Union Of Concerned Scientists Releases Report On US Nuclear Plant Safety, Finds NRC Oversight Weakness At Indian Point NPP

Tyler Durden's picture

From a just released report by the Union of Concerned Scientists, focusing on US Nuclear Power Plant oversight by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. "Many of the serious safety or security lapses at U.S. nuclear power plants in 2010 happened because plant owners -- and often the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) -- failed to address known safety problems." And something potentially concerning to Buchanan, NY residents where Indian Point NPP is located: "the NRC did not always serve the public well in 2010. This report analyzes serious safety problems at Peach Bottom, Indian Point, and Vermont Yankee that the NRC overlooked or dismissed. At Indian Point, for example, the NRC discovered that the liner of a refueling cavity at Unit 2 has been leaking since at least 1993. By allowing this reactor to continue operating with equipment that cannot perform its only safety function, the NRC is putting people living around Indian Point at elevated and undue risk." The report's conclusion: "when the NRC tolerates unresolved safety problems -- as it did last year at Peach Bottom, Indian Point, and Vermont Yankee -- this lax oversight allows that risk to rise. The more owners sweep safety problems under the rug and the longer safety problems remain uncorrected, the higher the risk climbs."

Indian Point section from the report:

The Indian Point nuclear plant in New York features two pressurized water reactors (PWRs). To refuel a PWR, workers flood the refueling cavity with water, which allows them to remove irradiated fuel assemblies from the reactor core and replace them with fresh fuel assemblies. The water both removes decay heat from the irradiated fuel assemblies and shields the radiation they emit, protecting the workers.

The Final Safety Analysis Reports (FSARs) submitted by the plant owner with the application for an operating license for Unit 2 stated that the refueling cavity was “designed to withstand the anticipated earthquake loadings,” and that “the liner prevents leakage in the event the reinforced concrete develops cracks.” When the NRC issued the operating license for Unit 2, the leakage prevention function of the liner for the refueling cavity became part of the licensing basis. However, NRC inspectors at Indian Point recently found that the liner has been leaking 2 to 20 gallons per minute since at least 1993 (NRC 2010v), and that the plant owner has not yet delivered on repeated promises to fix the leak. That means the device installed to prevent leakage after an earthquake is leaking before an earthquake even occurs. The liner has no other safety function. Yet NRC managers have dismissed the longstanding problem, noting that the refueling cavity leaks only when it is filled with water (NRC 2010o).

These inspectors are repeating the very same mistakes the NRC made at the Millstone nuclear plant in Connecticut 15 to 20 years ago. In March 1996 the NRC made the cover of Time magazine—and not as regulator of the year. Time called the NRC out for failing to enforce its own rules. Workers at Millstone routinely transferred all the fuel from the reactor core to the spent fuel pool during each refueling outage, despite a regulatory requirement to do so only under abnormal conditions. Workers also nearly always violated a regulatory requirement to wait a few hours before transferring fuel out of the reactor core, to allow radiation levels to drop, thus lowering the threat to workers and the public from the movements.


That means the Indian Point owner could fix the refueling cavity liner so that it no longer leaks. Or the company could seek NRC approval for leaving the cavity liner as is, if an evaluation shows that the plant would then maintain required safety margins. Or the owner could seek NRC’s approval to modify the plant or its procedures to compensate for the leaking liner.

However, the Indian Point owner has chosen option 4: to do absolutely nothing to resolve the safety nonconformance, daring the NRC to respond. That was the very same option the Millstone owner chose in the early 1990s—which led to the reactor shutdown and the NRC’s efforts to prevent such a situation from ever happening again.

The laissez-faire approach to safety at Indian Point contrasts sharply with the approach at Turkey Point Unit 3 in Florida, after a similar problem surfaced in 2010. On July 29, workers at that plant detected a through-wall crack in the drain pipe from the refueling cavity transfer canal (FPL 2010). Workers could not repair the crack until they drained the refueling  cavity, but the owner committed to making the repair immediately after they did so.

The owner also committed to “daily walkdowns for increased leakage or new leak locations while the transfer canal is filled.” In other words, workers would inspect that area each day for water leaking from the damaged drain pipe. Rather than fall back on the NRC’s apparent indifference to leaks from the refueling cavity, this owner took steps to manage the risk until workers could correct the degraded condition.

The NRC’s performance at Indian Point is worse than that 15 to 20 years ago at Millstone, for the simple reason that the agency has put measures in place to prevent the next such fiasco. The NRC has explicitly directed resident inspectors to determine whether nuclear plants are operating within their licensing bases, and whether they are adhering to the agency’s guidance given any discrepancies.

The resident NRC inspectors at Indian Point did their job by flagging the degradation of the liner for Unit 2’s refueling cavity, and the fact that the plant does not conform to its licensing basis. However, NRC managers have deviated from their own post-Millstone guidance by accepting the degraded, nonconforming condition without any analysis showing that the plant has critical safety margins. There is just no excuse for the NRC to revert back to its pre-Millstone nonchalance regarding nuclear reactors that operate outside their licensing bases.

UCS release

Union of Concerned Scientists Releases Report on the NRC and Nuclear Plant Safety in 2010

WASHINGTON  (March 17, 2011) -- Many of the serious safety or
security lapses at U.S. nuclear power plants in 2010 happened because
plant owners -- and often the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) --
failed to address known safety problems, according to a report released today by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). Below is the executive summary of the report.

The NRC and Nuclear Power Plant Safety in 2010: A Brighter Spotlight Needed

David Lochbaum, Union of Concerned Scientists

Executive Summary

This report is the first in an annual series on the safety-related
performance of the owners of U.S. nuclear power plants and the Nuclear
Regulatory Commission (NRC), which regulates the plants. The NRC’s
mission is to protect the public from the inherent hazards of nuclear

In 2010, the NRC reported on 14 special inspections it launched in
response to troubling events, safety equipment problems, and security
shortcomings at nuclear power plants. This report provides an overview
of each of these significant events -- or near-misses.

This overview shows that many of these significant events occurred
because reactor owners, and often the NRC, tolerated known safety
problems. For example, the owner of the Calvert Cliffs plant in Maryland
ended a program to routinely replace safety components before launching
a new program to monitor degradation of those components. As a result,
an electrical device that had been in use for longer than its service
lifetime failed, disabling critical safety components.

In another example, after declaring an emergency at its Brunswick
nuclear plant in North Carolina, the owner failed to staff its emergency
response teams within the required amount of time. That lapse occurred
because workers did not know how to activate the automated system that
summons emergency workers to the site.

Outstanding Catches by the NRC

This report also provides three examples where onsite NRC inspectors
made outstanding catches of safety problems at the Oconee, Browns Ferry,
and Kewaunee nuclear plants—before these impairments could lead to
events  requiring special inspections, or to major accidents.

At the Oconee plant in South Carolina, the owner fixed a problem with
a vital safety system on Unit 1 that had failed during a periodic test.
However, the owner decided that identical components on Units 2 and 3
could not possibly have the same problem. NRC inspectors persistently
challenged lame excuse after lame excuse until the company finally
agreed to test the other two units. When it did so, their systems
failed, and NRC inspectors ensured that the company corrected the

Poor NRC Oversight

However, the NRC did not always serve the public well in 2010. This
report analyzes serious safety problems at Peach Bottom, Indian Point,
and Vermont Yankee that the NRC overlooked or dismissed. At Indian
Point, for example, the NRC discovered that the liner of a refueling
cavity at Unit 2 has been leaking since at least 1993. By allowing this
reactor to continue operating with equipment that cannot perform its
only safety function, the NRC is putting people living around Indian
Point at elevated and undue risk.

The NRC audits only about 5
percent of activities at nuclear plants each year. Because its spotlight
is more like a strobe light -- providing brief, narrow glimpses into
plant conditions --the NRC must focus on the most important problem
areas. Lessons from the 14 near-misses reveal how the NRC should apply
its limited resources to reap the greatest returns to public safety.

we have not reviewed all NRC actions, the three positive and three
negative examples do not represent the agency’s best and worst
performances in 2010. Instead, the examples highlight patterns of NRC
behavior that contributed to these outcomes. The positive examples
clearly show that the NRC can be an effective regulator. The negative
examples attest that the agency still has work to do to become the
regulator of nuclear power that the public deserves.


Overall, our analysis of NRC oversight of safety-related events and
practices at U.S. nuclear power plants in 2010 suggests these

•    Nuclear power plants continue to experience
problems with safety-related equipment and worker errors that increase
the risk of damage to the reactor core -- and thus harm to employees and
the public.

•    Recognized but misdiagnosed or unresolved safety problems often
cause significant events at nuclear power plants, or increase their

•    When onsite NRC inspectors discover a broken
device, an erroneous test result, or a maintenance activity that does
not reflect procedure, they too often focus just on that problem. Every
such finding should trigger an evaluation of why an owner failed to fix a
problem before NRC inspectors found it.

•    The NRC can better
serve the U.S. public and plant owners by emulating the persistence
shown by onsite inspectors who made good catches while eliminating the
indefensible lapses that led to negative outcomes.

•    Four of
the 14 special inspections occurred at three plants owned by Progress
Energy. While the company may simply have had an unlucky year,
corporate-wide approaches to safety may have contributed to this poor
performance. When conditions trigger special inspections at more than
one plant with the same owner, the NRC should formally evaluate whether
corporate policies and practices contributed to the shortcomings.

chances of a disaster at a nuclear plant are low. When the NRC finds
safety problems and ensures that owners address them -- as happened last
year at Oconee, Browns Ferry, and Kewaunee -- it keeps the risk posed
by nuclear power to workers and the public as low as practical. But when
the NRC tolerates unresolved safety problems -- as it did last year at
Peach Bottom, Indian Point, and Vermont Yankee -- this lax oversight
allows that risk to rise. The more owners sweep safety problems under
the rug and the longer safety problems remain uncorrected, the higher
the risk climbs.
While none of the safety problems in 2010
caused harm to plant employees or the public, their frequency -- more
than one per month -- is high for a mature industry. The severe
accidents at Three Mile Island in 1979 and Chernobyl in 1986 occurred
when a handful of known problems -- aggravated by a few worker miscues
-- transformed fairly routine events into catastrophes. That plant
owners could have avoided nearly all 14 near-misses in 2010 had they
corrected known deficiencies in a timely manner suggests that our luck
at nuclear roulette may someday run out

full report link

UCS REport

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hedgeless_horseman's picture

It could never happen here, bitchezzzz!

Dr. Richard Head's picture

Exactly.  The power plant in my stomping grounds, Perry, OH, was built on a fault line, albeit a fault line that only gives us 3 richter earthquakes.  Normalcy bias will get me through all of this.  You just wait and see.

CH1's picture

I know engineers who were fired for refusing to falsify critical testing results during the construction of a nuke plant. They know many others, and at different plants.

It sounds unbelievable, but the NRC has overseen a culture of corruption in the construction of these plants. Of all places to skimp - a NUCLEAR plant! But the stories are too many and the sources too reliable.

Yes, Lord Acton, power DOES corrupt, and the NRC has power over a LOT of money.

FilthyLucre's picture

Power corrupts, nuclear power corrupts absolutely?

scrappy's picture

A better way? After this disaster perhaps we might consider...


The DBI Thorium Breeding/Breeder Reactor designs represent an evolutionary advance in nuclear reactor design. Under development for four decades, the reactor consists of a small number of robust, mechanically elegant and low-pressure core systems. This elegance reduces overall manufacturing, installation, operations and maintenance costs. The design simplicity includes extensive use of modern automated controls that also translates into greater operational safety.

The DBI designs comply with all safety requirements and specifically obviate nuclear accidents like those that occurred at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl.

The DBI Thorium Reactor designs provide for enhanced safety from a variety of perspectives including the mechanical design, fuel type usage and fuel waste.

DBI reactors are designed to comply with the prevailing “Defense in Depth” philosophy of nuclear reactor safety. Remote automated monitoring and operational control redundant computer systems and gravity driven fail-safe controls, etc. are just some of the safety features. These mechanically simple and robust engineered features have been used in the United States nuclear industry since first-generation nuclear reactors to eliminate the possibility of radiation release to the environment, catastrophic failure through operator error or core meltdown.

ALL Key Advantages of Thorium-powered nuclear reactors.

Wired Magazine also ran a story on this technology a while back.


Uranium Is So Last Century — Enter Thorium, the New Green Nuke


Your job as a reader of this get informed and support what you think is best regarding nuclear energy. I personally believe this is a good technology (transitional) even if I would like to see renew-able energy to be our ultimate future.

Larry Darrell's picture

Attn:      Bruce Krasting


Subject:  Indian Point


Dear Mr. Krasting,


You may wish to consider relocating your primary residence.








Can someone remind me?  Is USDX sub 76 bullish or bearish?

barliman's picture


Alternatively, there are Soviet designed half tracks and APV's that can be had for a song at any number of bazaars in Egypt.

"Why wait on traffic when you can just drive over it?"


slewie the pi-rat's picture

bruce is heavily self-medicated, fishing in his fave pothole. 

he's reeling in tires!

sub 76 is bearish you moron!  buy!  then sell into any rally past 76 or when yer tight stops are taken out, like in about 7.6 seconds!

the commodities are flying!  so much for slewie's deflation call, eh?  corn is up 5%!  crack that whip!  OJ and silver are down when i peeked.  makes me just wanna rim that hot, young blythe! she may be the woman to push slewie past the point of no return!

Bruce Krasting's picture

I am fairly "up" on the IP news. Like I said, it's only nine miles away. I have know for a few decades that this is a dangerous relic that has no business being open 30 miles from mid-town.

Do I worry? Not really. I have an exit strategy.

But draw a 50 mile circle around this beast. You will find 20mm people inside the ring. A good portion don't have an exit strategy.

Cuomo said the other day that it would be closed. Given that this is the worst nuke in the USA that will probably happen. But that is no solution. Yes they would have two "cold' reactors. They also have 40 years of spent rods on the site. As we now know, this may be the greatest risk, as the stored rods have no containment.

Remember my last line of that piece:

Electric rates are going up. Big time!

The true cost of Japan's problems will be measured in the trillions as all the consequences come to play.


tmosley's picture

Wow, is some form of good going to come from this?  Are people learning lessons?

Not if the government has anything to say about it.  They'll just impose some new regulations.  That should fix everything!

NotApplicable's picture

As I'm always saying, one should have no rational expectation that the criminals d.b.a. "government" have the ability, let alone the desire to provide goods and services in an efficient manner, when they can fake it instead, because they cannot be held accountable for their individual actions.

StychoKiller's picture

Yet NRC managers have dismissed the longstanding problem, noting that the refueling cavity leaks only when it is filled with water (NRC 2010o).

D@mn, now I have "QWERTY" spelled on my forehead!


Alienated Serf's picture

I live 15 miles away from IP, but as the japanese government has shown, one only needs to be 12 miles away to be safe.  Cool beans.

Ruffcut's picture

Your homeowners policiy does not cover any nuke damage. So keep the mortgage as high as you can, buy a place anyway from there to bug out, when or if necessary.

Like a good neighbor, state farm will not be there.

Alienated Serf's picture

Locked and loaded pal.  Once the price goes down, I'll pick up some KI pills.  I should have thought of that before....

StychoKiller's picture

Sea Kelp pills are an effective substitute (or so I've read).

docj's picture

Isn't the UCC an inherently, at-its-core, anti-nuke outfit?  And if so, ought we not take their conclusions, if not their findings, with only so many grains of salt?

docj's picture

Heh - so I get "Junked" because I dare to suggest we should greet with the same degree of skepticism we ought to greet any "data" put out by the fed.gov a report from an organization that has (unless I'm mistaken, so feel free to correct me) a rather well-known bias on this subject.

Welcome to Fight Club.

Tyler Durden's picture

You are absolutely correct. All "information" should always be independently verified and evaluated. 

AN0NYM0US's picture

it is problematic when anti nuke advocates are presented without disclaimer as nuke experts, even here on ZH it is wise to check  sources. What surprised me is the number of readers who appear to take stuff at face value and join the hysteria as they pop their idodine tablets (best that folks read about the side effects before ingesting too many of those things)

Pseudo Anonym's picture

failed to address known safety problems

second hand info: same problems if not worse exist at Bruce Power in Tiverton, Ontario. It is owned by a UK company. Employees that attempted, in the past, leak info re safety hazards at the plant were attacked by Bruce Power lawyers (breach of non-disclosure agreements), discredited, and required to pass psychiatric / psychological test. these "doctors" work/ed directly for Bruce Power.

Commander Cody's picture

The Union of Concerned Scientists, while not pro-nuclear, is less anti-nuclear than most similar organizations.  They actually try to be helpful in addressing perceived vulnerabilities rather than just rant that all nuclear plants are bad.  However, like the financial criminal cartel and governments, they never let a crisis go to waste.

docj's picture

Gad-zooks but my internet is slow today.  OK, here's the UCS's "About us" on Nukes...

UCS staff monitor and work to improve the safety and security provisions at existing nuclear power plants and the performance of the industry's oversight body--the Nuclear Regulatory Commission; assess the safety, security and nuclear weapons proliferation risks of new reactors; and analyze the pros and cons of increasing nuclear power as a means of reducing global warming.  We write reports, file formal petitions to the NRC, testify before Congress, and provide technical assistance to groups of citizens living near nuclear plants.

Actually sounds pretty reasonable to me - and their other reports on the subject (which I've only had the chance to skim) are similarly reasonably balanced.  So it's entirely possible I have them confused with some other "science" union.

docj's picture

Oh, and thanks Commander.

koot's picture

I personally don't care about discussion of "are these things safe or not", simple fact is that should something go wrong which can no matter what is said or done, radiation leaks around a dangerous nuclear pile makes it very difficult if not impossible for living things to work, enter or correct a cascading catastrophe.  This makes nuclear energy dangerous and not a solution to energy sources at this time.  Should Robots be advanced to such level equal to an intellegent Human, only then could these things be viable.  Never mind the fact that the Robots might decide to turn against humanity and poison us all.

IrishSamurai's picture

You either forgot your [/sarc] tag ... or you win the "Trigg Palin Found ZH and Posted" award of the day ...

Which is it?

(And to the people that junk me for the Trigg Palin reference ... meh)

Alienated Serf's picture

you are a bad person, but that was f'in funny.

barliman's picture

You will want to go live in a cave then until we can get the robots up and running ...



Hugh_Jorgan's picture

You have no idea what you're talking about. You need to learn the real facts behind the technology before you start blathering about what is safe and what is not. Nuclear power has produced millions of MW hours globally over the past 60 years and has verifiably killed far fewer that any fossil fuel technology. Not to mention that fissioning 1 Uranium atom releases milions of times the energy you get from breaking a hydrocarbon bond in coal. People are ignorant of the realities of nuclear power and the media capitalizes on this to spin us into a foaming mass of angst because it gets ratings.

If I may suggest a book to you, written by a left-wing greenie scientist that doesn't particularly like nuclear power. However unlike most people, he doesn't let his opinion get in the way of hard facts:



BTW, we haven't called anything a "nuclear pile" since  the 1940s... Just saying...

Bearster's picture

Ayn Rand had something to say about regulation:

"... When you see that trading is done not by consent but by compulsion - when you see that in order to produce you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing - when you see that money is flowing to those who deal not in goods but in favors - when you see that men get rich more easily by graft than by work, and your laws no longer protect you against them, but protect them against you - when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice - then you will know that your society is doomed..."

flacorps's picture

Apropos St. Paddy's day: There are no nuclear power plants in Ireland. The incompatibility of whiskey and 4,000 dials and meters is well understood.

barliman's picture

+1 Not to mention the pubs open at 5:00 AM so you can stop in on your way to work


johnQpublic's picture

similar reason why there are no power generating nuclear plants in jamaica

flacorps's picture

I thought they had a bad experience with the one on Crab Key?

americanspirit's picture

The underlying message here is that for some nuke operators profit is more important than safety. I'm sure they justify this policy decision by telling themselves that the chances of a serious event are so remote that it isn't worth taking a hit to their profits to take steps to prevent highly unlikely events. As this report points out, ignoring identified safety violations increases the risk of such unlikely events actually occurring.

Although these rogue operators probably don't see it this way, what that actually means is that at a certain point, determined largely by their accountants and lawyers, our lives (all of them) are not as important as their profits. 

drswhaley's picture

Someone needs to get Scott Walker here to bust up the

Union Of Concerned Scientists.



yipcarl's picture

What is the validity in regard to this report on Raditation from http://anncoulter.com/


I've never been to her site before today.  Please read this article on how Radiation is not bad for you. 

flacorps's picture

Sometimes I see Ann Coulter on TV. A former boss of mine once had a bookkeeper who was on crack. Now I know it when I see it.

yipcarl's picture

You are retard.  You should be perusing, CNBC.  Leave. 


I don't even like the chick, but you are a fool.. 

Horatio Beanblower's picture

Some light hearted relief...


"Bully Year 7 Gets Head slammed by Year 10 Sydney. Original." - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cd7JX1sZnmk

Kurtieboy's picture

From a military stratigic perspective nucular plants are incredable. If someone wanted to attack the US our nucular plants are sitting ducks.

nonclaim's picture

It depends if the objectives are conquest or extermination. It may be used as scorched earth as well.

flacorps's picture

The scientists questioned the [former operators of SL-1]: “Did you know that the reactor would go critical if the central control rod were removed?” Answer: “Of course! We often talked about what we would do if we were at a radar station and the Russians came. We’d yank it out.”

– Susan M. Stacy, Proving the Principle,

SubjectivObject's picture

The corporate nuclear industry and their handmaiden regulators are their own worst public relations.