NRC completes North Anna Impact Statement

December 15, NRC issued a news release saying it had completed its environmental impact statement on Dominion Resources proposed expansion of the North Anna plant.
The report contains the NRC's finding that there are no environmental impacts that would prevent issuing the ESP.

The EIS, combined with the recent issuance of a final Safety Evaluation Report on the application, marks the end of the staff's technical review on the North Anna ESP, although additional steps must be completed before the NRC reaches a final decision on the matter. The Atomic Safety and Licensing Board must conduct a mandatory hearing on the matter before the Commission can reach a final decision on issuing the permit. The NRC expects to finish this process for the North Anna ESP by the end of 2007.
Things are moving fast indeed. On January 5, the licencing Board issued an order setting its hearing for next Thursday February 8.

On January 3, Unit 1, Dominion Energy's 925-megawatt nuclear plant at North Anna, shut down due an electrical failure that reduced the flow of feedwater to the steam generators, according to the Reuters story the next day, "Dominion sees Va. North Anna 1 reactor back soon"

My flying back from Chicago December 23 on a one-way ticket purchased the day before drew the terrorist protection folks into action, but evidently there's no need to shield nuclear power plants for terrorist attacks. Go figure.

The 9/11 Commission report (See :The Attack Looms," p. 245)
During the Spain meeting, Atta also mentioned that he had considered targeting a nuclear facility he had seen during familiarization flights near New York--a target they referred to as “electrical engineering."
Public Citizen and San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace filed a lawsuit in 2004, challenging the NRC's 2003 security requirements, which were adopted behind closed-doors with the nuclear industry and without public participation. In September 2004, the Committee to Bridge the Gap filed a petition for rulemaking to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) requesting that existing nuclear plants be required to construct "Beamhenge" shields - consisting of steel I-beams and cabling - around sensitive parts of the facilities so an incoming plane would hit the shield, and not the reactor, spent fuel pool or other critical targets. A two-minute animation of the vulnerability of reactors to air attack, and how to protect them, narrated by Martin Sheen, can be viewed at http://www.committeetobridgethegap.org/

Despite receiving more than 800 comments in support of the petition (including by eight state attorneys general) and almost none in opposition, the NRC rejected the proposal, asserting that "mitigation" measures and evacuation plans for surrounding areas to lessen public radiation exposures could be activated after a plane crash that results in the release of radioactivity.

Te Energy Policy Act of 2005 directed the to to revise its "Design Basis Threat" defining the terrorist threat against which reactor operators must be prepared to protect. Congress specified that the rulemaking must consider the events of 9/11, attacks by multiple coordinated teams of a large number of attackers, attacks from the air, and the use of explosives of considerable size and other modern weaponry, among a number of other factors.

On January 26, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, had written the NRC that
communities that surround existing plants need to be confident that the NRC, as the regulator charged with nuclear safety, did all it could to ensure that plants defend against current security threats. In particular, communities should be assured that the plants are prepared to defend against large attacking forces and commercial aircraft.
And yet on January 29, the NRC voted January 29 to approve a rule which fails to require protection against attacks by airplanes or by more than a small number of attackers on the ground, arguing that The NRC also rejected any requirement to protect against attacks by groups arguing that 9/11 should be considered four separate, individual attacks involving only the number of terrorists in a single plane.

Michele Boyd, legislative director of Public Citizen's Energy Program criticized the rule:
Rather than requiring measures to prevent a plane crash from damaging ulnerable parts of a nuclear plant, which would be the smartest course, the government is relying on post-crash measures and evacuation plans to attempt to mitigate' the public's exposure to radiation....Fire prevention is always better than fire fighting. Nuclear terrorism prevention is far more prudent than trying to reduce radiation exposures after the fact.
Daniel Hirsch, president of the Committee to Bridge the Gap, said
Rather than upgrading protections,the proposed rule merely codifies the status quo, reaffirming the existing, woefully inadequate security measures already in place at the nation's reactors.
Paul Gunter, director of the Reactor Watchdog Project for the Nuclear Information and Resource Service added.
We are shocked that the NRC would even consider disregarding aircraft attacks on existing reactors with so many operable airfields within 10 miles of most nuclear power stations....Given that it is impossible to react to a fast-breaking event such as a local private plane laden with explosives, structural defenses against aircraft attack must be inserted into regulations - if not by NRC, then by Congress.