop T-3F23, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, D.C. 20555-0001; via fax to (301) 415-5599, or via email to [email protected] and [email protected]

Documents related to the South Texas Project application are available on the NRC website. Documents regarding this board’s proceeding are available on the NRC’s Electronic Hearing Docket by clicking on the folder entitled “South_Texas_52-012&013-COL” on the left side of the page. More information about the role of the ASLB in the licensing process is available on the NRC website.

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NRC Says NINA Doesn’t Meet Their Requirements

STP US vs Foreign OwnershipOn Tuesday, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission told judges overseeing the licensing case for two proposed South Texas Project reactors that the applicant (NINA) is subject to foreign ownership control or domination requirements and does not meet the provisions of the Atomic Energy Act in this regard. This will help licensing opponents in the hearing that is anticipated this fall.

“This NRC notice is great for us as opponents of two proposed reactors at the South Texas Project,” said Karen Hadden, executive director of SEED Coalition, a group that has intervened in the licensing process, along with the South Texas Association for Responsible Energy and Public Citizen. “We hope that we’ll soon see clean, safe energy developed in Texas instead of dangerous nuclear power. We must prevent Fukushima style disasters from happening here.”

“Federal law is clear that foreign controlled corporations are not eligible to apply for a license to build and operate nuclear power plants. The evidence is that Toshiba is in control of the project and this precludes obtaining an NRC license for South Texas Project 3 & 4,” said Brett Jarmer, an attorney also representing the intervenors.

“Foreign investment in U.S nuclear projects is not per se prohibited; but Toshiba is paying all the bills for the STP 3 & 4 project. This makes it difficult to accept that Toshiba doesn’t control the project,” said Robert Eye.

Toshiba North America Engineering, or TANE, will assume exclusive, principal funding authority for the project, but they are a wholly owned subsidiary of Toshiba America, Inc, a Japanese corporation. Opponents contend that this makes them ineligible for licensing.

“National security and safety concerns justify NRC’s limits on foreign ownership and control of nuclear reactors,” said Karen Hadden, Director of the Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) Coalition. “What if a foreign company was careless in running a U.S. reactor? International allegiances are known to shift. Our own reactors could become a weapon to be turned against us in the future and be used to threaten civilians in a war against the U.S. The NRC is right to protect against this possibility.”

“Even if the reactors are operated by the South Texas Nuclear Operating Company, they will get their orders from foreign owners. What if their concerns are more about cost-cutting and less about safety?” asked Susan Dancer, President of the South Texas Association for Responsible Energy. “Japanese investors would have us believe that they can come to America and safely build, own and operate nuclear plants, and that we should not concern ourselves with passé laws and regulations, but the recent Fukushima disaster has demonstrated the flawed Japanese model of nuclear safety and the lack of protection afforded the Japanese people. In such an inherently dangerous industry, the American people deserve protection through federal law, including that our nuclear reactors are controlled by the people most concerned about our country: fellow Americans.”

“Foreign Ownership, Control or Domination policy is spelled out in the Atomic Energy Act (AEA) of 1954,” said Tom “Smitty” Smith, director of Public Citizen’s Texas Office.  “In Section 103d it says that no license may be issued to an alien or any corporation or other entity if the Commission knows or has reason to believe it is owned, controlled, or dominated by an alien, a foreign corporation, or a foreign government.”

The NRC interprets this to mean that these entities are not eligible to apply for and obtain a license. According to Commission guidance, an entity is under foreign ownership, control, or domination “whenever a foreign interest has the ‘power,’ direct or indirect, whether or not exercised, to direct or decide matters affecting the management or operations of the applicant.” There is no set percentage point cut-off point used to determine foreign ownership. The factors that are considered include:

  • The extent of foreign ownership
  • Whether the foreign entity operates the reactors
  • Whether there are interlocking directors and officers
  • Whether there is access to restricted data
  • Details of ownership of the foreign parent company.

For further information please visit www.NukeFreeTexas.org

To read the staff FODC determination letter, click here.

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Tuesday, a fire erupted in the Unit 2 main transformer that feeds power from the reactor to the public power grid of the South Texas Project Electric Generating Station near Bay City and about 85 miles southwest of Houston.  The unit 2 was automatically taken offline and STP officials say unit 1 is still operational, but STP officials say they don’t know when unit 2 will be restarted.

The fire broke out at 4:42 p.m. was extinguished within 15 minutes, but the plant had to declare that an “unusual event” had taken place and notified county, state and federal officials. Managers declared the event over at 7:47 p.m.  No injuries were reported and STP is claiming that the incident poses no hazard to the public or to plant workers.

The two 1,350-megawatt generators, owned by NRG Energy, CPS Energy and Austin Energy, serve 2 million users. each reactor at the plant produces 1,280 megawatts of electricity. One megawatt is enough to power 500 homes during mild winter conditions, but if your remember the Texas rolling blackouts during a severe winter event in February of 2011 you might also remember that the electricity shortage during that unusual high demand time was due to unexpected plant outages.  Let’s hope we don’t have one of those before unit 2 comes back online.

Interestingly enough, this incident happened just before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission begins seeking public comment on a draft supplemental environmental impact statement for the proposed renewal of the South Texas Project nuclear power plant’s operating licenses for an additional 20 years.

NRC staff will hold two public meetings in Bay City, Texas, on Jan. 15, 2013 to present the findings of the draft report and accept public comments. The meetings will be held at the Bay City Civic Center, 201 Seventh St., from 2-5 p.m. and 7-10 p.m. NRC staff members will be available for one hour prior to each session to meet informally with members of the public.

The South Texas Project nuclear plant has two pressurized-water reactors. The plant operator, STP Nuclear Operating Co., submitted its license renewal application on Oct. 25, 2010. The current operating licenses expire Aug. 20, 2027, for Unit 1 and Dec. 15, 2028, for Unit 2.  The original license was issued based on the expected life of the plant.  Most of our aging nuclear power fleet is nearing the end of their life expectancy and since most energy companies have not been successful in securing funding for building new plants, the strategy is to just extend the life of the current facilities by renewing their licenses.

The draft supplemental environmental impact statement contains the NRC staff’s analysis of potential impacts specific to the South Texas Project site. In preparing the report, the staff held a public meeting in Bay City on March 2, 2011, as part of the public “scoping” process for the report. The staff also conducted site audits at the plant in May and July 2011 and consulted with other agencies while analyzing the applicant’s environmental report submitted with the application.

The draft NRC report does not discuss potential environmental impacts of extended storage of spent nuclear fuel after the plant eventually ceases operation. That issue will be addressed in the NRC’s waste confidence environmental impact statement and rule, expected by September 2014. In August 2012, the Commission decided that the agency will not issue final licensing decisions for reactors, including license renewal, until the waste confidence rule is completed. If at that time, site-specific issues relating to spent fuel storage at South Texas Project remain unresolved, they will be addressed separately.

Public comments on the draft environmental impact statement for the South Texas Project license renewal will be accepted through Feb. 22, 2013. They may be submitted online via the federal government’s rulemaking website at www.regulations.gov using Docket ID NRC-2010-0375. They may also be mailed to Cindy Bladey, Chief, Rules, Announcements and Directives Branch (RADB), Division of Administrative Services, Office of Administration, Mail Stop: TWB-05-B01M, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, D.C., 20555-0001. Comments may also be faxed to 301-492-3446.

The South Texas Project draft supplemental environmental impact statement is available for public inspection in the NRC Public Document Room at NRC headquarters, 11555 Rockville Pike, Rockville, Md. Copies will also be available at the Bay City Public Library, 1100 7th St., Bay City, Texas.

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Update:  The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said an alert at the Oyster Creek plant in Forked River, N.J., ended early Wednesday, October 31.

According to an NRC press release, three reactors (Nine Mile Point 1 in Scriba, N.Y., Indian Point 3 in Buchanan, N.Y.; and Salem Unit 1 in Hancocks Bridge, N.J.) experienced shutdowns as Hurricane Sandy pounded the East Coast.  Another plant, Oyster Creek in New Jersey, remains in an “Alert” due to high water levels in its water intake structure.

NRC says, “Nine Mile Point 1 underwent an automatic shutdown at about 9 p.m. Monday when an electrical fault occurred on power lines used to send power to the grid. It is likely a storm-related event, but the plant’s operators are still evaluating the cause. All plant safety systems responded as designed and the shutdown was safely carried out. Meanwhile, Nine Mile Point 2 experienced a loss of one of two incoming off-site power lines as a result of the fault. One of the plant’s emergency diesel generators started in response to generate power usually provided by the line. Nine Mile Point 2 remained at full power.”

NRC continued, “Indian Point 3 automatically shut down at about 10:40 p.m. Monday in response to electrical grid disturbances caused by the storm. . . the unit was placed in a safe shutdown condition.” And, “Salem Unit 1 was manually shut down by plant operators at about 1:10 a.m. Tuesday as a result of circulating-water pumps being affected by high river level and debris in the waterway.”

Finally, but perhaps of most concern, Oyster Creek had an declared an “Alert” at approximately 8:45 p.m. on October 29th  preceded by an “Unusual Event” at about 7 p.m. when the water level first reached a minimum high water level criteria. The water level rose due to a combination of a rising tide, wind direction and storm surge. While the water level has dropped since peaking earlier today, the Alert remains in place until the level is below the specific criteria for the intake structure, which is where water from an intake canal is pumped into the plant for cooling purposes.

The alert came after water levels at the plant rose more than 6.5 feet above normal, potentially affecting the “water intake structure” that pumps cooling water through the plant.

Those pumps are not essential to keep the reactor cool since the plant has been shut for planned refueling since October 22. Exelon however was concerned that if the water rose over 7 feet it could submerge the service water pump motor that is used to cool the water in the spent fuel pool, potentially forcing it to use emergency water supplies from the in-house fire suppression system to keep the rods from overheating.

Exelon also moved a portable pump to the intake structure as a precaution in case it was needed to pump cooling water.  The water levels reached a peak of 7.4 feet — apparently above the threshold — but the pump motors did not flood.  As of 11 a.m. EDT Tuesday the water level was down to 5.8 feet, but they will need the water level to stay below 6 feet for a while before the alert status is taken off.  When the water level falls below 4.5 feet, the plant could then be taken off the unusual event status.

Fortunately for everyone, Oyster Creek, the oldest nuclear plant in the nation, was shut down for a refueling and maintenance outage prior to the storm and the reactor remains out of service.

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The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has reported that a reactor at Three Mile Island, the site of the nation’s worst nuclear accident, shut down unexpectedly on this afternoon when a coolant pump tripped and steam was released.  Right now they are saying the plant is stable with no impact on public health or safety.

Still, this is a story we should follow.  The following news outlets have stories as of 5:50pm CT and will probably add updates as they become available.


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According to the Huffington Post, not one, but two, whistleblower engineers at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission have accused regulators of deliberately covering up information relating to the vulnerability of U.S. nuclear power facilities that sit downstream from large dams and reservoirs and failing to act to despite being aware of the risks for years.

One plant in particular — the three-reactor Oconee Nuclear Station near Seneca, S.C. — is at risk of a flood and subsequent systems failure, similar to the tsunami that devastated the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility in Japan last year, in the event that an upstream dam fail.

The Fort Calhoun nuclear facility in Nebraska was surrounded by rising floodwaters from the nearby Missouri River in 2011.

Given the extreme weather patterns the world has seen in the last decade, that likelihood seems greater than it did when these plants were built.

A report, completed in July of 2011, after the earthquake and subsequent tsunami flooded the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was heavily redacted in a move, the whistleblower claims, to prevent the public from learning the full extent of these vulnerabilities, and to obscure just how much the NRC has known about the problem, and for how long.

The report examined vulnerabilities at the Oconee facility, the Ft. Calhoun station in Nebraska, the Prairie Island facility in Minnesota and the Watts Bar plant in Tennessee and concluded that the failure of one or more dams sitting upstream from several of these nuclear power plants “may result in flood levels at a site that render essential safety systems inoperable.” High floodwaters could conceivably undermine all available power sources, the report found, including grid power, emergency diesel backup generators, and ultimately battery backups. The risk of these things happening, the report said, is higher than acceptable and warranted a more formal investigation.

The heavily redacted copy of the report is publicly available on the NRC website.

Click here to read the Huffington Post’s entire investigatory story.

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Excelon at Victoria, TX

Earlier this week, Exelon Generation announced plans to withdraw its Early Site Permit application for an 11,500-acre tract of land southeast of Victoria, TX.

The company said the decision was based mainly on economics and sited current market conditions that make it impossible to create electricity for less than what the company could sell it for.  This comes down to the price of natural gas which has seen substantial drop making it impossible to build a large base load nuclear plant and make a profit.

Excelon had submitted an Early Site Permit application that would have given them 20 years before they would be required to build a plant.  Given that,  they must believe that the current economic trend is a long-term one.

Citizens in the region opposing the plant had expressed concerns regarding the region’s water supply, the knowledge that most of power generated would have gone to other areas, and safety risks regarding malfunctions and attacks.

South Texas Nuclear Project

With the NRC rejection of the Calvert Cliffs new site permit because of its foreign ownership (French Électricité de France-EDF), the application for expansion of South Texas Project (for a 3rd and 4th unit) will probably be rejected to because of it’s predominantly Japanese ownership (Toshiba).

The 1954 Atomic Energy Act prohibits the NRC from issuing a reactor license to any company owned by a foreign corporation or government.

STP also has an application in for a license extension.  We don’t know what is happening with license extensions with regard to the issue of long term waste storage.  We will update when we have a better indication of how the NRC is going to handle those applications.

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The agency responsible for approving the construction of nuclear reactors may no longer be able to rely on its old “build reactors now and worry about radioactive waste later” approach.

Learn more about new challenges to nuclear waste policy.

For decades, nuclear reactors have been built under two assumptions:

  • One day there would be a place to permanently store the lethal waste generated from nuclear power.
  • While the final burial place was being determined, the nuclear waste could be safely stored on-site.

But when it comes to waste that remains dangerous for hundreds of thousands of years, assumptions can be a reckless gamble.

A federal court agrees.

In June, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington ruled that these assumptions are no longer good enough, prompting the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to address the shortcomings of the two rules which translate these assumptions into policy — the waste confidence decision and the storage rule.

In response, 24 groups, including Public Citizen, challenging both new reactor licenses and license renewals for existing reactors filed a petition urging the NRC to respond to the court ruling by freezing final licensing decisions.

On July 8, the NRC voted to suspend a final decision on all new reactor licenses. No doubt this is a short-term win for us.

But the intermediate and long-term implications for nuclear energy and the policies that govern radioactive waste are still unclear.

As these implications unfold, we will continue to keep you updated and when possible provide opportunities to take action toward improving the safety of our country’s mounting stockpile of nuclear waste.

To get more information on the court’s decision, check out the blog post by Allison Fisher of Public Citizen’s Climate and Energy Program, Will nuclear power continue to hobble along despite its radioactive Achilles’ heel?

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Thirty-seven clean energy groups submitted a formal petition for rulemaking to the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission seeking adoption of new regulations to expand emergency evacuation zones and improve emergency response planning around U.S. nuclear reactors.  If you would like to sign on as a co-petitioner, click here.

Calling on the NRC to incorporate the real-world lessons of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the proposed rules would expand existing emergency evacuation zones from 10 to 25 miles around nuclear reactors and establish a new zone from 25-50 miles around reactors for which utilities would have to identify and publicize potential evacuation routes. Another improvement would require utilities and state and local governments to practice emergency drills that includes a natural disaster that either initiates or occurs concurrently to a nuclear meltdown. Currently, utilities do not have to show the capability to conduct an evacuation during a natural disaster—even though, as seen at Fukushima, natural disasters can cause nuclear meltdowns. The petition would also expand the “ingestion pathway zone,” which monitors food, milk and water, from 50 miles to 100 miles around reactors.

Click here to find out how close you live to a nuclear power plant in the United States.

“80% of the airborne radiation released from Fukushima went directly over the Pacific Ocean,” explained Michael Mariotte, executive director of Nuclear Information and Resource Service, which initiated the petition. “Even so, the Fukushima evacuation zone extended more than 25 miles to the northwest of the site, and the NRC and U.S. State Department both recommended that U.S. citizens within 50 miles of Fukushima evacuate. Such evacuations could not be effectively conducted in the U.S. under current emergency planning regulations. We need to be better prepared and we can’t rely on favorable wind patterns to protect the American people.”

The NRC has relied primarily on the 1979 Three Mile Island accident and subsequent computerized accident simulations to support its emergency planning rules. But first at Chernobyl in 1986, and now at Fukushima, the real world has trumped any possible simulation. The fact is that far too many Americans live near nuclear reactors, but outside existing emergency planning zones. Based on real-life experience, these people need better protection.

“There is no invisible lead curtain surrounding nuclear power plants. We need to incorporate lessons learned from previous nuclear disasters. At the very least, we should stop pretending that emergency evacuation zones of 10 miles are adequate, and expand planning to include residents living within 50 miles of a nuclear power plant,” said Eric Epstein of Three Mile Island Alert in Pennsylvania. “On Friday, March 30, 1979–while school was in session–Governor Thornburgh recommended a ‘precautionary evacuation’ for preschool children and pregnant women living within five miles of Three Mile Island. The targeted population was estimated at 5,000, but more than 144,000 central Pennsylvanians from 50 miles away fled the area–further proof that a radiological disaster is not a controlled field trip.”

Indian Point, 24 miles from New York City, sits at the epicenter of the most demographically dense area of any nuclear reactor in the nation.  Even under normal conditions, traffic is congested and regional infrastructure is highly stressed.  During the severe snow, rain and wind storms of the past few years, large swaths of the region have been brought to a near standstill.  And yet the NRC ignores all these realities, preferring to play with its computer models.  This is a dangerous game.

In light of the recent activities around nuclear plants both in the United States and in Japan it had become obvious that new Emergency Planning Zones need to be implemented. Japan is still experiencing unfolding occurrences that are taking place outside of their projected protected zone. The United States must move to protect her citizens who are in these dangerous pathways.

A third of the population in the U.S., or roughly 120 million people, lives within a 50 mile radius of a nuclear reactor. Current emergency planning rules require utilities to develop and exercise emergency evacuation plans within a 10 mile radius around reactors. The “ingestion pathway” currently consists of an area about 50 miles in radius and focuses on actions appropriate to protect the food ingestion pathway.

At Fukushima, and earlier at Chernobyl, interdiction of contaminated food and liquids has occurred further than 100 miles from the accident sites.

Japan is already acting to improve its emergency response capability, in the event nuclear reactors ever are allowed to operate there again. Prior to the disaster at Fukushima, the emergency planning zones for nuclear emergencies in Japan was between 8-10 kilometers (5-6 miles). The zone is now being expanded to 30 kilometers (18 miles). The actual Fukushima evacuation zone was a 20 kilometer (12 mile) radius around the site, although areas to the northwest had the heaviest radiation measurments on land.

The full text of the petition is available here: http://www.nirs.org/reactorwatch/emergency/petitionforrulemaking22012.pdf

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The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is reporting that a “small” amount of radioactive gas may have leaked at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in Southern California.

The San Onofre plant is on the Pacific Ocean coast near San Clemente north of San Diego. It consists of two units, No. 2 and No. 3. No. 1 was shut down permanently in 1992. It is one of two nuclear plants that generate electricity in Southern California; the other is the Diablo Canyon plant in San Luis Obispo County.

The Unit 3 reactor at the plant was shut down Tuesday night after a possible leak was detected in one of the unit’s steam generator tubes.  The company and federal regulators say the release would not have posed a safety risk for the public, but we’ve heard that before (can you say TEPCO/Fukushima/the Japanese government one year ago?) so we will keep an eye on this one.

Unit No. 2 at San Onofre was already offline for maintenance and refueling.  In September, the failure of a major tranmission line between Arizona and California caused the Onofre reactors to go offline automatically.

And folks carry on about renewables being unreliable.

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STP US vs Foreign OwnershipThe Nuclear Regulatory Commission has suspended its review of the foreign ownership portion of the application to expand the South Texas Project nuclear plant over concerns that the owners haven’t done enough to ensure domestic control of the plant.

Toshiba Corp., based in Japan, could obtain an 85 percent ownership stake in the two nuclear plants proposed for the site outside of Bay City, the NRC found, meaning the company could have “the power to exercise ownership, control or domination over NINA,” or Nuclear Innovation North America.

NINA is a partnership between Toshiba and NRG Energy, which currently shares ownership of STP’s existing nuclear plants with CPS Energy and Austin Energy.

According to the Express-News, NRC staff, in its Dec. 13 letter to NINA, determined that the plan as submitted doesn’t meet the requirements of a federal law prohibiting foreign ownerships of a nuclear plant because, since NRG will not be investing additional capital in the project, “there is reason to believe that most of the financing going forward will be from Toshiba,” a foreign corporation.

This decision could push back a final decision on the license application:

The commission confirmed that the rest of the licensing application will continue to move ahead, but a license, which has been expected by sometime in 2012, will not be granted until the foreign ownership question is resolved.

Back in April of this year, federal officials said French owned UniStar Nuclear Energy was not eligible to build a third reactor at Calvert Cliffs because it is not a U.S.-owned company.  The Nuclear Regulatory Commission said although a review of the application for the $9.6 billion reactor in Southern Maryland will still take place, a license would not be issued until the ownership requirements were met.  That application now lies languishing for want of U.S. based investors.

Here’s a link: http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/energy/article/NRC-halts-nuclear-expansion-s-review-over-foreign-2402923.php

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An Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) panel will conduct an evidentiary hearing Oct. 31 in Rockville, Md., in the South Texas Project Combined License (COL) proceeding. The ASLB is the independent body within the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that presides over proceedings involving the licensing of civilian nuclear facilities, such as nuclear power plants.

This evidentiary hearing will consider a contention (or challenge) originally scheduled to be heard in August but deferred due to the unavoidable absence of an expert witness. The Board has also asked all the parties’ attorneys to be prepared for oral argument on a new proposed contention related to the Fukushima Dai-ichi accident in Japan, although the Board is not certain if such oral argument will be necessary. The hearing will begin at 9:30 a.m. EDT in the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board Panel Hearing Facility, Room T-3B45 in the NRC’s Two White Flint North Building, 11545 Rockville Pike in Rockville.

The session is open for public observation, but participation will be limited to the parties admitted to the proceeding (several public interest groups, the applicant – Nuclear Innovation North America (NINA) – and NRC staff). Early arrival at the NRC’s main visitor entrance in the One White Flint North Building is suggested to allow for security screening for all members of the public interested in attending. NRC policy prohibits signs, banners, posters or displays in the hearing room at any time during the proceeding.

The South Texas Project COL application was submitted Sept. 20, 2007, seeking permission to construct and operate two new nuclear reactors at an existing site near Bay City, Texas. The ASLB granted intervenor standing to the Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) Coalition, the South Texas Association for Responsible Energy, and Public Citizen, and found they had submitted admissible contentions that challenge the COL application. The contention that will be addressed on Oct. 31 involves the question of whether the application and NRC review properly accounts for energy efficient building code rules in assessing the need for power.

Individuals or groups not admitted to the proceeding can submit “written limited appearance statements” to the ASLB. Anyone wishing to submit a written statement may do so by email to [email protected], by fax to 301-415-1101, or by mail to: Office of the Secretary, Attn. Rulemaking and Adjudications Staff, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555-0001. In addition, copies of written statements should be sent to the Chairman of the Licensing Board by e-mail to [email protected] and [email protected]; by fax to 301-415-5599, or by mail to: Administrative Judge Michael M. Gibson, Atomic Safety and Licensing Board Panel, Mail Stop: T-3F23, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, D.C. 20555-0001.

Documents related to the South Texas Project COL application are available on the NRC website. Documents pertaining to the ASLB proceeding are available in the agency’s electronic hearing docket. More information about the ASLB can be found at the NRC website.

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The expansion of the South Texas Nuclear Project (STP) from 2 units to 4 units has had an interesting financing history.  Initially Austin Energy chose to not pursue a financial partnership with NRG, Toshiba and San Antonio’s municipally owned utility – CPS.  That left CPS with a 50% ownership, which they later dropped to 40% and then, during an upset at the utility when the city of San Antonio discovered that CPS had withheld information about a 4 billion dollar increase in the estimated cost of building the new plant just before the City Council was to vote on a bond issue for the plant, the city and CPS backpedaled and in a final settlement became 7.6% owners with the understanding that they would put no further funding into the project.

CPS’s substantial exit from the NRG/NINA partnership left the project  searching for additional partners and power purchase agreements (PPAs) to keep its expansion alive.  Opponents of the plant were focusing efforts on preventing central Texas public power providers from signing PPAs and had made some progress when the Japanese earthquake and subsequent tsunami triggered the nuclear disaster at Fukushima.

Within two days after the Japanese earthquake, Public Citizen was linking the financial death of the STP expansion project with NRG’s remaining financial partners – Japanese companies Toshiba, TEPCO (the operators of the doomed Fukushima plant) and the Bank of Japan. On May 1, NRG announced it was writing off its financial investment in the STP expansion, effectively killing the project for the foreseeable future.

Most people thought this was the end of this expansion move, but Toshiba, the sole remaining financial partner did not pull the application and at the end of August, Public Citizen, the SEED Coalition and the local opposition group went before an Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) panel–an independent body within the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)–to present oral arguments.

These opponents of two proposed South Texas Project nuclear reactors received a favorable order from ASLB judges allowing a full hearing to proceed regarding the project’s foreign ownership. Licensing efforts may be impacted as a result. In April, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission told Unistar Nuclear Energy it could not get an operating license for its planned reactor at Calvert Cliffs in Maryland because it was fully owned by France’s electricite de France (EDF)—a foreign entity.

“Federal law is clear that foreign controlled corporations are not eligible to apply for a license to build and operate nuclear power plants. The evidence is that Toshiba is in control of the project and this precludes obtaining an NRC license for South Texas Project 3 & 4,” said Brett Jarmer, a lawyer for the Intervenors; SEED Coalition, Public Citizen and South Texas Association for Responsible Energy. “Foreign investment in U.S. nuclear projects is not per se prohibited; but Toshiba is paying all the bills for the STP 3 & 4 project. This makes it difficult to accept that Toshiba doesn’t control the project,” said attorney Robert Eye. “National security and safety concerns justify NRC’s limits on foreign ownership and control of nuclear reactors,” said Karen Hadden, Director of the Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) Coalition. “What if a foreign company runs a U.S. reactor carelessly? What if a nation that’s friendly today becomes hostile toward the U.S. in the future and tries threaten us with our own reactors?” “Even if the reactors are operated by the South Texas Nuclear Operating Company, they will get their orders from foreign owners. What if their concerns are more about costcutting and less about safety?” asked Susan Dancer, President of South Texas Association for Responsible Energy. “Japanese investors would have us believe that they can come to America and safely build, own and operate nuclear plants, and that we should not concern ourselves with passe laws and regulations, but the Fukushima disaster has demonstrated the flawed Japanese model of nuclear safety. Our nuclear reactors should be controlled by the people most concerned about our country: fellow Americans.” The judges’ order is online at www.NukeFreeTexas.org.

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Earlier today I got on a scheduled phone call with some of the staff in our D.C. office just after they had come back into their building after evacuating during the 5.8 magnitude Virginia earthquake that rattled buildings and nerves all the way to New York City.  They, of course, had more immediate concerns but thoughts for many folks here in the Texas office immediately went to “What nuclear plants are in the area.”  And, sure enough, not minutes after I got back to to my desk I found an Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) alert announcing that this earthquake also triggered the shutdown of a nearby nuclear power plant and spurred declarations of “unusual events” at plants as far away as Michigan.

Dominion Virginia Power reported that both reactors at its North Anna plant, less than 20 miles from the epicenter of the magnitude-5.8 quake, shut down after the first tremors and vented steam, but there was no release of radioactive material.  Off-site electric power has been interrupted, but right now, the operator is reporting that the plant is operating on emergency power and the units were safely deactivated.

North Anna’s operators were preparing to manually shut down the units after the quake when the power station’s operating system automatically powered down both units when off-site power was lost.

The plant has four diesel generators supplying backup power and those generators have three days of fuel. However, off-site electric power was expected to be restored later today.


The plant ran on emergency diesel generating power overnight and off-site power was restored today, August 24th.

The North Anna plant is about 50 miles northwest of Richmond and about 90 miles southwest of Washington. Operators declared an alert — the second-lowest level of emergency reporting under U.S. nuclear regulations — after the quake struck shortly before 2 p.m., the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said.

Twelve other plants in six states issued an “unusual event” declaration, the lowest level of emergency notice, according to the NRC. They included the Shearon Harris plant in North Carolina; the Calvert Cliffs plant in Maryland; Pennsylvania’s Susquehanna, Three Mile Island, Limerick and Peach Bottom plants; the Oyster Creek, Hope Creek and Salem plants in New Jersey; and the D.C. Cook and Palisades plants in Michigan.  All of these plants are continuing to operate, but plant personnel are examining the sites for any damage or problems.

Let’s hope they get everything squared away before Irene hits somewhere along the eastern seaboard in the next 4 to 5 days.  One track show it coming into the Washington, DC area still as a Category 1 hurricane.

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The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is seeking public comment on proposed revisions to its policy statement on volume reduction of low-level radioactive waste (LLRW).

The proposed revisions would urge licensees to minimize the volume of waste they produce since such a focus will extend the operational lifetime of the existing commercial low-level disposal sites and reduce the number of waste shipments.

The revised policy statement, however, would also recognize that volume reduction is only one aspect of an effective program for managing radioactive waste.
According to the draft policy statement, licensees should consider all means available to manage waste in a manner that is secure, and protects public health and safety. Such means include waste minimization; short-term storage and decay; long-term storage; use of the alternative disposal provision in NRC regulations at 10 CFR 20.2002; use of waste processing technologies; and use of licensed disposal facilities.

About 96 percent of all LLRW is generated by nuclear power plants. The remainder is generated by fuel cycle facilities such as uranium enrichment plants, and materials licensees such as hospitals, research institutes and universities.

Public comments will be accepted through Sept. 14. They may be submitted through the federal government’s rulemaking website at www.regulations.gov, using Docket ID NRC-2011-0183; or by mail to Cindy Bladey, Chief, Rules Announcements, and Directives Branch (RADB), Office of Administration, Mail Stop TWB-05-B01M, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555-0001.

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