U.S. NRC Blog

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REFRESH — Astounding and (Perhaps) Little Known Facts about the NRC and Radioactive Materials

Brenda Akstulewicz
Regulatory Information Conference Assistant

refresh leafNuclear and radiation-related trivia is anything but trivial. It can be unexpectedly interesting – and you may find some of it surprising. This is a REFRESH of some little known “factoids” compiled from folks throughout the NRC.

* In the 1930s, a failed experiment by a Swiss physicist for detecting gas using a radioactive source led to the discovery of smoke detectors when the scientist lit a cigarette and the detector registered a reaction. The NRC approved 70 different smoke detector designs in 2012.

* It is estimated if only one NRC technical reviewer did each design certification application review, it would take 32 years to complete the review.

astronaut2* Some lightning rods contain Radium-226 to make them more effective.

* The NRC’s first Chairman, Bill Anders, was an astronaut on Apollo 8’s mission to the moon.

* NRC Inspectors from Region IV get a lot of frequent flier miles. They review activities in remote locations such as Guam, Saipan and the northern reaches of Alaska, among other locations.

* The NRC was the first federal agency to give the public electronic access to all of its public documents through the groundbreaking system known as ADAMS (Agencywide Documents Access and Management System).

* The final safety evaluation report for the ESBWR design certification document contains about 3,800 pages.

vet* The fastest growing use of nuclear materials in medicine is for diagnostic and cancer treatment procedures in veterinary medicine.

* The indicator lights in early appliances ─ such as clothes washers and dryers, coffeemakers, and stereos ─ used Krypton–85, a radioactive isotope.

* The NRC performs classified reviews of new Naval Reactor submarine and aircraft carrier reactor plants and provides advice to the Navy on the designs. This practice was initiated by President Kennedy in the 1960s.

* Three women have held the title of Chairman — Allison Macfarlane, Shirley Jackson and Greta Dicus.

* In 1992 Hurricane Andrew struck the Turkey Point nuclear power plant in Southern Florida, which prompted the NRC and FEMA to enter into a “Memorandum of Understanding” regarding emergency preparedness.

checklist* NRC’s longest serving commissioner was Commissioner Edward McGaffigan. He served 11 years (from 1996-2007) after appointments twice by President Clinton and once by President Bush. He died while still serving on the Commission.

* On average, NRC expends 6,160 hours of inspection effort at each operating reactor site each year.

This post originally ran in Summer 2013.

The Freedom to Demonstrate Demonstrated in Crow Butte Hearing

Victor Dricks
Senior Public Affairs Officer
Region IV

Demonstrators voice their opinion ahead of an Atomic Safety and Licensing Board hearing.

Demonstrators voice their opinion ahead of an Atomic Safety and Licensing Board hearing.

Both opponents and supporters of the Crow Butte Resources, Inc.’s uranium recovery facility near Crawford, Neb., faced off this week during a hearing before the Atomic Safety & Licensing Board. The hearing, presided over by three ASLB judges, involves a challenge to the renewed license issued to the facility in late-2014.

The ASLB is an independent body within the NRC that conducts adjudicatory hearings and renders decisions on legal challenges to licensing actions.

The ASLB judges are hearing evidence this week addressing nine contentions filed by opponents of the facility from several local residents and the Western Nebraska Resources Council, known as consolidated interveners, and the Oglala Sioux Tribe. The hearing is being held in the Crawford Community Center.

Four of the contentions are related to the safety review and five are related to the environmental review. The contentions challenge the adequacy of the evaluation and protection of historical resources at the site, and the NRC’s analysis of the facility’s impacts on surface water, groundwater and the ecosystem. The hearing will run until all evidence has been heard.

In filings with the ASLB, the Oglala Sioux Tribe said it will argue that NRC failed to adequately follow all legally required processes before issuing a 10-year license extension for the facility, causing the tribe “irreparable harm,” as a result.

Iris Paris of Crawford, Nebraska, greets ASLB judges for their hearing today.

Iris Paris of Crawford, Nebraska, greets ASLB judges for their hearing today.

Expert witnesses scheduled to speak on behalf of the interveners include Dennis Yellow Thunder and Michael Catches Enemy of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, as well as an archaeologist, a biochemist and three hydrologists.

The ASLB hearings come just weeks after a documentary film titled “Crying Earth Rise Up” produced by Lakota grandmother Debra White Plume premiered here in Crawford. The 57-minute film presents a case against uranium mining.

Owned by the Canadian Cameco Corp., Crow Butte Resources has been conducting in situ recovery of uranium for nuclear power plants at its site four miles east of Crawford for 20 years. Cameco is the largest operator of uranium mines in the United States. The company has submitted applications for three uranium recovery site expansion projects, which are in various phases of NRC review.

The ASLB has 90 days after the conclusion of next week’s hearing to affirm, modify or reverse its decision to renew the operating license for Crow Butte.

On the Wild Side at U.S. Nuclear Power Plants

Neil Sheehan
Public Affairs Officer
Region I

Examples abound of the ways in which nature abhors a vacuum. Raptors will set up shop on a skyscraper ledge, just as they will on a cliff, if it suits their needs. Coyotes have been increasingly spotted in urban settings, even roaming about the streets of Manhattan. Last year, surveillance cameras captured images of a mountain lion strolling the Hollywood Hills after dark.

This falcon is resting on equipment at the TMI nuclear power plant site. Photo courtesy of TMI

This falcon is resting on equipment at the TMI nuclear power plant site. Photo courtesy of TMI

Nuclear power plants are also home to a variety of wildlife. Despite the industrial nature of these facilities, they are usually situated on large tracts of land encompassing hundreds of acres. They are also adjacent to bodies of water in order to tap into that H20 for cooling purposes.

All of that property and access to water can entice a variety of animals and birds to take up residence on the sites. And they do just that.

Information supporting this can be found in the Post-Shutdown Decommissioning Activities Reports (PSDARs) for U.S. nuclear power plants that have ceased operations.

In the report for the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, which was submitted to the NRC in December 2014, it’s noted that the main emissions stack includes an attached nesting box for peregrine falcons. The box was installed by the company in 2009 at the request of the Audubon Society.

It’s been a rousing success, as according to the report “there have been two consecutive years of four young born and successfully fledged since 2012.”

Current decommissioning plans call for the Vernon, Vt., plant to be placed in storage for several decades prior to the initiation of major dismantlement work. However, when the time comes to remove the stack, the plant’s owner will need to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service prior to removing the nesting box since the peregrine falcon is protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Peregrine falcons can also be found at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant, in central Pennsylvania. The PSDAR for TMI-2, where a severe accident occurred in 1979 and which won’t be taken apart until the neighboring TMI-1 permanently shuts down and is also ready for that work, shows peregrine falcons have nested on the TMI reactor building since 2002.

An osprey can be seen in flight at a nuclear power plant site.

An osprey can be seen in flight at a nuclear power plant site.

Meanwhile, the plant’s meteorological tower, which collects important weather data, has been home to an osprey nest every year since 2004. Ospreys, also referred to as fish hawks (with a wing span from around 5 feet), like to be around water, so it’s not surprising that TMI, situated on the Susquehanna River, is a place they call home.

A variety of wildlife can be found in the vicinity of the Crystal River 3 nuclear power plant, located on the Gulf Coast of Florida. That plant’s PSDAR, which the NRC received in December 2013, identifies the following threatened or endangered species in the vicinity of the site: Two species of fish — Gulf sturgeon and smalltooth sawfish; five species of sea turtles — green turtle, hawksbill, Kemp’s ridley, leatherback and loggerhead; one crocodilian species — American alligator; and one marine mammal — Florida manatee.

But on the site itself, only one state-listed threatened species, the bald eagle, and one state-listed endangered species, the wood stork, are found, according to the report. The PSDAR adds that three other species can “potentially occur” on the property: the gopher tortoise, the eastern indigo snake and the piping plover.

In the case of all of these plants and the others around the country, precautions must be taken to minimize the impacts of operations and decommissioning activities on these species and their habitats, consistent with federal and state laws.

Throwback Thursday – RTR Gets a Presidential Viewing

RTR1020bPresident Dwight Eisenhower tours the Oak Ridge National Lab’s “swimming pool” research reactor, flown from the U.S. to Geneva for the United Nations International Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy. This concept soon became a model for numerous research reactors around the world. Now check your history books. What year was this?

A Road Trip through the NRC Website

Ivonne Couret
Public Affairs Officer

homepageIt’s summer, so you’re probably going on a road trip somewhere. While perhaps not as interesting as a jaunt to Yosemite or Niagara Falls, a “road trip” through the NRC website won’t involve a lot of bickering in the back seat or repeated stops at gas station rest rooms. So here we go.

First stop is the subject area tabs — NUCLEAR REACTORS, NUCLEAR MATERIALS, RADIOACTIVE WASTE, NUCLEAR SECURITY and SAFEGUARDS, PUBLIC MEETINGS and INVOLVEMENT, NRC LIBRARY, and ABOUT NRC. This is where you will find the links to web pages for more information on NRC programs and current regulatory activities. These subject area tabs aim to be a source of general information organized by topic in an accessible fashion.

Second stop is the FACILITY LOCATOR. This is where you can find facilities near you by NRC region, or state, including operating power reactors, nuclear material facilities, research and test reactor sites, major nuclear fuel facilities licensed by the NRC, as well as all kinds of sites undergoing decommissioning. These locations are listed by state or by site name.

Third stop is the link to ADAMS, the Agencywide Documents Access and Management System, the official recordkeeping system. This is where you can access our online libraries or collections of publicly available documents. Here you can also find agency correspondence to Congress or plant reports.

Fourth stop is the PUBLIC MEETING CALENDAR. This page allows you to search both currently scheduled meetings and previously held meetings dating back to October 1, 2003.For example, if you want to see a list of meetings for the next month in your state, enter a start date and an end date and select your state from the drop down list. You can also find copies of past presentations and agendas.

Fifth stop is the COMMISSION MEETING WEBCASTS. This page allows you to view live or archived Commission meeting webcasts, or other NRC meeting webcasts hosted on the NRC webcast portal. So here you can watch meetings and participate virtually in the regulatory process from the convenience of your computer.

The final stop is a special overlooked spot –the WHAT’S NEW section. Here you can find direct links to recent regulatory documents posted on our website. You can find them listed by the date added to the site in chronological order and as well as past month and year, such as the April 24, 2015, posting of  NUREG/BR-0523 Mitigating Strategies: Safely Responding to Extreme Events.

There is still so much more to discover. Try using the upgraded search tool to find other areas. And we’re updating the Student Corner section soon, so stay tuned. We hope you, enjoy both your real summer road trip and your trip through the NRC website Thanks for visiting!

 

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