Stopping SONGS’ Black Swan

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Stopping SONGS Black SwanPART 4 – STOPPING SONGS’ BLACK SWAN
Short term and long term solutions at San Onofre

Removing the terrorist threats to the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station exposed by the Black Swan SONGS series can specifically strengthen this vulnerable nuclear installation.

Unlike the packs of contract-hungry nuclear and defense “consultants” that devour billions of taxpayer dollars in the feeding frenzy that marks the two industries, EnviroReporter.com offers the results of this investigation, and its recommendations, for free.

Reporting on major environmental issues can have striking results like the Ahmanson Ranch story did a decade ago. Other times, even when exposing state and federal EPA misuse of $41.5 million, outrageous betrayals of the public trust are perpetrated and – for now – go unpunished.

This is a way of saying that these recommendations are detailed even though we are not naïve enough to believe that they will be acted upon with reason and resolve. We are under no illusion that any of the entities that could enact our suggestions will do so. We offer them nevertheless because of the obvious: they should be followed.

There are short-term fixes that would yield immediate and lasting results at San Onofre. Long-term fixes, which should take no more than five years to accomplish, would secure SONGS for a long time.

The easily-built fence screen along the San Diego Freeway that EnviroReporter.com has already suggested to thwart a rocket attack on the spent fuel pools (SFPs) buildings is easy to complete with Caltrans. The heightened perimeter wall along Old Highway 101 is also a cinch but SCE would have to build it.

Call in the Marines

The Marine Corps Camp Pendleton commander could take decisive action after verifying with his own eyes the findings of this series. The general is responsible for the safety of everything in the base perimeter and that presumably includes SONGS. Protecting San Onofre protects the Marines and their base which should be all the justification needed for the brigadier general to act.

There are a number of vehicular options that would satisfy the instant suppression of the clear and present danger of the exposed SFPs building. These measures would also protect the spent nuclear fuel in dry casks.

To eliminate the threat of rocket attack entirely in the short term, three relatively-light Marine vehicles could be positioned outside of SONGS. Considering Camp Pendleton’s size and importance, it is likely the base would have the Helo Transportable Tactical Vehicle (HTTV) and the M1043A2 HMMWV Humvee light multirole tactical vehicle to fulfill this mission.

One Marine unit in an HTTV or Humvee could be positioned adjacent the northeastern corner of SONGS on the shoulder of Old Highway 101 facing south. This would mitigate the rocket attack threat from one angle as well as cover the parking lot terrorists would have to run through to get through to the dry casks area.

Cutting off that entry way by essentially guarding the length of it would go most of the way to protecting the dry casks in the Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation (ISFSI).

Pfc. Carlton M. Corbin 2013- Photo By LCpl Peacock USMCA second Marine squad facing north could situate itself on the wide easement between the train tracks and Old Highway 101. These two units would have the whole perimeter covered but not in depth. That would have to happen across the San Diego Freeway.

The previously proposed Caltrans fence would interfere with these squads view of the southbound shoulder of the freeway, from where an attack could be quickly launched with an immediate getaway.

A third Marine vehicular unit would solve this problem by being stationed across the freeway to the east along El Camino Real where it would enlarge the security zone to include the civilian-accessible high ground. These three units would always remain in visual and radio contact with each other.

A fourth optional unit could complete the deployment being stationed on the beach and bluffs to keep a vigilant eye on the ocean. New restrictions establishing a boat ‘no-go’ zone could be implemented for the length of the secured part of SONGS along its flood wall out half a mile from the shoreline.

The 24-7 nature of this kind of protection would mean site-specific training, night vision equipment and appropriate procedures. This knowledge and equipment are already on Camp Pendleton property and so should mean no additional cost to the American taxpayer. What would be gained is regional relief that a SONGS black swan would never take off.

Additional security within San Onofre’s perimeter is achievable only if Southern California Edison is a willing participant. But such precautions cost money and SCE is already trying to charge its customers $2.6 billion to decommission the plant as it tries to protect its assets even with its multi-billion dollar debacle. This has resulted in a howl of protest by folks who are more energized than ever to take on SCE over San Onofre.

Despite this, EnviroReporter.com strongly suggests that there are protective short-term solutions and literally concrete long-term fixes that would make the ISFI invulnerable to terrorist attack and much more secure against any kind of tsunami or flooding on the west side of the site. It bears noting again that it is good news that the earthquake faults closest to SONGS are slip-strike faults, which do not displace water and cause of tsunamis.

SCE could immediately erect a formidable security fence along the stretch of perimeter from the parking lot entrance on Old Highway 101 northwards to Beach Club Road where it could turn westward to terminate by the guard kiosk. This fence could have security cameras that have feeds in the SONGS security post and the Marine vehicles outside. The current outer fence backset from the street and bordering the parking lot should be looped with razor wire at a minimum.

San Onofre’s ISFSI sits outside of the reactor and SFP’s security perimeter. Should a terrorist squad elude any Marines on Old Highway 101 and then breach the new suggested property line fence topped with razor wire and make down to the dry casks, only armed guards right on the spot will be able to stop them from exploding any C-4 backpack bomb. EnviroReporter.com recommends tripling the amount of barbed wire atop the ISFSI fence and building a permanently staffed armed security guard post.

Dry Casks

The permanent solution to both security threats exposed by EnviroReporter.com is expediting the dry casking of the cooled-off spent fuel rods still in the two vulnerable spent fuel pools buildings using the dry cask fabricator already on site at the 130 acre Mesa Complex east of the San Diego Freeway. There the dry casks could then be transported the relatively short distance to a more secure new ISFSI at the Mesa Complex which would be much farther from any potential access point that could be exploited by a terrorist on foot or vehicle. With no dry casks left at the current ISFSI and, in five years, two empty SFPs, the terrorist threat nearly evaporates.

San Onofre spent fuel pool - Enformable.comThis could also obviate the need to send these highly radioactive rods to interim storage sites somewhere else when there is still no permanent repository for America’s huge amount of nuclear waste. Such is the high level nuclear waste temporary storage plan of four Senators including Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, (D-OR), Diane Feinstein (D-CA), Lamar Alexandar (R-TN) and Lisa Murkoswki (R-AK).

Nuclear activists call the plan Mobil Chernobyls in response. One hundred environmental and clean energy groups submitted comments May 24 in opposition to the plan which is still in the “discussion draft” phase.

“This draft legislation is extremely disappointing,” said Michael Mariotte, executive director of Nuclear Information and Resource Service, which coordinated the comments in a press release. “It simply attempts to revive rejected policies of the past while moving our nation no closer to a permanent solution for radioactive waste disposal than we are today. In particular, its misguided emphasis on ‘consolidated interim storage’ would result in the mass transportation of lethal nuclear waste over our roads, rails and seaways while not reducing the number of existing waste storage sites—which is every nuclear reactor site. Moreover, unlike previous Senate proposals, this one would effectively break the linkage between an ‘interim’ site and progress on a permanent solution and thus place any kind of permanent repository even further into the future than it is now.”

The future is now with the threats exposed in the Black Swan SONGS series. The fastest way to get the job done is to first secure the perimeter against tempting terrorist targets and truck the ISFSI’s dry casks over to the Mesa Complex. This would expedite dry casking of the long-ready spent nuclear fuel rods stuffed into San Onofre’s two SFPs and their transfer to the ISFI which is a negligible distance over the San Diego Freeway to the closest thing to permanent storage on site: a new Hardened On-Site Storage, or HOSS.

“Irradiated fuel must be stored as safely as possible as close to the site of generation as possible,” said the March 2010 Institute for Energy and Environmental Research paper. The so-called HOSS Principles were signed by dozens of nuclear watchdog and environmental groups. “Waste moved from fuel pools must be safeguarded in hardened, on-site storage (HOSS) facilities. Transporting waste to interim away-from-reactor storage should not be done unless the reactor site is unsuitable for a HOSS facility and the move increases the safety and security of the waste.”

A robust siting of the dry casks in a large area still on Camp Pendleton land would remove the dangers of having to move so many incredibly heavy and radioactively hot rod assemblies on the roads and rails of the aged American infrastructure. This work could begin immediately if it weren’t for one big catch. More money can be made using the Marine Corps, i.e. taxpayer, property building a new power plant rather than safely storing the toxic fuel SCE generated over decades which needs to be maintained and controlled for thousands of years.

San Diego Gas & Electric, which owns a one-fifth stake in San Onofre, wants to build a new 1,000 megawatts plant on the Mesa Complex property. Preliminary talks with the U.S. Navy at Camp Pendleton were revealed in July. This move would also provide SCE with another excuse to do nothing and let thousands of spent nuclear fuel rods sit in pools not designed to hold them for decades, pools EnviroReporter.com has exposed as being vulnerable to a devastating terror attack.

Some of the recommendations for SONGS could be applicable to other nuclear reactors and spent nuclear fuel rods pools installations in the U.S. But, the NRC’s long record of favoring nuclear industry profits over policies that would better protect the public make it highly unlikely that it would force Southern California Edison to toughen up its defenses let alone any other at-risk nuclear facility in the nation with spent fuel.

BWR Mark I Containment cutawayA sober look at the Pennsylvania Peach Bottom Power Plant reveals the fact that the reactors were built in 1958 of the same boiling water reactor MKI design as Fukushima Dai-ichi’s doomed reactors. With “a weak outer containment,” as accurately characterized by the New York Times, the MKI features its spent fuel pool suspended about four stories off the ground in the same building as the reactor.

This double jeopardy design is such that even though Fukushima Unit 4 didn’t have a meltdown because the reactor wasn’t fueled, its damaged SFP high in the air is at imminent risk of collapse. Additionally, its degrading metal structure sits on sandy soil just four inches above the highly radioactive groundwater swamping the site.

Coming attempts to conjure broken spent fuel rods out of the warped and damaged SFP rack will be one of the most dangerous and technically daunting disaster operations ever attempted anywhere. Should Unit 4’s SFP collapse and fall to the ground, the broken rods will be exposed to the air and each other in the rubble. An unforgettable fire will erupt and the site would have to be abandoned because the radiation would be too intense to get anywhere near it. Tokyo would be lost as well as the top third of Japan.

Peach Bottom has the same design that includes a crane on rails above the SFP. Above that is a roof which is not covered in thick concrete as a cutaway diagram of the MKI shows. Damage or destruction of this area would result in severe consequences. An explosion might destroy the SFP through outright blast or the crane could collapse into the pool possibly rupturing it.

An EnviroReporter.com analysis of the MKI design concludes that the building housing the reactor and its SFP are at huge risk of a devastating AT-4 rocket launcher armed with an Anti-Structure Tandem (AST) warhead. Peach Bottom’s two MKI reactors, with their spent fuel pools high in the buildings, sit along the Susquehanna River which has no boating restrictions. A boat can float to within 300 yards of Peach Bottom’s two SFPs.

An earthquake and tsunami won’t take out Peach Bottom. Using the same resources except a site inspection, EnviroReporter.com has determined that it appears strongly that Peach Bottom would be vulnerable to AT-4 an attack. If successful, it would bring catastrophe to millions downstream that rely on the river for drinking water and irrigation of crops and animals.

Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station-IAEAA terrorist squad with AT-4s could easily boat right up to Peach Bottom on the river and take out the SFPs judging from the distance, strength of reactor buildings and ease of incursion and excursion. The other side of the river is close enough that it would take only minutes to escape to the landing at Peter’s Creek opposite the plant. There are also very few people in the area. Indeed, terrorists could attack Peach Bottom from the densely wooded area across from the reactors and simply stroll back to their unseen getaway cars.

The way to lessen the threat would be to have a force on force deterrent that begins with marksmen on the reactor rooftops 24-7, river restrictions that would keep boaters from venturing too close or staying too long in the reactors’ stretch of the river, and keeping a wary eye on the woods across the river.

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  1. @All: This news from Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-California) regarding Southern California Edison’s carelessness and greed came to us from our friends at the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (with original emphasis):

    Senator Boxer’s Statement on NRC Inspector General Report on San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant

    Washington, D.C. — Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, issued the following statement regarding a report released today by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) Inspector General (IG). The report focused on the steam generator replacement that resulted in the closure of the San Onofre nuclear plant located in Southern California. Former senior NRC officials told NRC’s IG that if Southern California Edison had followed NRC rules, the flawed steam generator design would have been rejected.

    Senator Boxer said: “When Southern California Edison decided to completely replace their steam generators in order to increase their profit margin, they failed to apply for an amended license as they are required to do, and NRC stood by and did nothing. The IG was correct to highlight the statement of the former NRC Regional Administrator who said that based on information revealed on the conditions of the San Onofre plant ‘the steam generators as designed were basically unlicensable’ and would not have been approved.”

    Senator Boxer initiated an investigation into nuclear safety at the San Onofre nuclear power plant following the January 2012 shutdown of the reactors that was caused by a leak of radioactive water from one of its newly replaced steam generators, which were shown to have experienced unusual levels of damage. The IG’s report corroborates the findings to date of Senator Boxer’s investigation. Senator Boxer plans to hold an NRC oversight hearing in December.

  2. @All: Don’t miss these two very important meetings if you live in Southern California and don’t want to be the victim of a Black Swan SONGS. Courtesy of the folks at Southern California Edison, who own the majority stake in the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station:

    Community Engagement Panel to Meet Oct. 9 on San Onofre Decommissioning;
    Special Meeting Set for Oct. 14 on Storage of Used Nuclear Fuel

    ROSEMEAD, Calif., Oct. 2, 2014 — The public is invited to attend next Thursday’s regular meeting of the Community Engagement Panel (CEP) formed to advise the owners of the San Onofre nuclear plant on decommissioning the facility. The meeting will be from 6-9 p.m. at the San Juan Capistrano Community Center.

    The meeting will focus on Southern California Edison’s (SCE) proposed emergency planning changes for San Onofre now that the plant is permanently shut down and will include a presentation by a Nuclear Regulatory Commission representative. The meeting also will include opportunities for public comment and will be live streamed via http://www.songscommunity.com.

    In addition, the CEP will hold a special meeting Oct. 14 to discuss plans to store San Onofre’s used nuclear fuel in dry storage casks. On-site storage of used fuel is necessary until the Department of Energy takes possession of the fuel. This meeting is from 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m., also at the San Juan Capistrano Community Center, and will include opportunities for public discussion.

    SCE and the co-owners of the nuclear plant established the CEP to serve as a conduit of information between the owners and the public throughout decommissioning. The current owners of San Onofre are SCE, San Diego Gas & Electric and the city of Riverside. The city of Anaheim is a previous owner. Current and previous owners are responsible for decommissioning.

    SCE announced in June 2013 that it would retire San Onofre Units 2 and 3, and has begun decommissioningthe facility. SCE has established core principles of safety, stewardship and engagement to guide decommissioning. For more information about SCE, visit http://www.songscommunity.com.

  3. Chase says:

    The thought of making a Nuclear Facility ‘SAFE’ with regard to terrorism, war, or an angry Mother Nature is ludicrous.

    How many more Nuclear Meltdowns do we need to realize that taking the Nuclear Risk is INSANE!

  4. This is a press release sent this morning to EnviroReporter.com by the office of U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works’ chair Senator Barbara Boxer (D-California). We have bolded the pertinent parts of this statement as it relates to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s failure to address the safety and security issues presented in our Black Swan SONGS series:

    Statement of Senator Barbara Boxer
    “Hearing on the Nominations of Jeffery M. Baran and Stephen G. Burns to be Members of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission”
    September 9, 2014
    (Remarks as prepared for delivery)
    Today, the EPW Committee is considering two nominees for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Jeffery Baran and Stephen Burns. These two nominees are qualified and accomplished professionals who have demonstrated they have the ability to get the job done.
    Mr. Baran has had more than 10 years of experience working on nuclear energy issues in the House, including in his current role as Staff Director for Energy and Environment on the Energy and Commerce Committee. He also spent more than five years as that Committee’s counsel, and five years as counsel on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. At the Energy and Commerce Committee, Mr. Baran was the lead staffer on 13 NRC hearings, including those related to NRC’s structure, nuclear waste and post-Fukushima safety. He also worked on legislation related to the NRC and other nuclear issues. On a personal note, I want to congratulate Mr. Baran and his wife on the birth of their son, Gus, on Friday.
    Over the past three decades, Mr. Burns has served in many roles at NRC, most recently as General Counsel from 2009 to 2012. He has also served as senior staff to a former Chairman and Deputy Director of the Regional Operations and Enforcement Division. Mr. Burns has played a critical role on a wide range of NRC policy and enforcement activities. Since 2012, Mr. Burns has been the Head of Legal Affairs for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Nuclear Energy Agency.
    NRC’s mission is “to ensure the safe use of radioactive materials for beneficial civilian purposes while protecting people and the environment.” I believe the nominees’ experience and understanding of NRC’s legal framework will serve them well in supporting NRC’s mission.
    Today, I want to highlight some of my concerns about the way NRC has strayed from its fundamental mission and talk about several issues the NRC Commissioners must redouble their efforts to address.
    First, NRC has failed to require reactor operators to complete implementation of any of the safety measures recommended by the Commission’s top experts in the three and a half years since the Fukushima disaster in Japan.
    Second, NRC’s responsiveness to Congressional requests for information has fallen far short of its legal obligations.
    Finally, I am concerned that the Commission is not ensuring that safety is its primary focus in my home state of California.
    At the Diablo Canyon facility, NRC has failed to require the proper consideration of seismic safety issues, which could defer any needed safety upgrades to 2018 or even later.
    Another safety issue is at San Onofre’s decommissioning nuclear plant, which still has a significant amount of spent fuel in the facility’s pools. NRC’s own studies have shown that the consequences of a fire at a spent nuclear fuel pool could be as bad as a severe accident at a nuclear reactor. This could be devastating for the more than 10 million people who live near the facility.
    In addition, San Onofre’s operator has asked the NRC for exemptions from many safety and security requirements that are designed to protect nearby communities. These include the emergency response measures that were put in place after Three Mile Island, security measures that were first required after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and safety measures that were ordered after Fukushima. In the past, NRC has rubber stamped every single request for exemptions made by decommissioning reactor operators, and I believe the Commission must reconsider this approach.
    Safety must be the paramount consideration of the NRC. I believe the nominees before us today are highly qualified, and their commitment to NRC’s mission will increase the level of confidence the American people have in the safety of the nation’s nuclear facilities.
    I look forward to moving quickly to fill the two vacancies at the NRC, and we plan to act on these nominations later this week.

  5. @patricia borchmann et al: Thank you so much for the kind words! They go a long way in keeping us pumped doing what we do. But most of all, you get it, Patricia.

    Can’t say that for the most august scientific body in the land, the National Academy of Sciences which just came out with their Lessons Learned from the Fukushima Nuclear Accident for Improving Safety of U.S. Nuclear Plants which you too can own for a mere $71.95. But save your cash because we’ll give you the unfortunate news that while the NAS addresses part of the myriad problems with protecting nuclear-powered plants, it totally missed the spent fuel pool when it comes the threats the Black Swan SONGS series exposes.

    The report concludes saying “The overarching lesson learned from the Fukushima Daiichi accident is that nuclear plant licensees and their regulators must actively seek out and act on new information about hazards that have the potential to affect the safety of nuclear plants,” adding that nuclear facility operators “must take timely actions to implement countermeasures when such new information results in substantial changes to risk profiles at nuclear plants.” The study also says ways must be developed for “for identifying, evaluating, and managing the risks from beyond-design-basis events.”

    All that and nothing about the serious flaws in the security of our nuclear power plants and spent fuel pools from the obvious: America’s many enemies. Since we completed this series October 17, 2013, the kinds of terrorists we’ve identified as potential nuclear plant attackers now have seized a huge area of both Syria and Iraq and call themselves Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). These terrorists were even too radical for al-Qaeda because of its “notorious intractability” and murderous brutality. Now with a “caliphate” at their disposal, rich with oil and awash in weapons, think that ISIL doesn’t pose a threat to places like, say, SONGS?

    Of course it does yet the terrorist threat against our nuclear plants is not emphasized at all in the new NAS report even though we exposed this huge risk nearly two years ago. That the NAS ignored this peril is shocking. But at least you, Patricia, get it and that’s very heartening.

  6. patricia borchmann says:

    This ENVIRO Report by Michael Collins is another MUST SEE public safety ALARM, especially for the more than 8.4 million within 50 miles of San Onofre (SONGS 2 & 3) in southern CALIFORNIA !!!

    Michael Collins’ work reflects the kind of foresight, and careful analysis, criticism, and doesn’t stop there. ENVIRO Report’s 4-part series ALSO CONTAINS A SOLUTION – PART 4 !!!

    People in so-called ‘So.CA.Paradise” really need to wake up, and get up to speed fast ! Enviro Reports are the easiest way to do that, and not be fooled by SCE/NRC propaganda, doled out in ‘unhealthy doses’ at regular CEP (Citizen Engagement Panel Meetings) in reactor impact communities in San Diego, Orange County, Riverside County, LA County, and far beyond !

    I can only WISH that our elected offcials in local government(s) would get on the stick,the microphone, the tv, radio, social media, and CATCH UP with Senators Boxer. Markey, and Sanders !!

    For the speed-reader’s condensed version (for Starbucks orphans, Starbucks parents, non-science believers), do us all a big favor and EXPOSE yourselves to REAL SCIENCE, REAL TRUTH !!

    Thanks to all contributors to Michael Collins’ Enviro Report! If possible share w/others you love !!

  7. @Chase: We entirely agree. Simple logic says blocking the highly contaminated groundwater will cause subsidence of the land, causing Unit 4’s spent fuel pool to collapse and then sayonara Japan. And you point the obvious out too: it has to operate nonstop forever. To answer your question “Is that safe?” the answer is NO.

    You can watch the archived podcast of the “NRC’s Implementation of the Fukushima Near-Term Task Force Recommendations and other Actions to Enhance and Maintain Nuclear Safety”

  8. Chase says:

    Regarding Senator Boxer’s short statement on the Fukushima ‘ice wall’. (Maybe slightly OT, but hopefully relevant.)

    I just want to say that, in my opinion, the ‘ice wall’ is a bad idea gone cuckoo loco.

    I think it’s a diversion from the truth about 3 ongoing out of control meltdowns and a delay tactic that somebody will make a lot of money on.

    When building the worlds largest underwater refrigerator freezer…

    ask:

    1. How much ‘energy’ will be needed to operate?
    2. It must operate nonstop for ‘how long’ without failure?
    3. What is the ‘cost’ of operating and maintaining it?
    4. How much freon or whatever will it take? Is that safe?
    5. …

    “DEEP FREEZE: Can Ice Prevent a Nuclear Disaster?”
    ;) (On the screen ‘scroll message at :35 seconds in.)

    ABC News Ice Wall Report Jun 3, 2014
    http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/japan-spend-300m-ice-wall-isolate-fukushima-water/story?id=20144627

  9. The following expert legal analysis was sent to EnviroReporter.com by Sen. Boxer’s staff:

    Chairman Boxer Releases Expert Legal Analysis on NRC’s Failure to Cooperate with Congressional Investigation on San Onofre
    Expert analysis makes clear that NRC’s refusal to release documents has no legal basis whatsoever

    Washington, DC – During an oversight hearing with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) today, U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, released a detailed expert legal analysis dismantling the NRC’s basis for refusing to provide the Committee with documents related to its ongoing investigation of how defective equipment was installed at the San Onofre nuclear plant. Senator Boxer requested the analysis from Morton Rosenberg, a renowned Constitutional scholar who worked as a specialist for over three decades in American public law with the American Law Division of the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service (CRS).

    Senator Boxer said: “I have repeatedly called on the NRC to stop obstructing Congressional oversight and provide the Committee with all the documents I have requested. The expert legal analysis I am releasing today makes clear that the NRC’s arguments are completely misguided and without any legal merit whatsoever.”

    Excerpts from the analysis are pasted below:

    “The NRC Chairman demonstrates a profound misunderstanding of the plenary nature of Congress’s investigatory power in the circumstances prevalent in the SONGS matter; misstates the authority of three cited cases dealing with the law on congressional intercession in agency decisionmaking; ignores the overwhelming contrary case law on the deliberative process privilege that is applicable in this situation; and shows a lack of awareness of over 90 years of congressional investigations in which agencies have been consistently obliged to provide documents and testimony regardless of whether a litigation or adjudication is pending or anticipated, or to explain why an enforcement action or investigation was or wasn’t taken, or whether the agency failure to provide requested information was for the purpose of obstructing a congressional inquiry, all in the face of agency claims of constitutional or common law privilege or policy.”

    “I conclude that your Committee has jurisdiction, and authority and grounds for the successful exercise of compulsory process should the withholding of the documents you seek from NRC continues.”

  10. The following opening statement at today’s hearing was sent to EnviroReporter.com by Sen. Boxer’s staff:

    Statement of Senator Barbara Boxer
    Oversight Hearing: “NRC’s Implementation of the Fukushima Near-Term Task Force Recommendations and other Actions to Enhance and Maintain Nuclear Safety”
    June 4, 2014
    (Remarks as prepared for delivery)

    Today, the Environment and Public Works Committee is holding its ninth oversight hearing with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) since the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdowns in Japan.

    It has been more than three years since the Fukushima disaster, and Japan is still struggling to clean up the site.

    The massive underground ice wall intended to prevent radioactive water from flowing into the sea will take a year to finish and cost more than $300 million.

    We must learn from the tragic events in Fukushima and take all necessary steps to ensure the safety of nuclear facilities in the United States. Today I am continuing to focus on whether the NRC has done that.

    It is vitally important that the NRC remain committed to its mission, which is “to ensure the safe use of radioactive materials for beneficial civilian purposes while protecting people and the environment.”

    Based on a review of the progress made since the Fukushima disaster and on what additional steps need to be taken by NRC to ensure the safety of the people and the environment, I am afraid that you may have lost sight of that mission.

    The Fukushima Near-Term Task Force, made up of NRC senior staff, recommended 12 measures to upgrade safety in the wake of the Fukushima meltdowns.

    In August 2011, the former NRC Chairman testified before our Committee that the NRC should be able to act on those recommendations within 90 days and that they could be implemented within 5 years.

    As of today, the NRC has failed to require reactor operators to complete implementation of a single one of these post-Fukushima safety measures. Some reactor operators are still not in compliance with the safety requirements that were in place BEFORE Fukushima. And the NRC has only completed its own action on 4 of the 12 Task Force recommendations.

    This is an unacceptable delay that puts the safety of the American people at risk.

    I also have serious concerns about the safety of spent nuclear fuel. NRC’s own studies show that the consequences of a fire at a spent nuclear fuel pool can be as serious as a severe accident at an operating reactor.

    Not only does NRC allow that fuel to be stored in the spent fuel pools indefinitely, NRC is considering requests from decommissioning reactor operators for exemptions from emergency response measures designed to protect nearby communities. While the Nuclear Energy Institute claimed in a letter sent to me yesterday that these exemptions are granted only when “special circumstances” exist at a facility, the truth is that NRC has never once denied one. It rubber-stamps them every single time a reactor shuts down. I have introduced three bills with Senators Markey and Sanders to increase the safety of spent nuclear fuel and improve the decommissioning process.

    These are not theoretical concerns. On the same day that this Committee held a hearing on this topic last month, an out-of-control wildfire was burning a half a mile away from the San Onofre nuclear plant.

    My concern about NRC’s commitment to identify and remedy safety problems is also highlighted by my investigation into the installation of defective equipment at San Onofre. For example, I learned that NRC staff was preparing to allow the re-start of one of the reactors before it had received a single answer to any of the technical safety questions it asked Southern California Edison to submit. This oversight investigation is important, not only to get to the bottom of the problems at San Onofre, but also to avoid disastrous problems like this in the future. I am also concerned that whistleblowers at NRC feel they have no recourse but to contact Congress to report safety problems, because NRC’s internal procedures for addressing these concerns are broken.

    Remarkably, NRC is continuing to obstruct my investigation by withholding documents that the Committee has a right to receive. Let me be clear — the NRC has no legal right whatsoever to refuse to provide the Committee with these documents, and today I will make available a comprehensive analysis of this conclusion.

    In order for the nuclear industry to maintain the confidence of the American people at a time when it is increasingly challenged by safety and economic concerns, the agency charged with regulating the nuclear industry must always make public safety its number one priority. NRC’s recent track record does not inspire confidence.

    I look forward to discussing these issues with you at today’s hearing.

  11. This is must-see government in inaction. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) is expected to call the NRC to task at this hearing [which will be archived on podcast as well as streaming live]. The NRC, even with everything we know about the triple meltdown at Fukushima, even with what we exposed in Black Swan SONGS, chooses to bury its head in the sand about nuclear reactor and spent fuel pools safety. The consequences, as we have shown, will be catastrophic if this policy of ineptitude and denial is continued. This is the press release, sans contact numbers, that Sen. Boxer’s folks sent us:

    Please note that tomorrow’s hearing will start at 9:30 am ET

    ****MEDIA ADVISORY****

    U.S. Senate Committee on
    Environment and Public Works

    *Full Committee Hearing*

    “NRC’s Implementation of the Fukushima Near-Term Task Force Recommendations and other Actions to Enhance and Maintain Nuclear Safety”

    Transmitted June 3, 2014 Contact: ***

    ****MEDIA ADVISORY****

    U.S. Senate Committee on
    Environment and Public Works

    *Full Committee Hearing*

    “NRC’s Implementation of the Fukushima Near-Term Task Force Recommendations and other Actions to Enhance and Maintain Nuclear Safety”

    BACKGROUND: Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Committee on Environment and Public Works, will convene a hearing with all of the Nuclear Regulatory Commissioners to examine the Commission’s progress on implementing the Fukushima Near-Term Task Force recommendations and other safeguards related to nuclear facilities.

    WHEN: WEDNESDAY, JUNE 4, 2014
    9:30 AM ET

    LOCATION: EPW Hearing Room
    406 Dirksen Senate Office Building
    Washington, DC

    WEBCAST: Webcast will be available at http://www.epw.senate.gov starting at 9:30 AM ET

    WITNESSES: (Order subject to change)

    Panel I:

    The Honorable Allison M. Macfarlane, Chairman, Nuclear Regulatory Commission

    The Honorable Kristine L. Svinicki, Commissioner, Nuclear Regulatory Commission

    The Honorable George Apostolakis, Commissioner, Nuclear Regulatory Commission

    The Honorable William D. Magwood, IV, Commissioner, Nuclear Regulatory Commission

    The Honorable William C. Ostendorff, Commissioner, Nuclear Regulatory Commission

  12. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission “will hold an open house on Thursday, May 29, to discuss the agency’s annual review of safety performance at the Peach Bottom nuclear power plant. Exelon Generation Co. LLC operates the twin-reactor plant, which is located in Delta (York County), Pa.
    “The open house is scheduled for 5:30-7 p.m. at the Peach Bottom Inn, at 6085 Delta Road in Delta. During the session, members of the public will have an opportunity to hold one-on-one discussions with NRC staff regarding the plant’s performance in 2013, as well as the agency’s oversight plans for the facility this year. The NRC Resident Inspectors assigned to the plant on a full-time basis, as well as their supervisor, will be on hand.”

    Even in light of the startling revelations EnviroReporter.com exposed in this expose, the 2013 NRC report paints a rosy picture of Peach Bottom plant security, which in and of itself is not surprising considering the “captured” agency’s sorry record. What stood out for us was this sentence: “In 2013, the NRC devoted approximately 6,485 hours of inspection at Peach Bottom.” [our emphasis]

    Thousands and thousands of hours of inspection and not one of them devoted to reading “Stopping SONGS’ Black Swan,” and not one of them looking outside of the plant’s perimeter to evaluate the woeful security of the site from threats from the river and adjacent bank. NRC Keystone Cops will not get the job done in the Keystone State.

  13. http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-grid-attack-20140211,0,7627269.story#axzz2t20h4AYf

    The recent LA Times story about the military style attack on the Santa Clara PG&E substation last year confirms the worst. There are some completely nutty people out there with very bad intentions, and the will to carry out those intentions. Notice too that this is now “news” although it happened last April 2013. Mainstream media informs us well after something bad happens. (Why is that anyway?). Michael Collins thinks ahead and warns what might happen at nuclear power stations like San Onofre. Let’s hope those warnings reach the right people so that catastrophe can be avoided. Thank you Michael for getting it right. This isn’t something to just hope and pray that never happens. It can happen, it has happened. Now let’s make sure it doesn’t get any worse by happening at San Onofre.

  14. From the Nuclear Regulatory Commission:

    Greetings,

    The public comment period on the Waste Confidence Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement (DGEIS) and proposed rule closes this Friday, December 20, 2013, at 11:59 p.m. To ensure your comments are considered in the NRC’s preparation of the final DGEIS and rule, comments must be received or postmarked by December 20. Comments received after the close of the comment period will be considered if it is practical to do so.

    E-mail comments to: Rulemaking.Comments@nrc.gov, citing Docket ID No. NRC–2012–0246

    Submit comments online at: http://www.regulations.gov using Docket ID No. NRC–2012–0246

    Mail comments to:

    Secretary
    U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
    Washington, DC 20555-0001
    ATTN: Rulemakings and Adjudications Staff

    Fax comments to:

    Secretary
    U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
    301-415-1101, citing Docket ID No. NRC–2012–0246

    Links to the Waste Confidence DGEIS and proposed rule can be found on the right-hand side of the Waste Confidence website: http://www.nrc.gov/waste/spent-fuel-storage/wcd.html.
    Transcripts and meeting summaries for the 13 public meetings on the Waste Confidence DGEIS and proposed rule can be found on the Waste Confidence Public Involvement website: http://www.nrc.gov/waste/spent-fuel-storage/wcd/pub-involve.html#schedule.

    Thank you,

    Staff of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission
    Waste Confidence Directorate

  15. Our fearless leaders on the San Clemente City Council will hopefully take a stand for public safety once again. At their last meeting they unanimously agreed to put the matter of nuclear waste at San Onofre on the agenda for Tuesday, 12/17, (see below for details). They will be voting on a Resolution drafted by city staff addressing concerns about a Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which concludes that it would be safe to store nuclear waste on site for hundreds of years or indefinitely in the event that a permanent repository does not become available. Although the city’s position statement is not yet available on line, we’ll keep you posted when it is.

    Here is our position statement:

    Although no viable long term solutions are currently available, we insist on the immediate transfer of highly radioactive fuel rods which have sufficiently cooled in the vulnerable pools into more secure, hardened on site, dry cask storage. This process should be accelerated in anticipation of California’s next big earthquake.

    Making matters far worse, years ago the NRC quietly approved burning the fuel in the reactors longer, resulting in “high burnup” waste, which turns out may not actually be safe for storage or transport. High burnup fuel, and it’s excessive thermal and radioactive heat accelerating the degradation of dry cask storage containers, has not been adequately addressed in the GEIS.

    While the NRC has licensed the storage of “normal” radioactive fuel for up to 50 years, they can’t endorse the storage of high burnup fuel for even 20 years. It is urgent for the NRC to look into best practices for each specific site and not try to apply a convenient and unscientific solution to all nuclear power plants. Realistic options must be explored and implemented before time runs out. We strongly object to the seemingly arbitrary change in the NRC policy stating that it will now be okay to leave the nuclear waste where it is, for however long it takes the federal government to create a permanent waste site. That is simply unacceptable.

    Here are two things you can do:

    Mark your calendars and plan to attend the City Council meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 17th at the City Hall, 100 Avenida Presidio (map).

    Here’s the schedule for all events at City Hall that evening:

    Press conference at 4:30 (to make the evening news) outside chambers.

    Social gathering/rally begins outside chambers at 5:00, with hot drinks and holiday treats.

    Meeting starts at 6:00 pm. We are last on the agenda, but if a lot of people show up, there is a good chance they will take this matter first. You are welcome to make comments but we encourage you to be brief and not too repetitive for the sake of people there for other topics.
    Just showing up says a lot!

    If not within driving range, watch the meeting LIVE from anywhere you can get the internet at http://live.san-clemente.org/

    *Special guest speaker to attend. For 26 years he managed production of dry cask storage at San Onofre and now says, “We’ve got to get this waste the hell out of here!”

    File a complaint directly to the NRC at this link.

    This is urgent because the period for comments closes on 12/20 (although we are seeking an extension). When you do, please send a copy of your comment to gary@sanclementegreen.org so we can also distribute them to political leaders who can bring pressure to bear on the NRC.

    FYI – The NRC was forced to take comments on this matter because of a court order:

    On June 8, 2012, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit found that some aspects of the 2010 rulemaking did not satisfy the NRC’s NEPA obligations and vacated the rulemaking. [New York v. NRC, 681 F.3d 471 (D.C. Cir. 2012)]. The court indicated that in making either a Finding Of No Significant Impact based on an Environmental Assessment or in an Environmental Impact Statement supporting the rulemaking, the Commission needed to add additional discussions concerning the impacts of failing to secure permanent disposal for spent nuclear fuel, and concerning the impacts of certain aspects of potential spent fuel pool leaks and spent fuel pool fires.

    Looking forward to seeing you on the 17th
    Please encourage others to attend and send comments to the NRC

    San Clemente Green
    San Onofre Safety (SOS)

  16. @Donna Gilmore: Should high burnup fuel make San Onofre’s spent fuel rods impossible to move safely to the other side of the San Diego Freeway to stop terrorist, earthquake and tsunami dangers, it makes this investigation’s security recommendations even more urgent. Folks like yourself shouldn’t have to live under a preventable threat now that the evidence of the peril has been exposed by EnviroReporter.com along with detailed security solutions.

  17. San Onofre used high burnup fuel which must cool in the spent fuel pools for up to a minimum 20 years. Also, the NRC has yet to approve dry cask storage for high burnup fuel for more than 20 years. And they have not approved transport casks for this fuel. It’s more than twice as radioactive and over twice as hot as lower burnup fuel. Studies have shown the protective Zirconium cladding is becoming brittle and subject to shattering. This can release radiation in to the environment. See details and sources at http://sanonofresafety.org/nuclear-waste/

    Originally, everyone was told high burnup fuel is the same as lower burnup fuel after it cools a few years longer in the pools. This is not true, but many experts do not have current information about this fuel. The new generation nuke plants also use high burnup fuel.

  18. Even with the avalanche of information exposed in this series by EnviroReporter.com, the Nuclear Regulatory Agency has rejected expedited removal of spent fuel rods from its vulnerable spent fuel pools as the National Journal reports (http://www.nti.org/gsn/article/nrc-staff-rejects-concerns-about-nuclear-reactor-vulnerability-terrorism/).

    From the article:

    In a memo made public on Monday, NRC staff concludes, however, “that the expedited transfer of spent fuel to dry cask storage would provide only a minor or limited safety benefit … and that its expected implementation costs would not be warranted.”

    The Nov. 12 document recommends “that additional studies and further regulatory analyses of this issue not be pursued,” and that the issue — one of several that the commission is reviewing in light of the Fukushima disaster in Japan — “be closed.”

    As our series shows, the threat is monumental and must be addressed aggressively, especially at San Onofre. A corrupted government agency and weak-kneed anti-nuker groups don’t seem up to the task, however. The American people can now only hope that potential terrorists are as incompetent and inneffective.

  19. I believe the decommissioning of SONGS presents a significant risk to the Southern California Region. Many hazards could produce a black swan event at SONGS or other nuclear plants such as Peach Bottom. Michael Collins has highlighted one of those risks, and prudent precautions over the short to medium term would greatly reduce that specific threat. I agree with the call to increase security and create additional physical barriers to reduce this type of threat. It remains to be seen if governmental bodies will take appropriate action. Thank you, Michael, for writing this article and calling this situation to everyone’s attention.

  20. Fivos says:

    Incredible. Drove by SONGS today on way to Carlsbad. I could see the Spent fuel pools unprotected just yards from the freeway. Line of sight. There is no doubt a Timothy Mcveigh like malcontent type is out there. That stretch of freeway needs a 30 ‘ reinforced wall immediately.

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