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Monthly Archives: May 2013

Community Leaders Get Invites to SONGS Small Group Discussions — Updated

Victor Dricks
Senior Public Affairs Officer
Region IV

inviteThis week, the NRC is sending letters to dozens of state and local government officials in California, as well as environmental groups and business leaders, inviting them to participate in small group discussions with NRC officials. The discussions will focus on the processes and activities we’re using to evaluate a possible restart decision on the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station Unit 2.

The NRC is offering these small group meetings as opportunities for productive discussions on how the NRC fulfills its regulatory mandate for protecting public safety and the environment. Those invited to participate are recognized as community leaders, who could then share the information with their constituency and the public at large.

These small group discussions will focus on process issues concerning the NRC’s review, rather than specific areas of the staff’s technical analysis. They do not replace the larger public meeting the staff will conduct. That meeting will occur after Southern California Edison has submitted, and the NRC staff has completed our inspection and technical evaluation of, SCE’s response to the NRC’s Confirmatory Action Letter (CAL).

This new effort will consist of multiple small group gatherings in California with state elected officials, local elected officials, environmental non-governmental organizations, and economic development, energy, and local union/building and trade representatives.

The discussion will include 15-20 participants with three to four NRC representatives and a facilitator. The NRC’s objective is to maintain the small group size to promote frank, two-way discussions and dialogue.

The discussions will be closed to public observation. The information discussed as part of this effort will be placed on the NRC SONGS special webpage prior to the discussions. No decisions about restart will be announced at these gatherings.

Note: Here are the titles and organizations of the folks invited to participate:

Local elected officials

The mayors of: Los Angeles, Mission Viejo, Santa Ana, Vista, Encinitas, Irvine, Laguna Beach, Solana Beach, Huntington Beach, Laguna Niguel, Aliso Viejo, Laguna Woods, Del Mar, San Clemente, San Juan Capistrano, Dana Point, San Diego, Redondo Beach, Laguna Hills, Industry, West Hollywood, Escondido, La Habra, Covina, and Hesperia.

San Diego Unified School District, Board President

State Level

California Energy Commission, California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), and California Assembly

Environmental Non-Governmental Organizations

Residents Organized for a Safe Environment (ROSE), Peace Resource Center of San Diego, Citizens’ Oversight, Sierra Club, San Clemente Green, San Onofre Safety, Democratic Party of San Diego, Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility, Friends of the Earth, Committee to Bridge the Gap, DAB Safety Team, Earth Ocean Society, and Women’s Energy Matters

Economic Development, Energy and Local Unions

Business Manager UWUA, Local 246, SD Building & Construction Trades Council, IBEW Local 47, Orange County Taxpayers Association, Huntington Beach Chamber of Commerce, Cypress College, Chapman University, Los Kitos Farm, Muni-Fed Energy, Southeast Community Development Corporation, California Small Business Association, Orange County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Santa Ana Chamber of Commerce, and Adams Real

Plus — four other individuals with unknown organizational ties

Assessing NRC’s Nonproliferation Efforts

David McIntyre
Public Affairs Officer

The NRC has denied a petition for rulemaking filed by the American Physical Society. The APS wanted the NRC to require applicants for licenses for uranium enrichment or spent fuel reprocessing facilities to include a proliferation risk assessment in their license applications.

In denying the petition, the Commission approved the staff’s two main reasons for the decision:

 nonproliferation considerations are already an important part of the NRC’s regulatory process; and

 the federal government, with its diplomatic and intelligence resources, can evaluate proliferation risks better than a license applicant.

What does this mean?

dropquote1Proliferation in international affairs refers to the spread of nuclear weapons knowledge, technology and capability. Uranium enrichment and the extraction of plutonium through reprocessing spent fuel are two primary paths for developing nuclear weapons.

Nonproliferation is a policy objective of the U.S. and the international community (most notably through the International Atomic Energy Agency) to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons by state and non-state actors. A key way of achieving this goal is to block the spread of nuclear technology used to produce weapons-usable material. dropquote2The State Department is the lead U.S. agency on nonproliferation issues. Support comes from the Commerce, Defense and Energy departments, the intelligence community and the NRC.

The APS said in the petition they were concerned advances in enrichment or reprocessing technologies might make it easier for other countries to develop nuclear weapons. The group filed the petition after GE-Hitachi applied for a license to build and operate an enrichment plant in North Carolina using laser technology developed in Australia. (The NRC granted that license last September.)

Because the laser technology was developed in Australia, the State Department conducted a proliferation assessment in 1999 as part of the original agreement to import the technology to this country. There is no requirement for such an assessment if the technology is developed and licensed here.

NRC regulations already provide a number of protections against the unauthorized spread of sensitive information, technology or material from the U.S.

Physical security: Licensees must protect against sabotage or theft of special nuclear material at their facilities and in transit.

Material control and accounting: Licensees must control and account for their inventories of special nuclear material and document its transfer. This includes protection against unauthorized production of enriched uranium or plutonium.

Information security: Licensees must prevent unauthorized access to classified information and technology, through security clearances, physical protection, and cyber security.

Export-import licensing: The NRC must approve the export or import of certain nuclear materials and equipment. Countries receiving the exports must provide assurances that the material or equipment will be protected, at least to the level in internationally-agreed guidelines.

As the staff noted in the petition denial, these requirements and NRC’s continuous oversight form a tapestry of protection for nuclear material and technology. These regulations – focusing on preventing the theft or diversion of radioactive materials and classified technologies – provide day-to-day protection against proliferation risks.

The Commission directed the NRC staff to periodically review these regulations and guidance. Why? To ensure they are robust enough to meet new proliferation challenges related to building and operating enrichment or reprocessing facilities the NRC has not previously licensed.

flagBut that’s not all. The NRC also supports U.S. nonproliferation policy through its regular interactions with the State Department and other agencies. The NRC continuously shares and receives information related to various threats and activities, including those related to proliferation concerns, inside and outside the country. The NRC also supports U.S. participation in the Nuclear Suppliers Group. This group of countries seeks to ensure that nuclear trade for peaceful purposes does not contribute to the proliferation of nuclear weapons technology.

The Commission also concluded there is a need to communicate more effectively with the public on how the NRC holistically addresses non-proliferation objectives in agency processes. And to communicate on how the agency contributes to broader government nonproliferation efforts.

The NRC will continue to support the State Department and other federal agencies in these efforts, we will also continue to address proliferation risks in our comprehensive regulations for physical security, material control and accounting, information security, cyber security, and export control.

For these reasons, the NRC is confident these multiple layers address proliferation risks and concerns that might be raised by NRC licensing enrichment or reprocessing facilities.

The NRC’s decision to deny the APS petition will be explained in greater detail in a Federal Register notice to be published soon. The staff paper recommending denial, the Staff Requirements Memorandum approving that recommendation, and the Commissioners’ voting records are available on the NRC website.

Decoding the NRC’s Acronym Soup

Eliot Brenner
Director, Office of Public Affairs

acronymsA recent post talked about writing in plain language, and as one commenter pointed out, one of the stumbling blocks to that goal is often acronyms.

Acronyms aren’t new. According to historians, acronyms and initialisms were used in ancient Rome. Today, some initialisms are so accepted they stand alone without the definition: CEO, FBI, FAQ. And some have turned into actual words we accept – such as radar and scuba.

And then there are the many abbreviations of science — such as LET and NR – and of regulation: such as CFR, AEA. Together these strings of capital letters make up the perfect storm that is the NRC acronym soup.

To some, acronyms make perfect sense. But they can interfere with public understanding of NRC documents.

Case in point: In the SRM, the EDO directed SFST to update its SRP and eliminate the ISGs related to ISFSI or DSS SARs and COCs, without regard to whether FSME prepares an EA or an EIS to comply with NEPA.

Our 139-page guide to NRC abbreviations does help. And it’s especially helpful for those usages with multiple meanings. Did you know that PDA – in addition to the slang usage for a public display of affection – also stands for pre-docketed application, preliminary design acceptance and preliminary design authorization?

But the guide, as helpful as it is, still doesn’t capture some of the newer usages: JLD (Japan Lessons-Learned Directorate) or SMR (small modular reactor). (By the way, we’re in the process of updating this guide.)

Despite a plain language initiative that is gaining traction within the agency, and the venues, such as this blog, that are something of an acronym-free zone, the pesky strings of capital letters still pop up and still hinder our communication. While we try to reduce their use, let us know if there’s an acronym or initialism you see often and don’t understand. We’ll find the answer for you, and we’ll work to stop using it so much.

By the way, LET is linear energy transfer, NT is neutron transmitter, CFR is Code of Federal Regulations and AEA is Atomic Energy Act.

An NRC-Recommended Video in Honor of Memorial Day

Leonard Carsley
NRC Veterans Employment Coordinator

memorial_125575514In honor of Memorial Day, the NRC highly recommends the video, “Fields of Honor,” produced by the American Battle Monuments Commission. This independent federal commission manages 24 overseas military cemeteries, and 25 memorials, monuments, and markers, nearly all of which honor those who served in World War I or World War II. This well-done, five-minute video reminds us what Memorial Day is truly about – sacrifice and service.

Fort Calhoun – A Mixed Report Card

Lara Uselding
Public Affairs Officer, Region IV

nebraskaNRC inspectors held a public meeting in Omaha, Neb., on May 17, to share preliminary information from a recent restart readiness inspection at the Fort Calhoun Station, operated by the Omaha Public Power District (OPPD). The plant entered into the NRC’s increased oversight category in 2011 after it shut down for a refueling outage. The outage was extended due to historic Missouri River flooding followed by an electrical fire and other restart complications.

The meeting is one in a series we’re holding to keep the public informed. The 15-member team of inspectors looked at 169 out of more than 450 items that need to be resolved prior to the NRC making a decision on restart. The team recommended closing three of the 18 main categories known as the restart checklist. The three areas the team believes OPPD has appropriately addressed are third-party safety culture assessment, quality assurance, and integrated organizational effectiveness.

In essence, the plant’s officials have made improvements on some of the causes that led to the performance decline.

It’s important to note that as the team prepared for the inspection and began its review of the 169 items, they identified that 66 of those items were not fully ready for inspection as plant management stated. That means NRC inspectors were only able to fully inspect 60 percent of the original scope and will go back for a follow-up inspection.

While OPPD has made progress, there is still a lot of work to be done. The team found the plant hadn’t done a good job of evaluating whether a discovered condition exists in other areas of the plant and then implementing actions to address it. Because of this, the NRC has determined a number of restart checklist items are not ready for closure. In addition, NRC inspectors identified new performance deficiencies. Those preliminary findings still need to be evaluated by NRC management and results will be documented in the team’s inspection report. The report will be issued within 45 days.

The NRC will conduct follow-up inspections to look at the remaining open performance areas and to determine if plant personnel, equipment, and processes are ready to support the safe restart and continued safe operation. There will be additional public meetings in the local area before any decision about restart.

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