Fishermen beside the San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant in north San Diego County in 2011.
WASHINGTON D.C. — “Two years after the tsunami that crippled Japan’s Fukushima power complex, the U.S. nuclear industry is facing fundamental and far-reaching challenges to its own future.
Only five years ago, industry executives and leading politicians were talking about an American nuclear renaissance, hoping to add 20 or more reactors to the 104-unit U.S. nuclear fleet.
But today those companies are holding back in the face of falling natural gas prices and sluggish and uncertain electricity demand. Only five new plants are under construction, while at least that many are slated for permanent closure or shut down indefinitely over safety issues.”
— Steven Mufson, The Washington Post
link to article
NEW YORK, NY — “Without fanfare, the nation’s nuclear power regulators have overhauled community emergency planning for the first time in more than three decades, requiring fewer exercises for major accidents and recommending that fewer people be evacuated right away.
The revamp, the first since the program began after Three Mile Island in 1979, also eliminates a requirement that local responders always practice for a release of radiation.
At least four years in the works, the changes appear to clash with more recent lessons of last year’s reactor crisis in Japan.
Under the new rules, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which run the program together, have added one new exercise: More than a decade after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, state and community police will now take part in exercises that prepare for a possible assault on their local plant.
Still, some emergency officials say this new exercise doesn’t go far enough.
And some view as downright bizarre the idea that communities will now periodically run emergency scenarios without practicing for any significant release of radiation.
These changes, while documented in obscure federal publications, went into effect in December with hardly any notice by the general public.”
— Jeff Donn, Associated Press
Link to article
TAMPA BAY, FL— “The failure of the U.S. nuclear power program ranks as the largest managerial disaster in business history, a disaster on a monumental scale.
The rant of an antinuclear activist?
Hardly. It was the first sentence of an in-depth story in a conservative business magazine, Forbes.
Forbes‘ point then — that out-of-control costs and poor decisionmaking doomed the nuclear power industry — may prove as relevant in 2012 as it was a generation ago. And it points up a looming question as Tampa Bay faces its own $22.4 billion nuclear project:
Is the U.S. nuclear power industry poised to repeat its own troubled and, at times, inept history?
Eerie parallels link then and now. Just as today, it was an age that began with great nuclear optimism.”
— Robert Trigaux, Tampa Bay Times
Read the whole story: http://www.tampabay.com/news/business/energy/is-nuclear-power-industry-poised-to-repeat-managerial-disaster/1224045
The cooling tower of the Perry nuclear power plant.
PERRY — “Minor but potentially deadly mistakes involving radiation exposure of workers were a problem at the Perry nuclear power plant in 2011, say federal regulators.
The issue is the focus of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s annual public assessment of the power plant safety performance, beginning at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Quail Hollow Resort, 11080 Concord Hambden Rd. in Painesville.
The NRC believes that overall, Perry operated safely over the last year. But the errors have put Perry under the microscope. The NRC has demanded that the plant develop a program to end the mistakes.
In a March 5 letter to Perry’s owner, the First Energy Nuclear Operating Co. of Akron, Cynthia D. Pederson, head of the NRC’s Midwest region, wrote that performance at the plant during the last year ‘continued to exhibit weaknesses in the area of human performance with 12 findings identified.’”
— John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer
Read the whole story: http://www.cleveland.com/business/index.ssf/2012/04/the_nrc_says_human_performance.html
NEW YORK, NY — “A future severe nuclear accident at a U.S. nuclear power plant is a real possibility. In 2011 five nuclear power plants in the United States lost primary power due to earthquake or extreme weather events, including tornados, hurricanes, and flooding. Fortunately backup power systems kicked in at these plants and a disaster was averted. But weather is not the only risk factor.”
— Natural Resources Defense Council
Read the whole report: http://www.nrdc.org/nuclear/fallout/
WASHINGTON, D.C. — “The Union of Concerned Scientists has documented 15 “near-misses” at 13 U.S. nuclear plants during 2011 and evaluates the response of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to each event in a report released today.
The second in an annual series of reports, “The NRC and Nuclear Power Plant Safety 2011 Report: Living on Borrowed Time” details 15 special inspections launched by the federal agency in response to problems with safety equipment, security shortcomings, and other troubling events at nuclear power plants.
The overview is provided by David Lochbaum, the director of UCS’s Nuclear Safety Project. He worked at U.S. nuclear plants for 17 years and was a boiling water reactor technology instructor for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
‘While none of the safety problems in 2011 caused harm to plant employees or the public, their frequency – more than one per month – is high for a mature industry,’ Lochbaum writes.”
— Environmental News Service
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