NRC Commissioners Briefed on Near-Term Report

NRC CommissionersThe NRC Commissioners today were briefed by the near-term task force that had been appointed to look at immediate lessons learned from the Japan nuclear emergency in March. Upfront, the task force told the Commissioners:

• A similar sequence of events in the U.S. is unlikely;

• Existing emergency measures could reduce the likelihood of core damage and release of radioactive materials; and

• There is no imminent risk from continued operation and licensing activities.

But the task force is recommending a variety of changes to NRC procedures, regulations and policies, including a review of the agency’s “defense-in-depth” philosophy, which refers to multiple layers of protection within and around a nuclear power facility. The task force specifically cited the need for a focus on preparing for natural disasters and long-term loss of all A/C electricity at a plant.

The task force also recommended strengthening emergency response capabilities.

The recommendations need Commission approval to move forward. Chairman Jaczko urged his fellow commissioners to review and act up on the report’s recommendations within the same 90-day time frame given the task force to generate the report.

The task force has scheduled a follow-up meeting on July 28th to discuss the report’s findings and recommendations with the public, the industry and other interested groups. More information will be available on that meeting here: http://www.nrc.gov/public-involve/public-meetings/index.cfm.

A video archive of today’s meeting is available here: http://video.nrc.gov// .

The slides from today’s meeting are here: http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/commission/tr/2011/ .

The entire task force report is available here: http://pbadupws.nrc.gov/docs/ML1118/ML111861807.pdf.

Eliot Brenner
Public Affairs Director

Author: Moderator

Public Affairs Officer for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

22 thoughts on “NRC Commissioners Briefed on Near-Term Report”

  1. I live close to a nuclear plant and think that all the testing is important but the energy itself is safe. It gives more energy then say coal and in that sense is better for the environment. I am hoping that is something the commission reviews. Thank you.

  2. You (Moderator) stated, “Due to the very short timeframe provided for completing its review and report, the task force did not seek independent review of its recommendations from stakeholders, including the ACRS, NRC staff, industry or public.”

    However, Chairman Jaczko’s Tasking Memorandum – COMGBJ-11-0002 – NRC Actions Following the Events in Japan, dated March 23, 2011, states the following for Near-Term Review: “The task force efforts should be informed by some stakeholder input but should be independent of industry efforts.”

    Why did the Task Force not seek some stakeholder input from the NRC staff and ACRS in accordance with the Chairman’s Tasking Memorandum?

    From March 23, 2011, to June 23, 2011, the ACRS held three full committee meetings and 20 subcommittee meetings. Matter of fact, the ACRS held a subcommittee meeting on Fukushima on May 26, 2011. NEI, DOE, and public interests groups gave presentations; however, the NRC staff did not give a presentation. Why not? How can you say that there was not sufficient time for the task force to meet with the ACRS before the final recommendations when the ACRS meet 23 times? In addition, Commissioner Apostolakis’ vote sheet for the Chairman’s Tasking Memorandum requested in the Long-Term Review section the following change, “The report should be provided to ACRS for review prior to being submitted to the Commission.” However, it seems for political reasons that this request was changed to “The ACRS should review the report as issued in its final form and provide a letter report to the Commission.”

    It seems to me that the Task Force was advising or making recommendations to the Commission like ACRS; however, the Task Force was not formed in accordance with the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA). When I read the applicability of FACA, it seems to me that FACA applied to the Task Force. Why did you think FACA did not apply to the Task Force?

    On June 6, 2011, the NRC Inspector General issued a Report regarding Yucca Mountain (OIG Case No. 11-05). OIG Case No. 11-05 stated, “He [Chairman Jaczko] acknowledged using forceful management techniques to accomplish his objectives but maintained that these techniques were necessary to facilitate the work of the Commission.” OIG Case No. 11-05 went on to state, “Several current and former Commission staff members said the Chairman’s behavior caused an intimidating work environment. A former Chairman told OIG that the Chairman often yelled at people and his tactics had a negative effect on people. He described the behavior as ruling by intimidation.” Still further, OIG Case No. 11-05 stated, “Chairman Jaczko acknowledged that he sometime loses his temper.” The Report went on to say, “He [Chairman Jaczko] concluded that his behavior created an environment sometimes in which it is difficult for people to work with him, and he regretted that.” OIG Case No. 11-05 found that “OIG determined that the Chairman controls information provided to the other Commissioners based on his interpretation of his statutory authority as Chairman versus the authority given to the Commission.”

    Based on OIG Case No. 11-05, it seems to me that Chairman Jaczko and/or Chairman Jaczko’s staff would use “forceful management techniques” to get his views into the Task Force Report especially since “Chairman Jaczko told OIG that as the Chairman of the agency he is responsible for managing the agency’s workload and workflow, and in that respect he has overall management authority of the staff.”

    Since Chairman Jaczko believes he has overall management authority of the staff, it seems to me that this would extend to the Task Force since the Task Force members are staff. So, besides formal Commission meetings, did Chairman Jaczko and/or Chairman Jaczko’s staff have any interactions with any Task Force members from March 23, 2011, to July 12, 2011? Any formal meetings? Any non-public meetings? Any informal meetings? Any informal discussions in the hallway, elevator, or cafeteria? Any phone conversations? Any voice mails? Any conference calls? Any video conferences? Any text messages? Any tweets? Any social media interactions? Any faxes? Any hand-written notes? Any memos? Any other digital, electronic, or paper media?

  3. Due to the very short timeframe provided for completing its review and report, the task force did not seek independent review of its recommendations from stakeholders, including the ACRS, NRC staff, industry or public. In the Commission memorandum directing the formation of the task force, the Commission specifically directed “The ACRS should review the report as issued in its final form and provide a letter report to the Commission.” The task force is scheduled to brief the ACRS on August 16th.

    The task force made its recommendations and drafted its report independent of the chairman and the four commissioners.

  4. How come the ACRS was not involved with reviewing the recommendations from the Near-Term Task Force Report before it was issued? Providing the ACRS with an information brief after the report is released is not the same as having the ACRS write a letter report. ACRS is a diverse panel of independent experts that advise the Commission. What better group is there to review the Fukushima Dai-Ichi Accident and make recommendations to the Commission? Was the ACRS delibrately cut out of the process before the Task Force Report was released?

    Also, you did not respond to my question. Did Chairman Jackzo or Chairman Jaczko’s staff lobby the task force regarding any of the recommendations?

  5. I remember bits and pieces of an accident study from many years ago. A man fell from a wooden ladder and injured his back because one of the rungs popped out when he stepped on it. The investigation revealed that the rung was positioned over knots in the wood. The study identified over 30 factors that contributed to the accident. The rails were cut from the same piece of wood making the knots (and knot holes) the same size, the knots ended up on the same side of the ladder on the same rung, the ladder was leaned against the wall with the knots pointing down (so they could pop out), the knots were the same size as the rung, and so forth. If any ONE of these factors had been absent, the accident would not have occurred.

    The lesson is that accidents depend on a very unlikely chain of events occurring. The longer the chain, and the lower the probability of each event, the less likely for the accident to occur. That is why they are called accidents! But the possibility is still there. Accidents WILL still happen, and the results can be catastrophic with a 1000 megawatt nuclear reactor. The same is true of overstuffed, relatively unprotected cooling ponds.

    I am not convinced that nuclear power plants are nearly as safe as we have been led to believe. Additionally, highly reliable systems tend to breed complacency. And if any of those safety systems are run by something as flakey as software, we are in real trouble!

  6. While I may not be as smart as someone at the NRC, I am forced to question why you think the vents at your plants will enable your plants to survive when the plants in Japan HAD HARDENED VENTS AS WELL AND FAILED TO STOP A MELT DOWN AND MASSIVE RADIATION RELEASE!

    http://www.gereports.com/venting-systems-in-mark-i-reactors/
    http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/2011/0520/Nuclear-power-safety-Latest-on-Japan-crisis-fuels-new-concern-in-US

    Now I’m sure you will say “but our vents are different” the GE report that I site says that all the vents are plant specific, so this statement would be technically true, but inherently dishonest. I assume that these “hardened” vents are intended to serve a purpose, namely to prevent a containment breach and massive radiation release, so do you have a documented case where they have served this purpose?

    I’m sorry if my ramblings have confused you. I know I am not as smart as a NRC regulator, so I will attempt to stream line my questions.

    1. Hardened vent systems were in place at the three GEBWR MK1s that lost power for a short time in Japan. Can you tell me out of the three times this design was tested with the harden vent system, how many times was a meltdown and massive radiation release averted?
    2. While I’m sure you will employee some verbal gymnastics to avoid directly answering question number one, in the unlikely event that you answer directly, what makes you believe that the vents in the US will do anymore good that those in Japan?

    The GE MK1 has been a flawed design from the beginning, GE knows it, and the NRC knows it. I believe the NRC avoids addressing the risks of these plants to assure high level regulators lucrative employment with the nuclear utilities when they leave the NRC. I can live with this conclusion much better than I can with the alternative, which is that the nrc actually believes these plants are safe.

    After seeing the NRC approach to regulation and risk assessment I would recommend everyone start practicing their Spanish, it’s only a matter of time before we are living with our South American neighbors for the next 10,000 years while North America decontaminates

  7. I think the best example of “greed and denial” is about the processing of nuclear waste. We have know for decades how to get rid of the stuff:

    “Radioactive isotope decay rate or half-life can be increased or decreased as needed to deactivate radioactivity or to increase shelf life of radioactive isotopes. Currently many investigators/experimenters have reported half-life anomalies and have demonstrated repeatability of the various processes. The deactivation/neutralization of radioactivity in isotopes by the several demonstrated processes clearly suggest the possibility of full scale processing of radioactive nuclear materials to deactivate radioactive nuclear materials.”

    “In 1964 we thought and believed that radioactivity in nuclear waste would soon be history on planet earth. As history has proven us wrong, we now know and understand that there is a fortune, billions yearly, to be made by saving every scrap of radioactive nuclear waste and trying to bury it in Yucca Mountain and in cleaning up spills, leaks, and escaping radioactive particles from decaying containment schemes. We were just looking at the wrong goal post. No one receiving the funds has any interest in eliminating radioactivity in nuclear waste. Nuclear Half-Life Modification Technology could reduce the cost to a fraction of the cost that is experienced today. “ ( “Radioactivity Deactivation at High Temperature in an Applied DC Voltage Field Demonstrated in 1964”. Larry Geer & Cecil Baumgartner, http://www.gdr.org/nuclear_half.htm )

    There are more technical details (and methods) in my article “Adventures in Energy Destruction” at http://scripturalphysics.org/qm/adven.html

    The real problem is clearly political, not technical. If nuclear power plant operators were required to destroy their nuclear waste on site, or even before it was removed from the reactor, they would find a way to do it.

  8. I would not say that the ONE viable alternative is NEW nuclear plants. Other technologies are rapidly becoming cost competitive with nuclear power. One example is solar power:

    RSi’s ChemArc Process has greatly reduced the cost of photovoltaic silicon.
    http://www.engineeringtv.com/video/The-Chemistry-of-RSis-ChemArc-P

    And relevant advances are being made in storage of electrical power:
    “Utilization of poly(ethylene terephthalate) plastic and composition-modified barium titanate powders in a matrix that allows polarization and the use of integrated-circuit technologies for the production of lightweight ultrahigh electrical energy storage units (EESU)” http://www.freepatentsonline.com/7466536.html  , http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EEStor

    “This paper reports the successful creation of a new ultracapacitor structure that offers a capacitance density on the order of 100 to 200 Farads per cubic centimeter; versus the current state of the art capacitance density of 1 F/cm3. ” (“New mega-farad ultracapacitors”, Bakhoum, E., 2009,  http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/xpl/freeabs_all.jsp?arnumber=4775259

    “We report the observation of extremely high dielectric permittivity exceeding 10^9 and magnetocapacitance of the order of 10^4% in La0.875Sr0.125MnO3 single crystal.” (“Giant dielectric permittivity and magnetocapacitance in La0.875Sr0.125MnO3 single crystals”, R. F. Mamin, T. Egami, Z. Marton, and S. A. Migachev, 29 March 2007; DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevB.75.115129 ; PACS numbers: 77.22.d,

    In the last citation, a dielectric permitivity of over a BILLION (one thousand million) is simply astounding, and would also be useful in antigravity research. (http://scripturalphysics.org/4v4a/ADVPROP.html#Biefeld-BrownEffect )

    Old battery charging technology is being pulled out of the closet too. One implementation uses an AC electropolishing technique to increase the charge/discharge cycling life times of ordinary batterys by a factor of 20 to 30 times the usual.
    http://pages.ripco.net/~marnow/uk/NASA_Vargo_Start.html
    http://www.freepatentsonline.com/2752550.pdf

    This is just ONE example in ONE industry. There are many others, and some are astonishing–real “poop-a-brick” developments!

    America’s nuclear future is headed to the trash bin. Unfortunately, there will still be plenty of nuclear waste leftover. But there are simple, safe, inexpensive ways to get rid of that too. http://scripturalphysics.org/qm/adven.html

  9. Glad there wasn’t a knee jerk reaction to shut down everything nuclear. If you want clean fuel, it is really the only choice right now. WInd, solar, magnetic, etc. just don’t do enough. If we are trying to get away from fossil fuels, then we can’t get rid of the one viable alternative too…

  10. PR gobbledygook cannot not hide the fact that a catastrophic natural event
    CAN happen at any time at a US nuclear plant – that it is not impossible – and hiding
    the collective NRC head in the sand by saying there are no “immediate safety
    issues” will not make that fact go away. The time to make safety upgrades to the regulatory process is NOW as Chairman Jazcko recommended in his comments on fixing adequate protection.

  11. The task force recommended that the Commission redefine the level of protection that is considered adequate for low likelihood, high consequence events so that protection is required for events similar to the Fukushima accident. Given the low likelihood of such events, and the existing mitigation measures, the task force did not identify any immediate safety issues.

    However, several near-term actions were identified by the task force to enhance safety. The task force recommended that these actions be implemented through orders, since the use of orders is an appropriate regulatory mechanism for a time frame of requiring action within a few months or a few years. The task force also recommended rulemaking for other actions desired in the time frame of two to six years.

    In addition, the task force concluded that the current regulatory requirements and reactor oversight program continue to serve as an appropriate basis for the reasonable assurance of adequate protection of public health and safety until the decisions on the task force’s recommendations are considered by the Commission and resulting actions as appropriate are implemented. The recommendation for the issuance of Orders to initiate enhancement or improvement of existing safety is not contradictory to the view that there is reasonable assurance that a nuclear plant can continue to operate safely until the proposed activities are reviewed or completed.

    The Near-Term Task Force is briefing the ACRS subcommittee on its final report on August 16, 2011, and the ACRS full committee will meet to discuss the task force report in September 2011.

  12. Mark I BWR containments and the hardened vent systems meet NRC requirements and the agency continues to conclude they will perform their designed functions to prevent, and if necessary, mitigate any accidents.

  13. Mark my words. Nothing will happen until something drastic happen. as Nancy said , It’s just PR

  14. The only reasonable reaction a sane person could have to the disastrous events at Fukushima would be to immediately terminate any future plans for the expansion of nuclear power production and move with expeditious speed to shut down currently operative nuclear reactors and replace their energy generation with safe, renewable, ABUNDANT natural sources including wind, wave, hydro, geothermal, solar, magnetic fields and any others yet to be identified and developed. What do you people not get? Can you really be so insulated and immobilized by greed and denial? You are remarkable and a hallmark of the arrogance, selfishness and stupidity of human beings.

  15. The NRC Report from “The Near-Term Task Force Review of Insights From The Fukushima Dai-Ichi Accident” stated the following: “Therefore, continued operation and continued licensing activities do not pose an imminent risk to public health and safety.” Yet, the Task Force recommends Orders. I thought the NRC had to have a safety or security basis to issue an Order. So, how can the plants be safe, but the NRC needs to issue Orders? This seems to be a huge contradiction to me.

    The Task Force recommends a dramatic change to the regulatory framework related to adequate protection. If adequate protection needs to be fixed, how can the Task Force consider the continued operation of the nuclear plants safe? From reading speeches from Chairman Jaczko, this seems to me that this is his desire. Did Chairman Jaczko and/or Chairman Jaczko’s staff lobby the Task Force members regarding any of the recommendations? Why was the Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards (ACRS) not allowed to review and approve the Task Force recommendations? ACRS is a diverse panel of independent experts that advise the Commission. What better group is there to review the Fukushima Dai-Ichi Accident and make recommendations to the Commission?

  16. I think the initiatives always come late, it is true that there is a risk because, in theory, neither were in Japan. Any preventive measure is good and positive. This meeting did not convince me.

  17. I agree Nancy, this all smells of a PR campaign, with no real results. If the NRC was really interested in safety they would order that all SFPs have emergency power separate from the grid and petroleum industry that will last as long as there is enough residual heat in the spent rods to create a boil, or around a year or two. And harden all critical circuits against EMP current surge.

    And I agree with Anonymous as well. Nothing will change here until we have our very own disaster.

    In the final recommendations in this blog post it says:

    “A similar sequence of events in the U.S. is unlikely;” and “There is no imminent risk from continued operation and licensing activities.”

    I would say it was safe to say that on 3-10-2011 the regulators in Japan would have agreed 100% with these statements if they were made about the nuclear industry in Japan.

    Alas, those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Case in point the 23 GEMK1 BWR in the US, these are the exact same design as in Fukushima. It is called a containment system, this is a misnomer because the last thing this design does is “contain”. Every time this design has been tested it has spewed radiation into the environment. The NRC’s and GE’s own engineers have been warning for years about the dangers of this containment system. The NRC then allowed vents to be installed that would actually bypass containment and allow radioactive gases to be vented directly into the environment. Now they recommend making even more “patches” to this containment system. These plants should be shut down, the containment system does not work.

    NRC, please feel free to correct me if I am in error on any of the assertions I have made, thank you.

  18. I am interested in knowing more about the regulatory and business environment for nuclear waste disposal.

    Let us SUPPOSE there was a simple, inexpensive, safe way to destroy the radioactivity in nuclear waste on site at the power plant. And SUPPOSE that the reprocessing, packaging, transportation, storage, and concerns about terrorism and accidents would be minimal. This would, in my opinion, be a “best case” scenario. My questions are:

    1. Would nuclear power plant managers be willing to use such a technology?
    2. What kind of regulatory obstacles would such a process face?
    3. Would the implementation face fierce opposition from those industries which reprocess, transport, and store nuclear waste?
    4. What are good sources of information to help answer these questions?

  19. No matter how many meetings, additional Regulations and band aids you try to fix all the inherent
    dangers with nuclear power, it wont work. Nothing will stop this madness until we have our own Fukushimer and then the blamegame will be something to behold

  20. I would think if the NRC was really interested in safety of the public that immediate implementation actions involving an increase in length of time for emergency back up power in a LOCA and SBO accident, including monitored off site generator trucks with high response priority for traffic access -even in evacuation situations – would be ordered as of TODAY !!
    Anything less is just PR.

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