Monday, May 19, 2008

News From the Week of May 19, 2008

Solar Panels Unveiled at Fenway Park

Three Mile Island Nuclear Plant Violated Security Rules

Nuke Waste Move Brings Mishap at Vermont Yankee

EnergySolutions is Willing to Limit Foreign Waste

Idaho Environmental Group Questions Nuclear Waste Shipments

Solar Panels Unveiled at Fenway Park
By Andrew Ryan, Globe StaffThe green at Fenway Park will no longer be limited to the cushiony grass, historic rafters, and 37-foot-high wall in left field. Enough solar panels have been installed on the roof to heat a third of the hot water needed at the 96-year-old ballpark. The solar installation, which is being unveiled today, will provide 37 percent of the hot water needed at the stadium, reducing annual carbon dioxide emissions by roughly 18 tons. The project is being spearheaded by National Grid, which has committed $75,000 to Solar Boston. City and federal officials announced plans for the environmental upgrade at Fenway last month to highlight a $600,000 initiative to increase the city's solar energy output 50-fold by 2015. Dubbed Solar Boston, the effort will map neighborhoods to identify south-facing rooftops ideal for photovoltaic panels; market solar power to businesses and homeowners; and work to overcome technical and financial barriers to solar energy. "The program is designed to jump-start widespread solar installations throughout Boston with a public-private partnership," said James Hunt, the city's environmental and energy services chief. The goal is to increase solar output from the current 1/2 megawatt to 25 megawatts, which is enough to power 3,000 Boston households, Hunt said. Mayor Thomas M. Menino said last month that the goal is to "make clean, abundant, and affordable solar energy the norm and no longer an alternative source of energy." The program will be funded in part by $150,000 from the Department of Energy, a grant the city matched. The federal government will also provide an additional $250,000 in technical assistance over two years, and the state has agreed to contribute $50,000, Hunt said. The Menino administration plans to lead the citywide solar push by installing about $1 million worth of panels on municipal buildings, including Brighton High School, The Strand Theatre, Tobin Community Center, and the West Roxbury Branch Library. That is on top of Boston's $2 million Green Affordable Housing Program that has added solar to the roofs of six city developments.


Three Mile Island Nuclear Plant Violated Security Rules
May 16 - United Press International

Federal nuclear regulators said they will be conducting inspections at Pennsylvania's Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station after a security lapse.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said the security issue, which occurred last summer, was discovered and reported by the operator of the plant, AmerGen Energy, The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa., reported Friday.

The commission didn't specify the nature of the security lapse, only that it didn't involve inattentive or sleeping security officers and was of moderate to serious significance.

AmerGen Energy officials said the issue was immediately corrected.

A Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman said close inspections of security operations at the plant will be conducted during the next 12 months.


Nuke Waste Move Brings Mishap at Vermont Yankee
BRATTLEBORO, Vt. (The Associated Press) - May 17

The first attempt by the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant to move highly radioactive spent fuel from a storage pool to a new concrete pad outside the reactor building ended in a mishap when a crane dropped a concrete storage cask 4 inches to the floor, officials said.

A faulty electrical relay in the crane was blamed for Monday's incident and has been replaced, said Vermont Yankee spokesman Robert Williams. The cask was not damaged and no workers were hurt, he said. The incident was not considered a safety hazard, which would have prompted a public posting on a Nuclear Regulatory Commission Web site. Williams said it is expected the crane will be back in operation sometime this coming week after testing.

The cask contained 68 spent fuel assemblies, the first to be moved from the spent fuel pool in the reactor building to the new "dry cask storage" pad in the adjacent plant yard.

Vermont Yankee won permission for dry cask storage two years ago, saying the fuel storage pool at the now 36-year-old reactor was filling up and that more waste storage was needed or the plant would have to shut down. The space crunch is due to the fact that the federal government has failed to date to open a long-planned site to take waste from nuclear plants, where it is backing up.

Vermont's Department of Public Service, which advises the governor on energy issues, agreed that there was no risk to workers or the public, said its spokesman, Stephen Wark.

Wark said the DPS had its nuclear adviser, Uldis Vanags, "on site as an observer. We have been aware of the transfer incident and backup safety systems worked as designed."

Wark said he was glad Vermont Yankee decided to make word of the incident public, calling it "an effort to further transparency."


EnergySolutions is Willing to Limit Foreign Waste

SALT LAKE CITY (The Associated Press) - May 20 - By BROCK VERGAKIS
Associated Press Writer

The chief executive of EnergySolutions Inc. said Tuesday he wants to import a limited amount of foreign nuclear waste for disposal in the west desert to improve the company's chances of building dumps abroad.

EnergySolutions has an application pending before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to import 20,000 tons of low-level radioactive waste from Italy. It is the largest import license request for nuclear waste the NRC has ever received.

EnergySolutions wants to bring the Italian waste through New Orleans or Charleston, S.C., for processing and incineration in Oak Ridge, Tenn. The company then wants to bury 1,600 tons in Utah, home of the country's largest and only privately owned low-level radioactive waste dump.

The proposal has led to widespread opposition in Utah and other states the waste would travel through. It has also sparked a bill in Congress that would ban the importation of all low-level radioactive foreign waste unless it originated here or came from an American military facility.

The bill's sponsors worry that the U.S. won't have enough space for domestic waste if it accepts foreign waste.

During testimony in Washington, D.C., before a House subcommittee on the bill, EnergySolutions CEO Steve Creamer said capacity isn't a problem and he wouldn't do anything that might mean domestic customers have no place to dispose of waste.

"We do not want to bring wholesale radioactive waste into this country," Creamer said.

He said the intent in importing the waste is to "have an American company build a strong position internationally."

When the company went public last year, it listed its Utah disposal site as one of its competitive strengths.

In prepared remarks, Creamer told lawmakers that EnergySolutions is increasingly looking for international business, including the decommissioning of nuclear reactors in the United Kingdom.

"We are also exploring opportunities to site low-level waste disposal facilities abroad in order to help other countries address their waste management issues," Creamer said.

To allay concerns about capacity at the Clive, Utah, site about 70 miles west of Salt Lake City, Creamer said he would voluntarily ask state regulators to limit the amount of foreign waste disposed of at the site to 5 percent of the facility's capacity.

However, Gov. Jon Huntsman has said he doesn't want any foreign waste disposed of in Utah.

In prepared remarks, Kent Bradford, chairman of the Utah Radiation Control Board, told the House subcommittee that "any country that has the technological capability of producing nuclear power within its borders should not seek to dispose of its waste outside them. Development of nuclear power should go hand in hand with the development of disposal options."

Earlier this month, Utah used its veto authority on an eight-state interstate compact that governs nuclear waste management in the region to say Utah would no longer accept foreign waste.

EnergySolutions is challenging the compact's authority in a lawsuit in U.S. District Court. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has said the company's import license is dependent on it having a site to dispose of the waste.

A ruling on the license application is expected this summer.

On the Net: House Committee on Energy and Commerce


Idaho Environmental Group Questions Nuclear Waste Shipments
TWIN FALLS, Idaho (The Associated Press) - May 20

An Idaho nuclear watchdog group has asked the U.S. Department of Energy to conduct more environmental studies before going ahead with a plan that would increase the amount of nuclear waste being sent to eastern Idaho for processing.

The Snake River Alliance, in a May 14 letter to U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman, asked that more analysis be done before going through with the plan that makes the Idaho National Laboratory the nation's primary processing center for transuranic waste from nuclear sites that don't have their own processing capabilities.

"It seemed to us there was a lot of information that wasn't taken into account when the Department of Energy made its decision," Beatrice Brailsford, Snake River Alliance program director, told The Times-News.

Transuranic waste includes building, laboratory and other debris contaminated with nuclear material.

The Energy Department announced earlier this year that it plans to send such waste from 14 facilities to the INL, an 890-square-mile federal nuclear research area in eastern Idaho, for repackaging before it is sent to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico.

As part of the plan, 9,000 cubic meters of radioactive waste from south-central Washington's Hanford nuclear reservation and 13 other areas would be sent to Idaho for repackaging.

The Snake River Alliance and four other similar groups say DOE documents contain conflicting information and errors about the shipments, and that could mean some of the waste stays in Idaho.

Joann Wardrip, a DOE spokeswoman, said the plan is meant to more efficiently treat and dispose of waste.

"We feel that the Idaho facility is very well equipped to treat this waste," she said. "It helps us get to our mission of safely cleaning up waste we have across (the country)."

The waste, according to department documents, would only be accepted if it meets requirements of an agreement with the state of Idaho. That agreement requires all waste to be treated within six months and shipped out within six months after that.

An analysis by the department found that any impact to the environment or worker safety would be within allowed limits.

The Snake River Alliance calls into question that analysis and asks for additional study.

Among the concerns noted by the alliance is that the New Mexico facility won't accept the waste from the INL due to shipping containers that have not yet been approved for such use, meaning it would remain in Idaho.

Wardrip declined to comment on specific concerns, noting the department is currently preparing a reply to the alliance.

Brailsford said the group expects to get the letter from the department by the end of the month. She said the group's next move depends on how DOE officials respond to the letter.

Joining the alliance in sending the letter were the Natural Resources Defense Council, Southwest Research and Information Center, Tri-Valley CARES, and Heart of America Northwest.

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