Thursday, January 24, 2013

Some Facts About Station Blackout That David Lochbaum Didn't Tell The New York Times

Some facts UCS left out.

If you were concerned with the safety of America's nuclear energy facilities, I could understand why this blog post from Matt Wald at NY Times Green might cause you a bit of pause. In it, David Lochbaum of the Union of Concerned Scientists makes the claim that industry and the NRC ignored the possibility of a Fukushima-like incident in the U.S. for decades. His proof: a document published by an NRC analyst in 2007 that posited how a flood, earthquake or other extreme event could cause a loss of AC power at a nuclear energy facility that could lead to multiple reactor meltdowns.

Sounds scary, doesn't it? Unfortunately, the folks at UCS left out a couple of facts when they talked to Wald that might have spoiled that narrative. The fact is, NRC and the industry have been working on the issue for decades. Here's NEI's Steve Kerekes, who left the following in the comment string after the post:
The article fails to cite a number of relevant facts, including these: 1) The Nuclear Regulatory Commission finalized the Station Blackout Rule to provide further assurance that a loss of emergency AC power systems would not adversely affect public health and safety in 1988. That’s a full two decades before the creation of the documents in question. 2) Over the course of the more than 3,500 years of combined reactor operations in the United States, the one and only station blackout in our facilities’ history lasted 37 minutes. That too was decades ago.

Notwithstanding those facts, the U.S. nuclear energy industry – demonstrating its commitment to safe and reliable operations – has made safety improvements on a continuing basis to provide additional layers of defense in depth. These include post-9/11 measures put in place to better equip facilities to respond to explosions and large fires, and the post-Fukushima enhancements (centered on acquisition of portable safety equipment) currently being implemented to improve facilities’ ability to respond safely and effectively to extreme events, regardless of their cause.
Click here to take a look at the station blackout rule that Kerkes refers to in the text. If you scroll down to the end of the document, you'll see the date June 21, 1988 spelled out in black and white.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Fine ... except what Lochbaum said was that NRC and the industry had not addressed the risk of MULTI-UNIT station blackouts, i.e., those that affect more than one reactor. This post devastates a straw man.

SteveK9 said...

Anonymous:

Ohhhh, MULTI-UNIT, hah hah!, caught you. Give me a break.

You see no relationship in protecting a reactor during a station blackout if there is more than one reactor? That's assuming what you are writing is even accurate.

If I see the name David Lochbaum in a story I know I can skip that paragraph.

Anonymous said...

I'm not saying that. Are you saying that there are no complications in multi-unit SBOs that are not present in single-unit SBOs? Fukushima proves otherwise.

Nice well-poisoning to avoid the issue, too. Are you aware Lochbaum has worked for both the industry and NRC, in addition to NGOs?

Atomikrabbit said...

"Are you aware Lochbaum has worked for both the industry and NRC"

He got himself hired into the NRC as a simulator instructor at their training center in Chattanooga to embellish his resume and get the government to pay for his move back to the area he wanted to retire (has a NE degree from U Tenn).

After putting in the requisite year to avoid payback of the relocation bonuses, he quit.

Williamson said...

This is just more of the same where Lochbaum is concerned. In 1999, he badgered the NRC into arranging a public meeting in Baton Rouge on the topic of fuel clad performance at the River Bend and Perry plants. Extensive, costly preparations were made by the utilities to expand the ability of interested parties to participate in the meeting, including live two-way video feeds to three remote sites. Given the support enjoyed by the industry in this part of the country, there was little patience among the attendees for his flimsy arguments to shut down the plants. David read his prepared statement and beat a hasty retreat without answering any questions. He later received a letter from NRC admonishing him for his failure to “fully participate” in the opportunity to explain his position.

Anonymous said...

Wow, he failed to speak long enough at a public meeting 14 years ago. Logically, therefore, every claim he makes from that time forward is invalid. Nice argument.