Friday, April 06, 2012

Arnie Gundersen Authors Another Shoddy Report

Nuclear consultants Fairewinds Associates and anti-nuclear activists Friends of the Earth are at it again with a new “report” that seeks to create concern, with little to no substance, over steam generator tube leaks at San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS). The report, “Steam Generator Failures at San Onofre,” claims that without a thorough root cause analysis of why the plant’s recently installed steam generator tubes have become worn, that:

“…radioactive releases might be significantly larger than those that occurred after the January 2012 tube leak. Such an accident would cause implementation of the California emergency evacuation plan and closing of the San Clemente beach and Interstate I-5, potentially for an extended period of time.”

Fairewinds’ opinion misleads the general public to believe that the plant already released a large amount of radiation, which in fact, it has not. In a February 17 press release, Southern California Edison (SCE) clarified:

The radioactivity released to the atmosphere during the steam generator tube leak was barely measurable – 4E-5 millirems or 0.00004 millirems -- which is 200 times less than you would receive by having a smoke detector in your home for a year.

The steam generator tube wear leads to very minor leakage within the steam generator, which is something that can easily be detected by sophisticated monitors (as proven in this case) before any significant release of radiation would occur.

imageIn addition, the statement implies that Southern California Edison (SCE), the plant’s owner, is putting Californians at risk, which is an even more egregious stretch of the truth. Not only does the nuclear industry make safety its top priority, but the people who work at the plant also live in close proximity and have a personal stake in the plant’s safe operation.

Given the fact that some news articles have already referenced the misleading Fairewinds report and other activist organizations are using it to push their anti-nuclear campaigns, I decided to get further analysis on this report with NEI’s Alex Marion, an electrical engineer who sits on the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Board on Nuclear Codes & Standards. In a nutshell, here’s what he had to say:

The issue at SONGS demonstrates the stringent safety practices in the U.S. nuclear energy industry. SONGS detected there was an issue with the steam generator tubes while implementing its rigorous inspection program, which has been accepted by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. This involves examining the steam generator tubes and if degradation is found, then a more comprehensive examination is conducted that may include pressure testing of the tubes or sending samples of tubing to a metallurgical laboratory for independent evaluations. Once a root cause for the problem is discovered, the plant can fix the problem and restart. However, the plant will not continue operations until this analysis has been completed.

Why is a “root cause analysis” important?

Marion:

Basically, what you have is a large heat exchanger that uses heat from the primary reactor cooling water that flows within the thousands of tubes to transfer heat to a separate flow of water that surrounds the tubes. The water that flows outside of the tubes is converted to steam, which is used to drive turbine generators and make electricity. Because of vibrations that result from the water flow during plant operations, the tubes may rub against supporting structures resulting in “wear,” or thinning of the tube wall. This is a known form of wear that occasionally occurs, however, it was not expected to have occurred on as many tubes as had been found at San Onofre. A root cause analysis will determine what caused this unanticipated wear and how it can be minimized.

The Gundersen report suggests that the tube degradation is an anomaly and that the plant should continue to be shut down indefinitely. Is there a technical basis for this?

Marion:

We agree that the extent of wear in recently installed steam generator tubes is unusual. This is why we believe that you cannot effectively address the issue until a root cause analysis is completed, which is exactly what SCE is doing now, in close coordination with Mitsubishi and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The report also calls into question SCE’s “like-for-like replacement” of its steam generators recently, suggesting that had the replacements been duplicates, “the problems that San Onofre is currently experiencing would have been dramatically reduced or entirely eliminated.” What does he mean by this?

Marion:

Utilities are allowed to replace equipment without prior NRC review and approval if certain criteria are satisfied. The criteria ensures that the replacement equipment still fulfills all safety requirements and does not deviate from the original plant design in a way that could compromise safe operation. Key features of the replacement steam generators at SONGS were modeled or tested to confirm their performance capability and structural integrity to demonstrate that they satisfied the design requirements.

In terms of “like-for-like” replacement, SONGS focused on the principle of form, fit and function. The new steam generator included a new, improved tube alloy versus the one which was previously used. They were able to demonstrate that with improved materials and enhanced design features, the steam generators could be installed and operate within the plant design limits with minimal modifications to the plant systems, instrumentation and controls.

Besides the fact that this report includes misleading claims for the general public, what is your overall conclusion about it?

Marion:

The report calls for Southern California Edison to keep SONGS shutdown until a thorough and systematic root cause analysis has been completed. That is precisely what is occurring now. The plant will remain shut down until the root cause is established and addressed and the NRC deems it can safely restart.

Once again, Fairewinds and its counterparts at Friends of the Earth have created a report that does little other than advance their anti-nuclear agenda. Their tactics, which unfortunately are picked up in news media and further disseminated by flights of television advertisements, do a disservice to the public by mischaracterizing the strong safety record of the U.S. nuclear industry.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has documented actions that must be taken before SCE is permitted to restart the San Onofre reactors. The company must demonstrate to the NRC that 1) the cause of the tube wear in both steam generators is well understood and 2) it will appropriately address the issue in order to ensure safe operation. Elmo Collins, the head of the NRC’s West region office, said:

Until we are satisfied that has been done, the plant will not be permitted to restart.

San Onofre is a safe nuclear plant and is a vital contributor to California’s electricity supply. Learn more about how Southern California Edison is working diligently to identify and fix the problem with its steam generator tubes in a new video with the company’s president Ron Litzinger.

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

Seems like Alex Marion basically agrees with what the Gundersen report is saying. Both Marion and Gundersen are realistic about the dangers of the pipe wear and the actions that should be taken.

Please could someone who thinks the report is 'shoddy' read the 'shoddy report' and let me know which details are untrue.

If Gundersen has published lies, falsehoods etc I would like to analyse that information myself.

I have read the report and as far as I can tell it seems quite reasonable.

Is it not a reasonable report?

Chuck said...

>>> Once again, Fairewinds and its counterparts at Friends of the Earth have created a report that does little other than advance their anti-nuclear agenda. Their tactics, which unfortunately are picked up in news media and further disseminated by flights of television advertisements, do a disservice to the public by mischaracterizing the strong safety record of the U.S. nuclear industry. <<<<

So what can you all do about it?????

jimwg said...

Re:
"...So what can you all do about it?????..."

I guess as individuals we should avail facts and features from pro-nuke blogs as this one to counter all anti-nuclear rants and off-the-wall har'em scare'em assertions on every blog you can find, especially on media outlet blogs which really ought know a better about fact-finding serious claims in issues like this -- if they themselves don't have an agenda to let such critical examination slide.

I would best suggest that NEI's AP issue be sent out to all pro-nuke blogs, nuclear industry members and relevant gov't agencies and nuclear-fair politicians to give them a heads-up that AP isn't as balanced and fact-thorough as they claim swaying a nuclear jittery and undereducated public. I'd like all nuclear blogs to headline this issue as a month rallying point to deplore the AP's handling of this situation and of their now blatantly contemptuous anti-nuclear sympathies. If this matter was centered on the truthfulness of other issues there'd be a howl about overt press bias.

My hat's off to NEI's guts standing up to the anti-nuke brown shirts.

James Greenidge
Queens NY

Anonymous said...

James, evening, you wrote

'I guess as individuals we should avail facts and features from pro-nuke blogs as this one to counter all anti-nuclear rants and off-the-wall har'em scare'em assertions on every blog you can find.'

Please provide me with the following few facts.

What is the AP issue? Gundersen DID have independent lab tests done of the Tokyo soil. Were they not independent enough?

Has the NEI bothered to test the samples themselves?

Has the NEI bothered to collect and test any soil samples from Tokyo or indeed Fukushima?

James you said it rather eloquently yourself:
'if they themselves don't have an agenda to let such critical examination slide.'

With a $145 million dollar budget they should be able to afford it.
Oh, hang almost all that money is used for lobbying activities and hardly any of it for science.
(incidentally the quality of the information the NEI produces strongly suggests this is the case)

Mr Greenidge we find ourselves in a position where the very group you claim should have the facts is not even looking for facts. I do not blame them. They know that the answers they get will not fit their agenda.

The biggest problem the NEI faces is a lack of credibility. This is why the international media are publishing information from Gundersen- unfortunately for the NEI he has credibility.

If you had watched the unfolding of events closely at Fukushima, all the nuclear industry lobbyists and 'experts' were downplaying the seriousness of the disaster from day 1. Almost everything they were saying at the time has been proven to be wrong.
Alost everything Gundersen was saying has been proven to be right.

Many people in the media have been following this story closely and they know this.

Why should the media be listening to the industry pundits and lobbyists when these are precisely the people who have been misrepresenting the facts since the Fukushima disaster began.

Concerning the 'shoddy report' on San Onofre can could someone who thinks the report is 'shoddy' let me know which details are untrue.

If Gundersen has published lies, falsehoods etc I would like to analyse that information myself.

I have read the report and as far as I can tell it seems quite reasonable.

Is it not a reasonable report?

Would anyone be so kind as to offer some 'balanced and fact-thorough' thoughts on this?

David Bradish said...

Anon at 5:14, thanks for the comment but I disagree with about everything you mentioned.

First of all, NEI's budget is about $50M/year, not $145M, and only about a tenth of the folks who work at NEI are lobbyists.

Second, you asked why NEI isn't testing Japan's soil. We don't need to. It's called using reliable sources such as IAEA, NISA, TEPCO, and many other Japanese agencies who've been testing since day one.

Third, you said NEI lacks credibility. Wow, it's funny to read an anonymous commenter lecturing others on credibility. You may not realize this, but most folks give anonymous commenters zero credibility.

Fourth, you said everything the industry and NEI has said about Fukushima since day one has been proven wrong. As you have asked us numerous times, do you have any examples to back up your claims?

Fifth, if you reread Victoria's post again about San Onofre, our issue with Gunderson's claims is that he distorts and misleads the readers about the situation. I reread Gunderson's report and never once did he mention how much radiation was released from the steam generator leak (basically nil). Instead, the report contains a lot of exaggerations of what COULD happen. Then the report goes on to recommend a number of things as if SONGS and the NRC have no idea what they're doing. Um, didn't Alex Marion confirm that the industry is already doing what Gunderson is recommending?

Sixth, this looks like a contradiction in the report, but on page 4, the report says that steam generator (SG) design changes create a significant risk of failure. But then the last line of the first paragraph says that the vast majority of PWR steam generators have been replaced. If new and improved SGs have been replaced successfully across most of the fleet, then wouldn’t there be many examples to prove that there are significant risks with new SGs? Maybe they're not as risky as Gunderson leads others to believe.

Seventh, if Mr. Gunderson is correct on Japan’s soil samples, then why not share it with the rest of the world instead of complaining how the industry is defaming Fairewinds in an email response to us? If the radiation is so bad, doesn’t Mr. Gunderson have the obligation to share that info considering many lives could be at significant risk according to his claims?

And last which I'm being nitpicky about, on page 2, the report says SONGS “is a very unique design” and only 14 other nuclear units have this “very unique and extra large sized steam generator system.” There is no such thing as “very unique.” It’s only “unique.” As well, most nuclear units in the U.S. are their own design and are not standardized, therefore nearly all of them are unique, not just SONGS.

Happy Easter.

Anonymous said...

Gundersen appears to continue to refuse to release the lab report on the claimed Tokyo soil samples, as well as information on where they were collected so that independent samples could be obtained and tested. This pretty much sums up how credibly his claims are.

But AP needs to have their feet held to the fire to release the copy of the report that they have, to attempt to get Gundersen to release information on where the samples were collected, and to report if he refuses to give them this information. The credibility of the source that their reporter used is now in very serious question, and AP's credibility is now on the line as well.

Anonymous said...

anti-nuke brown shirts

Moderator: I don't think there's any excuse for calling your opponents Nazis, simply because you don't agree with them.

If the shoe were on the other foot, a post calling industry officials Nazis would not be allowed to remain on this blog.

And this from the poster who's always saying people should be sued for slander? Calling someone a Nazi seems to fit the bill better than any of the so-called "slander" the poster's been concerned about.

A plea for civility.

Anonymous said...

most folks give anonymous commenters zero credibility

Well, some of us have employers who prefer that their names be kept out of our personal posts. Unreasonable? I don't think so.

Anonymous said...

Gundersen paid to have the lab report done, but you want it for free? When EPRI prepares a report, they typically ask that the NRC withhold it from the public, on the grounds that its commercial value would be diminished if the agency released it for free.

So the industry is entitled to protect investment in their reports, but not nuclear opponents. seems fair and balanced to me!

David Bradish said...

Well, some of us have employers who prefer that their names be kept out of our personal posts. Unreasonable? I don't think so.

You can easily use Joe from VT or Spike from England or whatever you choose. Any pseudonym would be better than anonymous so others know who they're talking to instead of talking to space.

Gundersen paid to have the lab report done, but you want it for free?

Shoot, didn't even know it was for sale. I don't recall anyone complaining about buying it, only that it wasn't available for anyone to access. How much and where can we buy the lab report?

You're right about the anti-nuke brown shirt comment. A little more civility would be appropriate.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
"Gundersen paid to have the lab report done, but you want it for free? When EPRI prepares a report, they typically ask that the NRC withhold it from the public, on the grounds that its commercial value would be diminished if the agency released it for free."

Gundersen gave the report for free to the AP. AP should release the report.

jimwg said...

Re: Anonymous on "Brown Shirts"

You have a relatively small group of people plagued by Hiroshima guilt or nuke nightmares who are out to balm their souls by drastically affecting the lives and livelihoods of the greater public via brandishing bogus and vapor radiation evidence, falsehoods, lies, misinformation and even engaging in cold-hearted terror (as also mentioned on Atomic Show) telling Fukushima evacuees that "you're going to die!" -- doubtlessly a tactic they'd avail to communities here to get their way if they already haven't. You even have a media-darling anti-nuke leader, Helen Caldicott, GLEEFUL on Twitter that "Fear is Growing!" around the San Onofre plant; "Fear is Growing! Hooray!" And they say a lot worst on the sly. Anti-nukers frighten schoolchildren and steer their environmental lessons by gross rants, threaten to scale fences and attack nuclear plants "to prove a point" and whereby create undue local alarm and psychological distress and fellow-feeling media attention, plus they have a major sympathetic media organ, the "trusting" Associated Press, being contemptuous of the integrity and work of professional nuclear blogs and organizations by being complicit in not challenging or being critical of unproven anti-nuclear assertions or evidence by questionable personalities which could sway feckless and clueless politicians and so derail the energy and economic security of this nation, forcing us expend blood (LIVES) and treasure to protect oil energy resources in hostile lands.

"Brown shirt" is not a word that can't be uttered in a church, nor besmirching any individual in this issue. It's simply a fitting mind-set;

"Fear is Growing! Hooray!"

Sorry; the stakes involved here are far too crucial to be tea-time PC.

James Greenidge
Queens NY

Anonymous said...

Calling someone a "brown shirt" doesn't "besmirch" them? In what universe is that true? Maybe it's even a compliment in Mr. Greenidge's circles, I don't know. But here's the word defined:

"brown·shirt   /ˈbraʊnˌʃɜrt/ Show Spelled[broun-shurt] Show IPA
noun ( often initial capital letter )
1. a Nazi.
2. a Nazi storm trooper."

Moderator: Please do not allow posters here to call other posters Nazis, by that or any other name. I suggest that's much closer to libel or slander than is saying nuclear power is dangerous.

Brian Mays said...

"Calling someone a 'brown shirt' doesn't 'besmirch' them?"

You know ... this would all just go away if you'd simply give it a rest. Is this really the best line of argument that you have left? Semantics? Faux outrage?

Besides, everyone knows that the anti-nuclear crowd is far more likely to wear shirts that are tie-dyed than shirts that are brown. But "anti-nuke tie-dyed shirts" just doesn't have the same ring to it.

Joffan said...

What Brian said.

Also, in the interests of historical accuracy, the definitions offered are flawed. The brownshirts were not stormtroopers as we'd understand the term - they were the "enforcement" arm of Hitler's party prior to his rise to national power. They were basically discarded by Hitler after that; probably 150 brownshirt leaders were executed in the Night of the Long Knives, 1934. Hypotheses abound as to why this happened, but I'd see it as the difference between the value of disruption when seeking power and when holding power.

Anonymous said...

Who on radio uses the name > femininazi < ???

Anonymous said...

So someone calls those Nazis, and NEI tells the person who COMPLAINS about that to give it a rest?

If the tables were turned and an anti-nuke called someone from NEI a Nazi, they'd be banned from the board.

This is not part of some "argument," nor is there nothing "faux" about the outrage. This is a complaint about the way the discussion is being conducted here.

But it's clear now that NEI agrees with the original poster, so there's nothing that can be done.

gmax137 said...

Anon, I don't think Brian 'is' NEI

Brian Mays said...

gmax137 - You are correct.

I have never worked for NEI, nor have I received a single red cent from them for any reason.

The NEI has been kind enough to allow me to express my personal opinions here on their blog, for which I am very grateful.

Whatever You Choose said...

>>>David Bradish said...
You can easily use Joe from VT or Spike from England or whatever you choose. Any pseudonym would be better than anonymous so others know who they're talking to instead of talking to space.<<<

You're so right... it feels much better than being Anonymous!

>>>Anonymous said...
Who on radio uses the name > femininazi < ???<<<

The same radio personality that refers to AP as Al-AP. He's amazingly insightful (and inciting) sometimes!

>>>Brian Mays said...
Besides, everyone knows that the anti-nuclear crowd is far more likely to wear shirts that are tie-dyed than shirts that are brown. But "anti-nuke tie-dyed shirts" just doesn't have the same ring to it.<<<

How about "anti-nuke brown tie-dyed shirts?" This goes well with the enviro mantra "If it's yellow, let it mellow, if its brown, flush it down."

Re: Helen Caldicott - I've heard this woman tell a crowd of anti-nukes that she doesn't get dental x-rays or mammograms. I can only imagine she would be against having smoke detectors, as well. Just think, if all of her anti-nuke followers actually followed her lead, eventually their numbers would dwindle due to self-induced attrition!

Anonymous said...

Civility is taking a beating here. Please desist from references to brown shirts.

Gundersen is unwilling to back up his assertions with any factual information. AP claims that they have a laboratory report in hand that confirms that Tokyo soil samples would require disposal as low level waste in the U.S., but so far neither AP nor Gundersen have been willing to release any lab results that they quote.

With sufficient pressure, AP will have to eventually release the lab results they now say they have, or allow some credible third party to review these results. Please, NEI, continue to send requests to AP to do this, until it actually happens. If this takes a couple of months, just keep it up.