AP1000 Oversight Group
May 4, 2011
Contact: Jim Warren, NC WARN
Duke Energy CEO says safety changes will delay new nuclear plants, cites spent fuel pools
Groups again press NRC for delay in nuclear reactor design approval
DURHAM, NC – Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers, a key player in the potential revival of nuclear power, said yesterday that the Fukushima disaster will delay U.S. nuclear development until safety upgrades can be considered, noting the likely re-evaluation of spent fuel storage. Watchdog groups have filed a second legal motion for suspension of the Westinghouse AP1000 approval process, citing more problems exacerbated by Japan’s nuclear crisis – and which are based on cracks and holes already found in containment structures at dozens of operating U.S. plants.
Duke’s Rogers made his comments at a press conference yesterday. His reference to a re-analysis of spent fuel storage pools comes as a host of critics and technical experts say large radiation releases from Fukushima’s pools prove that too much of the highly radioactive waste is being packed – and too densely – at all U.S. nuclear plants despite safer storage options.
On April 6th the alliance, called the AP1000 Oversight Group, told the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission that federal law requires suspension of the design review until long-running problems are resolved and new information posed by ongoing Japan crisis is openly analyzed. They explained that some of NRC’s own experts insist that Westinghouse is violating standards on the outer shield building, and that the agency’s science advisors say recirculation of water in the passive cooling system could be blocked by debris caused by damage to the reactor building or its components.
Arnie Gundersen, a nuclear engineer consulting with the watchdog alliance, wrote to the NRC in the latest motion that, “The high temperatures already documented at the Fukushima reactors may further impact the effectiveness of the AP1000 design, causing containment degradation, widespread cracks or even major breaches of the containment.”
NC WARN attorney John Runkle said today, “Containment failures routinely occur at U.S. plants – many that have thicker containments than the AP1000 – and containments have apparently failed at Fukushima. The NRC cannot continue assuming containment failure is a zero probability in the face of copious evidence to the contrary.”
The public comment period on the AP1000 design certification rulemaking is set to close on May 10.
Regarding the statement by Duke’s Rogers, NC WARN’s Jim Warren said today: “If the prospective licensees say the safety review is likely to produce changes, surely the NRC must hit the pause button on design certification. Otherwise, they will be violating two sets of federal law, and plant owners will risk revisiting the nightmare the French are now mired in – trying to resolve design problems during construction.”
See more on the AP1000 Oversight Group at www.ncwarn.org.