Friday, March 24, 2006

Keeping Up With the Anti-Nukes

Over on our blogroll to the right, you'll notice that we added a section on anti-nuclear activists. We think it's important to track these folks, which is why we're including them.

But rather than simply listing their links, we've added a new wrinkle: Whenever we have dealt with these groups in print before, I've included a link to our archives where you'll find detailed responses to their charges. Click here to see what we did with the Rocky Mountain Institute.

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11 comments:

Jim Pfefferle said...

Eric,

Is the Union of Concerned Scientists still an "anti-nuclear" group? I believe Dave Lochbaum has morfed UCS into a "nuclear safety critic." And nuclear energy certainly aligns with their greenhouse gas focus.

Jim

Eric McErlain said...

You're right about that, Jim. I've taken the UCS link out. We'll find a more appropriate category.

Paul Primavera said...

I agree with Jim Pfefferle. In all my personal dealings with Dave Lochbaum, he has been an upstanding person and has gone the extra length to backup what he says. I do not always (or even most of the time) agree with him, but if more of our anti-nuclear critics were like him, then I think they would be doing an actual public service instead of trying to instill unreasoning fear and hysterical suspicion of all things nuclear.

Gunter said...

Greetings,

What an honor and credential particularly coming from the lobby group that runs interference on federal enforcement actions and "overly burdensome regulations" to subordinate nuclear safety margins to company profit margins.

Judging by these comments on UCS, you probably never met Robert Pollard who provided David with a distinguished legacy of nuclear safety criticisms (i.e. Yankee Rowe RIP)

Paul, NIRS

Paul Primavera said...

Paul Gunter,

Exactly what nuclear safety margins have been made subordinate to company profiut margins? And if regulation does NOT serve safety, but instead is unnecessary, unrealistic conservativism, then what is wrong with removing that regulation, devoting the freed-up resources to actual realistic safety endeavors, and improving the company's profit margin for the benefit of consumer and stock holder alike? As NRC Chairman Diaz said in a speech in 2003:

"For many of today’s regulatory research endeavors, it is necessary to consider the probability of a scenario before undertaking the consequence calculations. The calculation of disastrous results for highly improbable events helps no one, wastes resources and frequently results in unnecessary public fear. Sprinkling unrealistic conservatisms, even if they are small but compounding conservatisms, throughout an analysis or study can skew the results significantly. They do add up, or even multiply. How can a safety-conscious decision maker, in the broadest sense of the term, use a study that is filled with unrealistic assumptions? Who pays for unnecessary conservatism? Society does. The real value of conservatism is not at the beginning or in the assumptions or the boundary conditions. It is at the end, when the decision is made; at that point, we need to know the safety worth of the conservatism. Research and analysis should be conducted as realistically as possible using the best information available. Uncertainties should be understood to the greatest extent practicable, quantified and considered appropriately in the decision process. This is especially important when approximations are made; if not, they could remain hidden under the mantle of conservatism."

Gunter said...

Mr. Primervera-

To answer your question, well, we could start this discussion on 10 CFR 50 Appendix R III.G.2(a)(b)(c) if you want. The reg was promulgated in 1980 after the 1975 Browns Ferry fire.

NUMARC played the central role in stonewalling industry compliance following disclosures in 1989 that standardized fire tests for Thermo-Lag fire barriers were falsified and the stuff didnt work to protect safe shutdown circuitry.

Following subsequent disclosures that industry on the large abandoned its corrective action programs for the bogus fire barriers, NEI lead the charge to replace physical fire protection features with illegal and unauthorized operator manual actions.

That plan recently failed with the abandonment of a rulemaking to codify manual actions over prescriptive fire barriers, cable separation and detection/suppression leaving safe shutdown systems in a similar state as the pre-Browns Ferry fire.

Why not just install and maintain operable fire barriers and be done with?

Apparently that would be too simple for NEI whose agenda appears to prioritize avoding such capital costs with paper fixes.

By the way, UCS agrees with us on this safety item.

gotta go,

Paul Primavera said...

Paul Gunter,

I am not a Fire Protection Engineer; therefore, I cannot debate you regarding fire protection issues. However, I can say from personal experience that the nuclear power plant at which I work takes fire protection very seriously. We have a dedicated system / component engineer and an entire department just for fire protection. I cannot, however, comment on the efficacy or legality of substituting operator actions for fire penetration barriers. But I can advise you to be very careful when you use words such as "falsified', "illegal" or "unauthorized" with regard to a plant's approach to fire protection unless you have material evidence to the contrary, for someone may get the impression that you are slandering. It is one thing to technically disagree on the subject of fire penetration barriers, and quite another to attribute (without material proof) intentional malice to a practice (that you may have mis-understood) designed to enhance efficiency, save money and ensure adequate fire protection.

But again, I am no fire protection expert; I only observe the hysteria which anti-nuclear activists raise anytime the industry applies realistic conservativism to plant protection issues (including fire protection).

BTW, what about all those natural gas explosions, and coal mine fires, and other incendiary incidences that occur throughout the fossil fuel industry eveyr year, many of which have caused loss of lives among the public, unlike the US commercial nuclear industry which has neither injured not killed a single member of the public? What about all those chemical plants on I-95 just outside NYC, where one small fire could cause a massive toxic chemical release and kill millions on a single breath? And you're worried about nuke plant control room FP barriers because of some imaginary threat to public health and safety?

Gunter said...

Mr. Primavera,

Then you should ask them how many unapproved and illegal operator manual actions are incorporated into the fire protection program rather than adequate cable separation and operable fire barriers for safe shutdown. Its an industrywide problem and your site would be the exception rather than the rule.

How about Generic Safety Issue 191, then? Has your site installed adequately sized sump screen in the containment sump system. This safety issue has been kicking around for more than a decade, now. The ECCS craps out without an operable sump and all the indications are that containment debris and the "TMI Slime" would block most screens early into an accident. NEI and NRC have colluded on this safety issue for some time, even though Davis-Besse demonstrated that it can be addressed today.

Paul, NIRS

Paul Primavera said...

Paul Gunter,

The NRC has addressed the PWR Containment Sump issue at:

http://www.nrc.gov/reactors/operating/ops-experience/pwr-sump-performance.html

There are a whole group of subsidiary web links at this web page which discuss this issue more intelligently than I can. Suffice it to say that both the Regulator and the Industry are addressing it.

For those who may be unaware, the Davis Besse RPV head degradation event is also discussed at length at:

http://www.nrc.gov/reactors/operating/ops-experience/vessel-head-degradation.html

And again the subsidiary web links provide more information than I have time here to do so.

Lastly, Fire Protection is discussed at length at:

http://www.nrc.gov/reactors/operating/ops-experience/fire-protection.html

I encourage the interested reader to review:

Backgrounder on Nuclear Power Plant Fire Protection
http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/fact-sheets/fire-protection-bg.html

Of all the means of generating electricity, commercial US nuclear power is the ONLY one to have never placed public health or safety in danger.

Anonymous said...

Gunter,

Recirculation failure has been studied in many IPE and PRA. The scenario you postulate is quite unlikely, as the problem is well-known and there are safety features in place to prevent it, but noone can prove that it impossible.

But recirculation failure is not synonymous with containment failure and there are many things an operator would do to mitigate the accident and render it relatively minor on the grand scale of industrial accidents. The operator can keep injecting water in any number of ways (LPI, HPI, charging pumps, containment sprays) until core debris is covered. If a single containment fan cooler continues to operate (there are at least two of them), releases would be limited to containment leakage, which would not be enough to cause a single death.

In other words, for recirculation failure to lead to significant off-site consequences, you must also postulate that everyone at the plant gives up and goes home as soon as they realize the pumps are clogged. That's not going to happen.

That's the great thing about nuclear power: the accidents are purely hypothetical. You can keep saying what if this and what if that as long as you like. We can argue about them day and night, knowing they will never happen.

In the meantime, Gunter, someone, or perhaps many, will die today from coal plant emissions today because a nuclear plant was not built to replace it.

Paul Primavera said...

Since Paul Gunter did mention concerns about fire protection, and since I am no expert in these matters, beside the information on the NRC web site whose link I already potsed above, the interested reader may want to give NEI equal time by reviewing the following:

Nuclear Power Plant Fire Protection
http://www.nei.org/index.asp?catnum=3&catid=46