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  • Moderator 11:42 am on July 31, 2013 Permalink  

    Earthquakes and Nuclear Power Plants- This Chat is closed 

    _MG_1060 - Version 4

    My name is Dr. Annie Kammerer and I am a senior seismologist and earthquake engineer at the NRC. I oversee research on a broad range of seismic topics. I also have 15 years of experience in the private sector, and have authored many publications, regulatory guidance, technical reports and journal articles. I hold a BS in Civil Engineering, an MS in Geotechnical Engineering and a PhD in Geotechnical Earthquake Engineering.

    I look forward to your questions about how the NRC makes sure plants can withstand any earthquakes they may experience. I can also talk about the Mineral, Va., earthquake in 2011 that affected the North Anna nuclear power plant. (Just for the record, I won’t be able to address specific questions about designs or risk at specific sites.)

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    • Moderator 2:01 pm on August 13, 2013 Permalink

      Hi, thanks for joining our chat. We’ll be discussing how the NRC makes sure U.S. nuclear power plants can withstand any earthquakes they may experience. My work deals with broader seismic topics, so I won’t be able to address detailed questions about designs or risk at specific sites. I can, however, also talk about the Mineral, Va., earthquake in 2011 that affected the North Anna nuclear power plant.
      Please remember to refresh the page regularly for the latest content. And even if you’re replying to a comment or response, please use the comment box at the bottom of the Chat. That way your comment stays in chronology order.

      AK

    • Moderator 2:03 pm on August 13, 2013 Permalink

      Here’s a question we received via e-mail:

      Does the NRC currently envision changing the Safe Shutdown Earthquake for any of the Western plants as a result of the 50.54(f) process?
      The Safe Shutdown Earthquake is the original ground motion level used for design of the plant. As such, the SSE doesn’t change. However, if the new ground motion estimates exceed the original design level, the plant will have to conduct a seismic probabilistic risk assessment (seismic PRA). Based on the outcome of that assessment, the NRC may determine that the plant must perform modifications to strengthen equipment or anchorage based on the new higher ground motion. At that point, a new ground motion level would be added to the licensing basis of the plant.

      AK

    • Moderator 2:05 pm on August 13, 2013 Permalink

      Another question that came in before the chat asked:

      To what extent will the Western plants be required to apply the 10 CFR 100.23 criteria — originally developed for license applications filed after January 1997 — in developing their 50.54(f) responses?

      The 50.54(f) responses require that probabilistic seismic hazard assessments (PSHA) be performed using the NRC guidance described in NUREG 2117 and NUREG/CR-6372. The 50.54(f) letter outlines a process similar to that used for new plants. The plants in the West must perform site-specific PSHA using processes similar to new reactors, which is in line with 10 CFR 100.23.
      Plants covered by the new Central and Eastern US Seismic Source Characterization (CEUS SSC) model described in NUREG 2115 can use that new model along with existing geotechnical information. The CEUS SSC model was developed using the guidance in NUREG 2117. The NRC is allowing plants to use existing site data; although the state of California has required new investigations for the two California plants.

      AK

    • Mike 2:07 pm on August 13, 2013 Permalink

      Would these modifications be considered backfits and be subjected to all of thoses requirements?

      • Moderator 2:11 pm on August 13, 2013 Permalink

        I think you’re referring to the modifications in response to the new risk re-evaluation studies? That’s a regulatory question that can be answered after the plants finish their re-evaluation. It will be answered by the Japan Lessons Learned directorate once the data is available.

        AK

    • Moderator 2:08 pm on August 13, 2013 Permalink

      Earthquake Fact: The Japan 2011 earthquake was caused by a “subduction zone” event, which is the type of earthquake that can produce the largest magnitudes. A subduction zone is a tectonic plate boundary where one tectonic plate is pushed under another plate. In the continental US, the only subduction zone is the Cascadia subduction zone which lies off the coast of northern California, Oregon and Washington.

    • Bill K 2:10 pm on August 13, 2013 Permalink

      Hi–just joined, a few minutes late. Thanks for doing this.

      On an NRC seismic issues meeting that was webcast last week, two geologists were disagreeing about what plate, or what geological zone, Florida should be classified as part of. If there is professional disagreement about such a basic question, how can models for specific plant sites be considered reliable and accurate at the levels of precision that are supposed to be achieved?

      • Moderator 2:14 pm on August 13, 2013 Permalink

        In developing models, we take into account differing explanations for the available data, and the models do capture “alternative technically defensible interpretations,” which means that we capture a broad range of opinions in the model. It is explained in detail in NUREG 2117.

        AK

    • Moderator 2:11 pm on August 13, 2013 Permalink

      Another question submitted before the chat asks:

      Are dams upstream of nuclear power plants analyzed for earthquake protection adequacy? An example would be those dams along the Missouri River upstream the Fort Calhoun and Cooper nuclear stations. A catastrophic failure of these dams would result in a tsunami for these plants.

      The NRC does consider the potential impact of flooding from dam failure on the nuclear plants, although the design criteria for the dams themselves are the jurisdiction of other agencies. Seismic dam failure is addressed in NUREG 0-800 (the Standard Review Plan) as well as other NRC guidance documents. Most recently, the NRC developed Interim Staff Guidance (JLD-ISG-2013-01, “Guidance For Assessment of Flooding Hazards Due to Dam Failure,” July 2013, ML13151A153) on how the assessment is to be performed.

      AK

    • Moderator 2:12 pm on August 13, 2013 Permalink

      From e-mail:

      Hello,
      My question is:
      After the 5.8 earthquake in VA 2011, Dominion installed new seismic equipment as part of the NRC allowing them to restart. Dominion restarted 11/15/11.
      What equipment did they install? Seems the new equipment did not function and is not sensitive enough.

      2/1/12
      “None of the station’s seismic instrumentation actuated during the event,” the NRC report said. A new seismic monitoring system installed since last summer’s quake–a free field seismic instrumentation unit that can alert operators to a potentially damaging quake–also did not activate.
      http://fredericksburg.com/News/FLS/2012/022012/02012012/680309

      North Anna’s design basis was exceeded by the original earth quake. How are aftershocks (over 450) accounted for in analyzing safety … what are the cumulative effects?

      Thank you,
      Erica Gray

      It’s very common for seismometers to have a certain triggering ground motion threshold. The newspaper article you cite is about an aftershock of magnitude 3.2. This is a very small earthquake. The instrumentation that alerts operators in the control room is designed to only go off if the ground motion exceeds the operating basis earthquake ground motion, which wasn’t the case in this aftershock.

      But yes, you are correct that since the 2011 earthquake, the plant installed new seismometers, including a new instrument in the free field i.e. away from the plant.

      The capacity of safety-related equipment is unaffected by aftershocks that have ground motions that are not at a damaging level.

      AK

      • Erica Gray 2:15 pm on August 13, 2013 Permalink

        Please state what the seismic equpment is at North Anna.
        And where can I find the studies about cumulative/after shocks not having an impact?

      • Moderator 2:19 pm on August 13, 2013 Permalink

        The seismic equipment is new seismographs installed at the site.
        Safety-related structures and components are designed to remain damage free up to and beyond the design basis ground motion. Even repeated small ground motion does not have a detimental affect.

        AK

    • Moderator 2:15 pm on August 13, 2013 Permalink

      Earthquake Fact: Ground motion is a function of both the magnitude of an earthquake and the distance from the fault to the site. Nuclear plants, and in fact all engineered structures, are designed based on ground motion levels, not earthquake magnitudes. The existing nuclear plants were designed in a way accounts for the largest earthquakes expected in the area around the plant, with an additional margin added in.

      • Erica Gray 2:21 pm on August 13, 2013 Permalink

        Please state the name/brand of the equipment in use at North Anna.

      • Moderator 2:24 pm on August 13, 2013 Permalink

        I’m afraid you’ll have to pose that question to the plant. I don’t recall the brand off the top of my head.

        AK

      • Erica Gray 2:33 pm on August 13, 2013 Permalink

        Why did the NRC not know about North Anna’s missing seismic sensors and that they were not in the proper locations?

      • Moderator 2:34 pm on August 13, 2013 Permalink

        There was a failure of one sensor due to lack of power. The remainder of the equipment in the plant’s licensing basis was available and we have the data.

        AK

    • Jeff Clark 2:16 pm on August 13, 2013 Permalink

      If a new ground motion level is established (after the Risk Assessment) for a plants licensing basis, does that new ground motion level need to be developed under 10CFR50 App B requirements?

      • Moderator 2:21 pm on August 13, 2013 Permalink

        Ground motion assessment studies are to be conducted consistent with guidance in NUREG 2117 and NUREG/CR 6372 as noted in the 50.54f letter.

        AK

    • Bill Horstman 2:16 pm on August 13, 2013 Permalink

      Hello Dr. Kammerer

      Since the ground motion recorded at North Anna during the August 2011 Mineral VA earthquake exceeded the SSE-equivalent for the site (I believe that they use the term DBE), does the utility need to add a similar earthquake ground spectrum to their design basis and perform deterministic evaluations of the plant for this new ground spectrum, or is this SSE exceedance being addressed through a probabilistic seismic hazards analysis/probabilistic risk assessment?

      • Moderator 2:23 pm on August 13, 2013 Permalink

        As part of the restart of the North Anna plant, the ground motions experienced at the site were added to the plant’s licensing basis. Additionally, North Anna, like all operating U.S. reactors, is undergoing a seismic re-evaluation, which includes probabilistic seismic hazard analysis. It is also expected they will perform a risk re-evaluation.

        AK

    • Moderator 2:18 pm on August 13, 2013 Permalink

      Here’s a question from our e-mail:

      1.) How is the corporate data collected at a facility correlated to the USGS data? What is the frequency of these certification activities and is there any feedback from existing certification data?
      2.) Are the spent fuel pools in the containment buildings part of the design basis for the study. These were modified after base design and their safety risk is of prime concern.
      3.) What are you doing to improve the science behind these studies?
      Fukushima is evidence of poor design basis and poor planning, I expect every government employee to perfrom due diligence and challenge their own rules. To do otherwise borders on criminal or moral negligence.
      Sincerely,
      Richard C. Wood

      Diablo Canyon is the only facility that submits its seismograph network information directly to the UGSG monitoring system. The decision to do this is up to the facility.

      Can you give me more information about what you’re asking in regards to certification activities?

      Spent fuel pools use the same ground motion design basis as the reactor building itself. I think that’s what you’re asking. Currently the NRC is re-evaluating risk of spent fuel pools in several ways as part of our post-Fukushima re-evaluation.

      I’m not sure what studies you mean in Question 3.

      AK

    • Anonymous 2:18 pm on August 13, 2013 Permalink

      What frequency range was the OBE exceedance at North Anna in during the Mineral, Va., earthquake in 2011 ?

    • Moderator 2:21 pm on August 13, 2013 Permalink

      Earthquake Fact: The ground motions used as seismic design bases at US nuclear plants are called the Safe Shutdown Earthquake ground motion (SSE). In the mid to late 1990s, the NRC reviewed the potential for ground motions beyond the design basis. From this review, the we determined that seismic designs of operating nuclear plants in the US have adequate safety margins for withstanding earthquakes. Now, we’re again assessing the resistance of US nuclear plants to earthquakes. Based on NRC’s preliminary analyses, the mean probability of ground motions exceeding the SSE over the life of the plant for the plants in the Central and Eastern United States is less than about 1%.

      • Erica Gray 2:24 pm on August 13, 2013 Permalink

        Based on what data?
        The Usgs stated only a handful of seismometers were available.
        Dominion VA ~ North Anna was missing sensors and others were not in proper locations.

      • Moderator 2:30 pm on August 13, 2013 Permalink

        I’m sorry, but I’m not sure what you’re asking in terms USGS and available seismometers. As to the location of sensors at North Anna prior to the earthquake, they were in the locations specified by their license.

        AK

    • Bill K 2:23 pm on August 13, 2013 Permalink

      An emerging theme in NRC discussions of plant safety is “excessive conservatism.” For example, it;s now being said that the results of SOARCA indicate that some standards can be relaxed a bit. How is this topic playing out in the realm of seismic standards?

      • Moderator 2:28 pm on August 13, 2013 Permalink

        Generally, the NRC is moving towards risk-informed decision making in a wide variety of ways including seismic risk assessment and design. One of the benefits of a risk-informed framework is its ability to target the most risk important stuctures, components and systems so that you reduce excessive conservatism in places where it’s not needed.

        AK

    • Moderator 2:24 pm on August 13, 2013 Permalink

      Earthquake Fact: The only nuclear plant near the Cascadia subduction zone is the Columbia Generating Station in Washington state. But the plant is 300 miles from the zone and 225 miles from the coast, unlike the plants at Fukushima, which were nearer the zone and on the coast.

      • Erica Gray 2:29 pm on August 13, 2013 Permalink

        Earthquake Fact ~ They can not be predicted!
        North Anna is on a fault line….Do you think that is a good idea?

      • Moderator 2:33 pm on August 13, 2013 Permalink

        North Anna sits in a known moderate seismicity region. It is not on an active fault line. What’s important to understand is that earthquakes can occur anywhere and that’s why our regulations take into account background seismic activity that has occurred in the region of the plant as well as any known active faults. What’s important is getting a good assessment of the hazard at a site and assuring the plant has the capacity to withstand the ground motion it may experience.

        AK

    • Moderator 2:27 pm on August 13, 2013 Permalink

      Earthquake Fact: According to the USGS, 90 percent of the world’s earthquakes occur along plate boundaries where the rocks are usually weaker and yield more readily to stress than do the rocks within a plate. The remaining 10 percent occur in areas away from present plate boundaries — like the great New Madrid, Missouri, earthquakes of 1811 and 1812, felt over at least 3.2 million square kilometers. They occurred in a region of southeast Missouri that continues to show seismic activity today.

    • Moderator 2:30 pm on August 13, 2013 Permalink

      Earthquake Fact: Do any plants have special design considerations associated with seismic design? Many plants do, but perhaps the most notable are the automatic reactor trip systems in Diablo Canyon and San Onofre.

    • Moderator 2:34 pm on August 13, 2013 Permalink

      Earthquake Fact: The most commonly used magnitude measurement today is the Moment Magnitude, Mw. It is based on the strength of the rock that ruptured, the area of the fault that ruptured and the average amount of slip. It is a direct measure of the energy released during an earthquake. The Richter magnitude scale was developed in 1935 by Charles F. Richter of the California Institute of Technology and was based on the behavior of a specific seismograph that was manufactured at that time. The instruments are no longer in use although the scale so commonly used by the public that scientists generally just answer questions about “Richter” magnitude by substituting moment magnitude without correcting the misunderstanding.

    • Moderator 2:36 pm on August 13, 2013 Permalink

      Earthquake Fact: Can animals predict earthquakes? According to the USGS, the earliest reference to unusual animal behavior before a quake is from Greece in 373 BC. Anecdotal evidence abounds of animals, fish, birds, reptiles and insects exhibiting strange behavior just before an earthquake. But there’s no scientific proof or explanation of the possible phenomenon.

    • Bill Horstman 2:38 pm on August 13, 2013 Permalink

      In response to the earlier question regarding the OBE exceedance at North Anna Power Station:

      I have seen a PowerPoint presentation on this event, which was given to the NRC on September 8, 2011 by Dominion Power. Two of the slides show comparisions of the response spectra associated with the Mineral VA earthquake with the OBE and DBE for NAPS. This presentation should be available on the NRC website.

      • Moderator 2:40 pm on August 13, 2013 Permalink

        The plot that was shown by Dominion in that meeting has been also shown a number of other times. Anytime anyone presents to us at a public meeting, it should be captured in the meeting minutes and in ADAMS.

        AK

      • Anonymous 2:44 pm on August 13, 2013 Permalink

        Thanks Bill, this is very interesting!

    • Bill K 2:38 pm on August 13, 2013 Permalink

      How would you characterize the seismic environment at the Virgil Summer site, not far from the site of the big Charleston quake and not all too far from the New Madrid region?

      • Moderator 2:43 pm on August 13, 2013 Permalink

        I haven’t worked on that particular site, so I can’t speak to that. However, the source characterization model that the NRC recently published in NUREG 2115 would be used for that site for the ongoing re-evaluation efforts. The model in 2115 was developed cooperatively with the USGS, DOE and EPRI.

        AK

    • Moderator 2:43 pm on August 13, 2013 Permalink

      Earthquake Fact: Earth scientists believe that most earthquakes are caused by slow movements inside the Earth that push against the Earth’s brittle, relatively thin outer layer, causing the rocks to break suddenly. This outer layer is fragmented into a number of pieces, called plates. Most earthquakes occur at the boundaries of these plates.

    • Moderator 2:44 pm on August 13, 2013 Permalink

      The Chat ends at 3 p.m. I really appreciate your interest and have tried to get to most of your questions. Thanks for joining us today!

      AK

      • Erica Gray 2:50 pm on August 13, 2013 Permalink

        It’s not 3 pm yet.

      • Moderator 2:51 pm on August 13, 2013 Permalink

        We’re still here!

        AK

      • Erica Gray 2:52 pm on August 13, 2013 Permalink

        Does the NRC check to make sure the sensors are working?

      • Moderator 2:54 pm on August 13, 2013 Permalink

        Inspection of all equipment is the responsibility of the licensee. But the resident inspectors (our NRC boots on the ground) generally make sure that the inspections occur consistent with the regulations.

        AK

      • Erica Gray 2:55 pm on August 13, 2013 Permalink

        Inspection of all equipment is the responsibility of the licensee. But the resident inspectors (our NRC boots on the ground) generally make sure that the inspections occur consistent with the regulations.
        Then why were North Annas sensors not working and not properly placed?

      • Moderator 2:58 pm on August 13, 2013 Permalink

        We have data from all the sensors, which were in the plant per the licensing basis. The non operation sensor was an annuciator only and was not intended to record data.

        AK

    • Moderator 2:47 pm on August 13, 2013 Permalink

      Just a reminder that if you have questions or comments unrelated to today’s Chat, you can post them here: http://public-blog.nrc-gateway.gov/category/open-forum/

      AK

    • Moderator 2:51 pm on August 13, 2013 Permalink

      Earthquake Fact: In the U.S., according to the USGS, Florida and North Dakota have the fewest earthquakes, while California and Alaska have the most.

      • Erica Gray 2:52 pm on August 13, 2013 Permalink

        Florida has sinkholes!

      • Moderator 2:55 pm on August 13, 2013 Permalink

        Generally any place that has limestone deposits has sinkholes in karst topography. They’re not related to earthquakes.

        AK

      • Erica Gray 2:57 pm on August 13, 2013 Permalink

        well NPP should not be in areas prone to sinkholes either!

    • Moderator 2:54 pm on August 13, 2013 Permalink

      Earthquake Fact: Is there such a thing as “earthquake weather”? Not according to the USGS. Statistically, there is about an equal distribution of earthquakes in cold weather, hot weather and rainy weather. That said, very large low-pressure changes associated with major storm systems like typhoons and hurricanes are known to trigger episodes of fault slip and may play a role in triggering damaging earthquakes. But the numbers are small and not statistically significant.

      • Erica Gray 2:58 pm on August 13, 2013 Permalink

        It just takes one bad event!

    • Bill K 2:56 pm on August 13, 2013 Permalink

      It seems to me that the epistemic uncertainty in the field of geology far exceeds the error bars in most engineering designs. Doesn’t this make risk-informed analysis rather a risky way to proceed?

      • Moderator 3:00 pm on August 13, 2013 Permalink

        Over the last few decades, the field of seismology has significantly matured to the point where epistemic uncertainty has been greatly reduced, and many people would say well captured. An example is the new seismic source characterization model in NUREG 2115.

        AK

    • Moderator 2:59 pm on August 13, 2013 Permalink

      Earthquake Fact: In Washington State, the small Juan de Fuca plate off the coast of Washington, Oregon, and Northern California is slowly moving eastward beneath a much larger plate that includes both the North American continent and the land beneath part of the Atlantic Ocean. Plate motions in the Pacific Northwest result in shallow earthquakes widely distributed over Washington and deep earthquakes in the western parts of Washington and Oregon.

      • Erica Gray 2:59 pm on August 13, 2013 Permalink

        One word…Hanford!

  • Moderator 2:58 pm on July 15, 2013 Permalink  

    Waste Confidence – This Chat is Closed 

    2010 04 McConnell KeithMy name is Keith McConnell and I am the Director of the Waste Confidence Directorate. Unfortunately, Andy Imboden, who was scheduled to moderate this Chat, could not be here today, so I will be answering your questions.

    I have been at the NRC since 1986, bringing my background and expertise as a geologist to various projects, including waste management, decommissioning and uranium recovery, as well as other positions. I have also served three NRC chairmen and in the Office of General Counsel.

    I have a Bachelor’s degree in Geology from Clemson, a Master’s in Geological Sciences from Virginia Tech and a Ph.D. in Geological Sciences from the University of South Carolina.

    “Waste Confidence” refers to the Commission’s determination on the environmental impacts of storing spent nuclear fuel from the time a reactor’s license expires until final disposal of the fuel.  This is an area with many political, legal, and technical issues.

    The Directorate is currently developing a generic environmental impact statement to support an updated Waste Confidence rule.  More information about Waste Confidence, public involvement opportunities, and links to relevant documents is available on the NRC’s Waste Confidence websiteYou can also check out this video on our NRC YouTube channel.

    We’ve kept you up to date on our progress through several blog posts and regular teleconferences. Currently, the Commissioners are evaluating the draft generic environmental impact statement and proposed rule . We hope – with their approval – to publish them soon for a 75-day public comment period. We are also planning 10 public meetings to receive public comments – two here at NRC headquarters and 8 around the country. I hope we can discuss how you can participate in this extensive public outreach effort during this NRC Chat.

    As this will be an informal discussion, anything you submit in the Chat will not be considered as an official comment on the rule or the generic environmental impact statement. Be sure to submit your comments once the public comment period is announced. 

    I look forward to your questions about the Waste Confidence process, status and upcoming opportunities for public participation.

     
    • Moderator 2:00 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

      Good Afternoon!

      We will be answering questions as quickly as possible and posting some “fun facts” throughout. We already have a couple of questions from e-mail and our blog post this morning, so we’ll answer those first.

      Please remember to refresh regularly to see new content (with some browsers). And if you’re replying to a comment or response, please use the reply link on the post rather than the comment box at the bottom of the Chat. That way your response is “linked” to the comment you’re responding to.

      Unrelated questions or comments can be posted here: http://public-blog.nrc-gateway.gov/category/open-forum/

      KM

      • Dirk 2:02 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

        The GEIS does not appear to have evaluated the level of degradation to the spent fuel pool concrete from direct accumulative radiation expsoure. Was that analysis done, and is there a report on the results?

      • Moderator 2:09 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

        You’re correct, it’s not explicitly considered in the GEIS. It would be part of the aging management process and part of license renewal on a site specific basis. It is an issue dealt with outside of waste confidence.

        KM

      • Dirk 2:14 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

        The existing data set used for such evaluations suggests that aggregate gamma doses exceeding 10^10 rad lead to progressive degradation of concrete. The predicted dose to many reactor and basin locations appear to exceed this after the 40 year design life. How is relegating this to an aging program adequate, when this is a generic issue that all such locations will face?

        Also, this data set (four data points) is for concrete that was continuously wetted. The lined spent fuel pools more likely act as dry concrete. There is an additional limited data set of perhaps a dozen data points from the Oak Ridge Shield Reactor and one additional data point from the Temekin PWR, which suggest at least that the level at which degradation begins is as much as 2,000 times lower in aggregate dose, with severe damage occurring withing the range of dose expected in the normal operational life of the reactors. Would this not be most appropriately analyzed as an existing condition in the GEIS?

      • Moderator 2:20 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

        Please feel free to submit your comments on concrete degredation when the agency publishes its proposed Waste Confidence rule later this year.

        KM

      • Dirk 2:22 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

        In advance of that, I am looking for any information the NRC may have on the degradation of concrete from aggregate expsoure to high radiation doses (both wet and dry) to be able to make meaningful comment.

        I am also interested in any report on what the aggregate doses may be for represetnative or bounding cases for spetn fuel pools. Does such information exist? Is it avaialble? How might I locate it?

      • Moderator 2:29 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

        Thank you for your interest, but we’re chatting today about the Waste Confidence Rule and our process for updating it. You can send general questions about research to the NRC’s Office of Public Affairs at OPA.Resource@nrc.gov .

        KM

      • Dirk 2:38 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

        This information may also be important for analyzing the dose to concrete used in dry cask storage, and hence the relative risk comparison between pool and dry storage.

    • Moderator 2:01 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

      Here’s a question we received via e-mail:

      Grace Adams: The question I want to submit in advance of the CHAT is:

      Since US Navy has the world’s best safety record on nuclear power and as part of our national government is working for all citizens of the United States of America, I feel we can trust US Navy more than any for profit corporation which by definition works only for its stockholders. I believe that if we ask US Navy to figure out what is the safest and what is the most cost-effective way of dealing with all the spent fuel rods from our civilian nuclear power industry?, then US Navy can figure out both what is the safest way and what is the most cost-effective way to deal with all our nuclear wastes. If I am not mistaken, we also have a problem with some plutonium left over from our nuclear weapons program. US Navy can probably also figure out what to do about that. Further, I believe that if asked US Navy can also do whatever they figure out for us is both safest and most cost/effective. So PLEASE, can we just dump the whole problem in US Navy’s lap and trust that they will be willing and able to both decide and do whatever is the safest and most cost/effective plan of action for dealing with nuclear waste?
      Please at least ask US Navy their opinion on how to most safely and most cost-effectively to deal with radioactive wastes. Since they have the world’s best safety record on nuclear power and are part of our national government working for the benefit of all our citizens, I trust them, both to decide how to manage radioactive wastes and if they are willing, to execute whatever plan they recommend.

      Response: Thank you for your question. I noticed that you raised concerns about radioactive waste from nuclear power plants as well as from nuclear weapons programs. I will respond to your question as it relates to nuclear power plants, but because wastes from the nuclear weapons program are not under the NRC’s authority and are not at issue in this rulemaking, I cannot address them here.
      That said, the current policy for disposing of spent fuel from commercial nuclear power reactors was established by Congress in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 (as amended). The Nuclear Waste Policy Act assigned specific duties to several agencies of the federal government with regard to spent-fuel disposal. It designated the Department of Energy to locate, build, operate, and close a repository for spent fuel and for high-level nuclear waste. It also assigned to NRC the responsibility to establish regulations governing the construction, operation, and closure of the repository, consistent with environmental standards established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. This means, among other things, that for-profit corporations are not responsible for ultimate disposal of spent fuel. Any changes to this current policy—such as designating the U.S. Navy as responsible for disposing of spent fuel—would have to be approved by Congress.

      KM

    • Bill Kinsella 2:03 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

      Thanks for organizing this chat

      Here is a question that I’d like to see addressed —

      You mentioned in your announcement that the earlier NRC determination, now struck down, was that “environmental impacts of storing spent nuclear fuel after the end of a nuclear power plant’s license are not significant.” Was that determination based on the assumption that there would be no radiological releases due to accidents, attacks, or other unplanned failures to contain radionuclides? If so, what were the risk analysis basis and legal basis for that assumption? Most importantly for purposes of this question, will such potential releases be considered within the scope of the new drafts of the Waste Confidence rule and the new generic EIS?

      Thanks for considering this question, and I look forward to the chat,

      • Moderator 2:04 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

        In the 2010 update to the Waste Confidence Rule, the finding of no significant impact was based, in part, on consideration of the risk of environmental impacts resulting from postulated accidents and successful terrorist attacks. While the consequences of such events can be large, the probability of such events is very low, which makes the risk low. Postulated accidents and terrorism remain in scope and will be addressed in the draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement and proposed rule.

        KM

      • Ace Hoffman 2:23 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

        “postulated accidents and successful terrorist attacks” leaves a lot of room for inadequate protection against accidents the NRC “never saw coming” or terrorist attacks by people who think like terrorists, instead of like bureaucrats. I have no idea how you can possibly believe you are expert enough in geopolitical strategy, psychology, opportunity and attitude to know if terrorist attacks are “low probability.” We lost three soldiers and an interpreter to a suicide bomber on a donkey today in Afghanistan. Why did they use a donkey? Because they figured it would work. What will they think of next? I’ll wager a terrorist attack against our spent fuel is NOT a “low probability” event but rather, an absolute certainty. Under such conditions, what is the proper procedure and how much confidence should we have while waiting for those procedures to be carried out?

      • Moderator 2:34 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

        The Waste Confidence rulemaking is generically dealing with the environmental impacts that could result from terrorist attacks. The NRC interfaces with other agencies to determine the threat, and uses that information as the basis for considering the likelihood of a terrorist attack.

        KM

    • Louis Zeller 2:06 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

      Mr McConnell, will the NRC abide by the regulations established by the US EPA for a nuclear waste dump?

      • Moderator 2:10 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

        A geologic repository is outside of the scope of Waste Confidence, which deals with continued storage of spent fuel between the end of the operating life of a reactor and disposal.

        KM

      • Louis Zeller 2:14 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

        Even with onsite storage the only consideration, EPA and state regulations still apply. So, would NRC use its resources, legal and otherwise, to support state and federal environmental rules?

      • Moderator 2:19 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

        Sorry, your question continues to be outside of our scope. We’re not going to speculate about site specific licensing proceedings.

        KM

      • Louis Zeller 2:23 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

        Are you saying that both the national nuclear waste repository and the 67 waste sites at nuclear power plants are outside of the scope of the WCD?

      • Moderator 2:29 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

        No. We’re saying that disposal is outside the scope. Inside the scope is the continued storage of the spent fuel during the time between the end of the reactor’s operating license and when the fuel is removed for disposal. I hope that clarifies the matter.

        KM

      • Ernest Martinson 2:32 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

        Does that include storage as de facto disposal due to lack of a disposal site?

      • Moderator 2:40 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

        GEIS considers a scenario where spent fuel will need to be stored indefinitely.

        KM

      • Louis Zeller 2:11 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

        …and further, if the EPA regulations were to be challenged, for example by licensees or industry groups, would NRC use its legal resources to support the stricter regulations promulgated by the EPA, or not?

      • Moderator 2:17 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

        Your question is about disposal in a geologic repository, so that’s outside the scope of what we do here in terms of the Waste Confidence rulemaking.

        KM

    • Stephanie Cooke 2:06 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

      Through the process of reassessing the waste confidence rule is the NRC re-examing the question of whether dry cask storage might be a safer option than spent fuel pools. What is being done to address the issue of crowded spent fuel pools? Stephanie Cooke, Editor, Nuclear Intelligence Weekly

      • Moderator 2:12 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

        Waste confidence is looking at the current system in place for storage of spent fuel, including both wet and dry storage. Other parts of the NRC are evaluating expediting transfer of spent fuel to dry casks.

        KM

    • Bill Kinsella 2:08 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

      I’m glad to hear that accidents and terrorist attacks remain in scope. I presume natural disasters as well–is that correct? Accordingly, what lessons learned from Fukushima will be incorporated into the risk analysis–especially regarding “black swan” events?

      • Moderator 2:15 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

        Yes, natural disasters are part of the waste confidence scope. Lessons learned from Fukushima are being incorporated into site-specific licensing actions. We’re aware of those actions and incorporating the information to the extent that it relates to the continued storage of spent fuel.

        KM

    • Moderator 2:15 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

      We update the Waste Confidence website (http://www.nrc.gov/waste/spent-fuel-storage/wcd.html) regularly with the latest information and Waste Confidence activity updates, including links to related documents, frequently asked questions and opportunities for public involvement. You can register with GovDelivery to be notified any time a change is made to this website by going here: https://public.govdelivery.com/accounts/USNRC/subscriber/new?

      KM

      • Julius Kerr 2:20 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

        Why have you chosen this format to communicate? It sure leaves out those who cannot join through internet and/or type easily.

      • Julius Kerr 2:25 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

        It is hard for a disabled vet to type on a keyboard, but I would like to know how long you expect to maintain a nuclear waste dump?

      • Moderator 2:39 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

        You seem to be asking about disposal in a geologic repository. What we’re looking at is storage before disposal.

        KM

      • Moderator 2:26 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

        Chat is just one forum. We have many meetings coming up and we’re also communicating via phone calls and emails. If you need more information, visit our web site.

        KM

    • Yamabara Shinzo 2:17 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

      You have said that public meetings on Waste Confidence are planned for Maryland, New York, Massachusetts, Colorado, Southern California, Central California, Minnesota, Ohio, and North Carolina.

      Possible sites for waste storage (interim or otherwise) include Nevada, Washington, South Carolina, Illinois, and Idaho.

      Can you please explain these discrepancies? Why hold public meetings in communities not affected by waste while avoiding those with the most to gain from the public involvement process?

      Thank you for you considered answer.

      • Moderator 2:25 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

        Your question seems to relate to centralized interim storage as described by the Blue Ribbon Commission. For the purposes of the Waste Confidence rule, we don’t assume the existence of any particular interim storage site.

        As to our upcoming meetings — the way we chose the locations of the public meetings was by considering the public comments we got on the issue during scoping, our experience with past meetings on other generic environmental impact statements and consideration of where people lived who expressed the most interest in the issue. It really is a national issue, so we tried to spread the meetings throughout the country. Also, two of the meetings will be nationally web cast so anyone can participate.

        KM

    • Marvin Lewis 2:23 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

      1, why is it so difficult to find out how to join this chat?
      2. With our money problems at city level , we will never be able to meet our obligations for any emergency, evzacuation or anything! Help us!

      • Moderator 2:30 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

        Sorry you had difficulty. But glad you found the Chat. Your question about emergency preparedness and evacuation is outside the scope of Waste Confidence.

        KM

    • Kathryn Lewis 2:24 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

      I understand that 3 timeframes were analyzed for spent fuel storage, 60 years, 160 years and indefinite. When is the first license scheduled to expire on an existing (relicensed) operating nuclear plant in the U.S.? Would safe storage be 60 years after that or 60 years after the spent fuel is removed from the pool and put into dry casks?
      Thank you.

      • Moderator 2:37 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

        The first plant to reach the beginning of the short-term time frame in the GEIS is Dresden Unit 1. Its operating license expired in 1996. The 60 year time frame starts when the operating license expires.

        KM

      • Ace Hoffman 2:43 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

        Wouldn’t it make more sense for the storage license time frame to start when the first fuel is placed in dry casks? What is the reason for it being the cessation of waste production (ie, “operation”?) which could be decades later, with lots of degradation in the interim?

      • Moderator 2:54 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

        The environmental impacts of storage in dry casks, during operation, is considered in the site-specific licensing for that facility. Waste confidence looks at the environmental impacts of storage beyond that time. Also, please be sure to take advantage of the upcoming comment period.

        KM

    • Stephanie Cooke 2:24 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

      Could you explain what the new rule is on waste that you are about to issue? And when it will be issued?

      • Moderator 2:39 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

        The new proposed rule addresses continued storage of spent fuel. It will be issued for public comment late summer or early fall. It’s currently before the Commission. It’s to be completed by September 2014.

        KM

    • Moderator 2:24 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

      More than 3,300 individuals have joined the Waste Confidence email distribution group to get information and updates on the Waste Confidence Generic Environmental Impact Statement and rule. To join them, send an email to WCOutreach@nrc.gov.

      KM

      • Julius Kerr 2:29 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

        Well, if you would make the interaction more user friendly, you might get 33,000 or more. And not to be held during the middle of the workday for most poor hardworking citizens. I have no confidence in waste confidence.

      • Moderator 2:41 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

        Thanks for the feedback. Chat is a pilot and we’re looking to see if it’s useful to people or not.

        KM

    • Moderator 2:33 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

      Inquiring minds want to know: How long will the public comment period be and how can I comment? The comment period for the draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement and proposed Waste Confidence rule will be 75 days long. As the NRC gets closer to publication of the draft GEIS and proposed rule, we’ll provide additional details through a Federal Register notice, the Waste Confidence website, and WCOutreach@nrc.gov.

      KM

    • Bill Kinsella 2:35 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

      Many of your replies take the form of “that’s outside the scope…”. How was the scope of Waste Confidence rulemaking established? What is the relationship between the rulemaking and the EIS? If the original rule has been thrown out by the court, then wouldn’t’ there be a need to redo the scoping process as well? Was that done?

      • Moderator 2:45 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

        GEIS is the regulatory basis for the rule. We did rescope after the decision. The scoping period was October 25, 2012, to January 2, 2013.

        KM

    • StevenSondheim 2:36 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

      What IS in the scope of Waste Confidence?
      In relation to current and future storage. What levels of confidence are you requiring?

      • Moderator 2:43 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

        The scope is the impact on the environment of storage of spent fuel. To be clear, that means spent fuel that remains in storage after the operating life of a nuclear power plant. It does not look at permanent disposal, such as what was anticipated at Yucca Mountain.

        KM

    • Erica Gray 2:36 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

      I left a post prior to chat session.
      The idea of interim storage/ shipping spent rule to temporary sites should be abandoned. It is not a solution to the problem and created more risks.
      I would like to know why the NRC has been allowing the industry/utitlity to drag it’s feet on removing the spent fuel from over crowded pools and into dry casks storage on site?
      Lessons learned from Fukushima proves the crowded pools pose a great danger.,
      A Dominion rep stated they couldn’t even get but so many dry casks a year….why is that ? Costs, or availability?

      • Erica Gray 2:43 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

        that should be “would create more risks”.
        I wanted to add that Dominion improperly stored spent fuel last year at North Anna…the heat exceeded the casks design. Dominion ended up getting an exemption….said it would cost too much to redo and expose people to radiation.
        I have no confidence in radioactive waste being transported, specially if they can’t even get that right.

      • Moderator 2:47 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

        Our Fukushima lessons-learned folks are considering expedited transfer of spent fuel from pools to dry cask storage. That consideration is currently underway.

        KM

    • Yamabara Shinzo 2:36 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

      Thank you for holding this chat session.

      My other question relates to Waste Confidence as it is affected by congress.

      We are discussing on site storage, possibly even HOSS, because the federal government has not yet come up with a solution to long term storage.

      If congress fails in the long term to come up with a centralized solution for waste storage, is on site storage a viable alternative in perpetuum? Can the industry continue to grow and thrive with a model of on site storage even with the knowledge that a permanent centralized site will never materialize?

      • Moderator 2:49 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

        The national policy still is disposal in a geologic respository. However, in response to the court’s decision, we in waste confidence have considered the environmental impacts for indefinite storage.

        KM

      • Bill Kinsella 2:52 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

        How do you do RA calculations for indefinite storage? It would seem that “indefinite” can include “forever” or “a very lomng time.” On such time scales, high-consequence, low probability risks become more likely–eventually they become high probability. Basic math. How is this addressed in your RA?

      • Moderator 3:04 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

        We have considered that issue in the GEIS. Please look at that, and we look forward to your formal comments, during our comment period.

        KM

      • Yamabara Shinzo 2:52 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

        Where can we learn more about the environmental impacts for indefinite storage that you have described as having been ‘considered’ ?

      • Moderator 3:02 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

        The Commission review draft of the draft generic environmental impact statement and its references including those related to indefinite storage are on the Waste Confidence web site at http://www.nrc.gov.

        KM

    • StevenSondheim 2:42 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

      What are the criteria for determining an adequate level if confidence?

      • Moderator 2:52 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

        We considered the experience of storing spent fuel, and that, along with consideration of the environmental impacts that result from continued storage is the basis for the waste confidence rule.

        KM

    • Moderator 2:44 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

      Some of the radioactive elements in spent fuel remain radioactive for many thousands of years. So plans for storage and ultimate disposal of spent fuel focus on continued safety and security of the material. The radioactivity level of spent fuel does drop over time as the more-radioactive (and thus shorter-lived) elements decay.

      KM

      • Ace Hoffman 2:52 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

        The greatest harm would occur if the fission products in the fuel are released early on — by several orders of magnitude over just a few decades later. Therefore the most important time to secure the fuel properly is now, not at some later date in some “ultimate” repository, when it will be 1% or one tenth of 1% of the danger it is now: Still frightfully dangerous and in need of isolation, but damage to DNA now will cause lasting effects, so again, now is the most important time to properly protect the fuel. Ceasing operation of all nuclear power plants would be a good first step. Or is that not being considered by the NRC yet as a viable and reasonable option? When was the last time (if ever) the NRC evaluated the full scope of problems with nuclear power versus other energy choices? This is within scope of this chat because we are discussing the safest way to handle spent fuel from shut-down to permanent repository. The safest way to handle it — the ONLY safe way — is not to make any more of it and thus reduce the ‘shorter-lived elements to nothing.

    • Stephanie Cooke 2:47 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

      Could you give us a tad bit more to go on vis the specifics of this proposed rule. Do these safety rules address overcrowding in a more detailed way than existing regs? Do they require dry storage after a certain period of time? Do they set out rules for security at plants particularly once a reactor has been decommissioned?

      • Moderator 2:57 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

        The current version of the waste confidence doesn’t have a safety part to its rule, just the environmental impacts of the storage. The rule is now before the Commission. You can see the Commission review draft on the Waste Confidence Decision section of the web site at http://www.nrc.gov.

        KM

    • Kathryn Lewis 2:48 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

      Also in reference to the 3 timeframes, I believe the NRC envisions/recommends that in the case of 160 yrs or indefinite storage that the ISFSI and “dry transfer system” (casks?) be replaced every 100 years. Would these activities also be overseen by the NRC with regard to safety? If so, would it require that new regulations specific to this process be developed?
      Thank you.

      • Moderator 2:59 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

        The assumption is the NRC would have regulatory oversight over the activities of the dry transfer system.

        KM

    • Moderator 2:52 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

      Congress declared, under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 (as amended), that it is the policy of the United States to rely on a deep, geologic repository at Yucca Mountain to dispose of the nation’s spent nuclear fuel. The NRC is required to perform licensing reviews and activities related to an application for such a facility. In 2010, the Department of Energy moved to withdraw its application for Yucca Mountain. The matter is now before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

      KM

      • Ace Hoffman 2:53 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

        Can Congress dictate the laws of science? NRC seems to think so.

    • Erica Gray 2:54 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

      Why is this still awaiting moderation?
      Do you get to pick and choose what responses to post?
      I wrote earlier…..that should be “would create more risks”.
      I wanted to add that Dominion improperly stored spent fuel last year at North Anna…the heat exceeded the casks design. Dominion ended up getting an exemption….said it would cost too much to redo and expose people to radiation.
      I have no confidence in radioactive waste being transported, specially if they can’t even get that right.

    • Moderator 2:54 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

      Just a reminder — the Chat ends at 3 p.m. I really appreciate your interest and have tried to get to most of your questions. Thanks for joining us today!

      KM

    • Erica Gray 2:57 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

      There is no safe place to store radioactive waste and no containers that will last that long.
      We should stop making more of it and secure the waste we have already made.

    • Moderator 3:00 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

      Thanks for your questions. Our next chat is scheduled for Aug. 13, when we’ll be discussing earthquakes and U.S. nuclear power plants.

      KM

    • Yamabara Shinzo 3:01 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

      I understand the chat is over now. I just want to thank you for answering our questions. There are many things we don’t agree on, but I respect and appreciate your willingness to communicate.

      • Moderator 3:02 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

        Thank you very much. We appreciate that!

        KM

      • Bill Kinsella 3:05 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink

        Yes, thank you Mr Connell and NRC crew. I appreciate your efforts.

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