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.

Updated: 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,” co-produced by Lakota grandmother Debra White Plume, Prairie Dust Films and Vision Maker Media, 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.

Update: This post has been edited to include all co-producers of the documentary.