Friday, March 8, 2013

Fukushima Two Years Later

FUKUSHIMA  March 2013

Two years after the earthquake, tsunami, and catastrophic accident at the four reactors in Fukushima, things remain grim.  Here is a synopsis…

“Radioactive contamination levels on site remain extremely high, making the decommissioning of the plant a Herculean task for plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco). The conditions at reactors 1, 2 and 3 remain too severe for workers to enter.  After surveying inside the containment vessels of reactors 1 and 2, the company found radiation levels high enough to kill a human within one hour.”

"What we need to do is isolate, remove and store the damaged and broken nuclear fuel safely," said the 56-year-old plant manager Takeshi Takahashi. "This work will take 30 to 40 years to complete."  This is just to deal with the fuel.  The demolition of the remaining components, structures, and buildings will take many more years after that.

“Tepco is planning to move the undamaged fuel rods from the Reactor # 4 pool to a newly constructed common fuel pool in an operation that is expected to start in November and take a year to complete. The nuclear rods will remain in the common pool for four or five years before being placed in safer dry casks being built at a site further away from the sea front. The common pool, capacity 6,800, already holds 6,300 rods. Therefore Tepco is planning to move out some of these rods once the construction of the dry casks is finished to make space for the rods from the pool in reactor 4.”

“Tepco faces the unprecedented job of having to remove the melted nuclear fuel - including the highly toxic MOX fuel (a mix of plutonium and uranium) from reactor #3 - from the other three damaged reactors as part of the decommissioning. This work is expected to begin around 2022. The exact location inside the reactors of the melted fuel remains unclear, according to Asahi Shimbun. It is expected to be scattered within the pressure vessel, containment vessel and piping system of the reactors.”

“The process of keeping the fuel cool, both inside and outside of the reactors, is yielding roughly 440 tons of water every day, raising the issue of what to do with the contaminated liquid.  Over 700,000 tons are already stored in tanks, and slowly being treated.”  Also, there is approximately 400 metric tons of groundwater leaking into the reactor buildings, and they are building a bypass system to try to stop the groundwater flowing from high ground into the buildings.”  The concern, of course, is contamination of the ocean and fisheries.

This “cleanup” will cost many, many billions of dollars (yen), and as in Chernobyl and Hanford, will probably never really be completely cleaned up.  Add to that the toll to tens of thousands of people who have lost their homes and livelihood, and the impact on the environment, and one has to question the benefits of nuclear power. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Short Video of San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant

Here is a short video showing all the components of the San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant in Southern California. 
Unit 1 was shut down a long time ago, and Units 2 &3 are currently inoperable because of steam generator problems and other issues.  Like all power plants, it too will need to be decommissioned.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

History of HBNPP

Here is an historical accounting of the Humboldt Bay Nuclear Power Plant from the California Energy Commission, 2006.

It is a pdf file, and scroll down a few pages for it to start.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Two Historical Articles on HBNPP

Here are two historical articles on the Humboldt Bay Nuclear Power Plant.

#1 from the local Eureka Humboldt Standard,  Feb 21, 1958

PG&E Head Reveals Huge Project Cost
The atomic power-plant which Pacific Gas & Electric Company plans to build near Eureka will cost 28 million dollars to build and operate for four years, according to PG&E President Norman R.Sutherland.. 
He said the 60,000 kilowatt plant, which will produce economical nuclear electricity, will be built by BechteI Corp  for 20 million dollars. This compares with 11 million dollars for a conventional steam plant.
Uranium to run the plant for 3 ½ to 4 ½ years will be rented from the government for five million dollars, Sutherland told a press conference Thursday.  It will cost another  Three million dollars to fabricate the uranium into pellets for the core of the boiling-water type reactor furnace.
Cheaper Than Oil
He said the eight million dollar cost for fuel is about-half that of oil used in steam plants, therefore, costs of building and operating the nuclear plant would begin to balance out with the costs of conventional plants with the second core or batch of uranium fuel.
Sutherland said Eureka was picked for the site of the new plant because it has moderately high fuel costs.   “Oil for steam ‘plants must be barged in and it is remote from our general transmission system,” he said. “Two 100,000 volt lines’ are brought ‘in 110 miles over the Trinity Mountains f r o m Lockwood, and standby facilities must be maintained.”
Negotiating for Land
Sutherland said PG&E is negotiating to buy land on the coast near San Francisco for future construction of a nuclear plant. He said studies are continuing, although so far surveys have indicated that such a plant would be competitive with steam and hydro electric plants.  Asked if he believed the’ Eureka plant indicated the coming obsolescence of steam am hydroelectric plants, Sutherland replied: “Emphatically no.”  It may do so. In the Eureka area,” he said, “but not in our general system. In fact, we now have five hydroelectric and three steam-plants under construction.”
Eureka Humboldt Standard
Feb 21, 1958   p9
#2 From the Sierra Club Magazine, 1984

The Short, Sad Life and

                      Long, Slow Death of Humboldt Bay

NUCLEAR ENERGY made its California debut in 1958, when Pacific Gas & Electric announced that the state's first atomic-power plant would be built on the remote north coast. Two years later surveyors mapped out a site a few miles south of Eureka, and in September 1963 Humboldt Bay became the seventh nuclear-power plant in the country to go on-line.
In what was to prove an inauspicious beginning, Humboldt underwent two sudden emergency shutdowns within its first two months of operation. For ten weeks during 1965, faulty fuel rods released uncontrolled radiation. A near-meltdown occurred in July 1970, the year that Humboldt, which led all the nation's reactors in radioactive emissions, was labeled the country's "dirtiest" nuke by Science magazine.
The beginning of the end for Humboldt came in 1976, when a Forest Service geologist documented the existence of two active earthquake faults in the vicinity, one only 56 feet from the reactor. The plant was closed for refueling at the time, and ­following a petition by citizen intervenors to keep it shut down permanently-the Nuclear Regulatory Commission ruled that Humboldt should not be reopened.
The plant was removed from PG&E's rate base in 1979. In July 1983 the utility announced that it did not plan to operate the plant ever again and that the decommissioning process would begin.
Because the shutdown of the plant in 1976 had not eliminated the earthquake danger, citizen activists had begun their own decommissioning process years before PG&E's 1983 announcement. They sponsored conferences on decommissioning in 1979 and 1981 to focus community attention on the technical and financial problems facing Humboldt. No one had any clear idea how the decommissioning process was going to work, and PG&E had used the money collected from ratepayers for decommissioning to pay the utility's day-to-day operating expenses.
In 1983 the PUC ruled that all state utilities must establish an "external sinking fund," a separate fund for decommissioning that would be outside the utilities' control. The ruling did not settle the financial controversy over Humboldt.  PG&E now claims that, because it was fulfilling its responsibility to provide eco­nomical energy to its customers, the ratepayers should be responsible for the full costs of decommissioning; the utility has requested a $130-million rate hike for this purpose. Others argue that the majority of the burden should be borne by PG&E stockholders, because Humboldt failed to operate for even half its expected lifetime. The PUC has yet to determine who should pay how much for how long.
Technical questions remain as well. P&E has not made a formal announcement concerning its decommissioning plans, but it apparently intends to delay dismantle­ment of the Humboldt Bay facility until 2015. Meanwhile, it has already embarked on a modified version of safe storage: The fuel rods have been removed from the reactor core and placed in an on-site storage pool. Critics are concerned about the safety of the storage plan: The pool is below sea level and only 100 yards from the ocean-and the earthquake faults that were there in 1976 have not disappeared.
As an intervenor since 1978 in the NRC proceedings regarding Humboldt, the Sierra Club is asking for a full environmental impact statement on PG&E's decommis­sioning plans. The Club contends that decommissioning is a matter of great public interest and that approval of a plan would constitute "major federal action signifi­cantly affecting the quality of the human environment."
Humboldt Bay operated for a mere 13 years. Its afterlife could indeed be an eternity. -Annie Stine / Sierra #69, 1984

Monday, July 2, 2012

Problems at EnergySolutions

EnergySolutions is the company that owns the low-level radioactive waste site in Clive, Utah, where Humboldt Bay is sending the bulk of its low level wastes.
They recently branched out to offer not only waste disposal, but also full decommissioning services.  As with any business, be it a solar manufacturer or a nuclear firm, there are risks and pitfalls.  Let's hope this one doesn't impact the completion of decommissioning of Humboldt Bay.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Some Current Articles of Interest

A couple of recent news stories relating to the decommissioning of HBNPP.

A finding at the Seabrook nuclear power plant in New Hampshire:
“groundwater has deteriorated by 22 percent the concrete of an underground tunnel…”
This may have some implications in the decisions to remove below-grade concrete at the Humboldt Bay Plant.

The Texas Low Level Nuclear Waste Facility where PG&E is hoping to send some of its B & C  (more radioactive) wastes is still awaiting approval to receive California wastes. 

The history of low level waste disposal has been a long and troubled story.  In 1980, Congress ordered that states enter into compacts to address their radioactive wastes issues.  Existing sites at Maxey Flats, KY, West Valley, NY, Sheffied, Il, and Beatty, NV were eventually closed amid environmental and economic problems.  Hanford, WA and Barnwell, SC remain open only for their member states.  California, Arizona, and Nebraska failed at their attempt to build a site in the Mojave Desert.  No other states have abided by the federal law and built their own disposal sites. 

Enter private industry, and the first ( and still one of the only sites) accepting wastes from all over the US.  The facility in Clive, UT is where PG&E is sending the bulk of its wastes.

Some special wastes are going to Idaho, outside of Idaho Falls.  As usual, controversy follows.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Here is the California Department of Toxic Substance Control's
Web Site where documents relating to the PG&E cleanup are stored.

Click on "activities" to get to the posted documents.