Dave Lochbaum

About the author: Mr. Lochbaum received a BS in Nuclear Engineering from the University of Tennessee in 1979 and worked as a nuclear engineer in nuclear power plants for 17 years. In 1992, he and a colleague identified a safety problem in a plant where they were working. When their concerns were ignored by the plant manager, the utility, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), they took the issue to Congress. The problem was eventually corrected at the original plant and at plants across the country. Lochbaum joined UCS in 1996 to work on nuclear power safety. He spent a year in 2009-10 working at the NRC Training Center in Tennessee. Areas of expertise: Nuclear power safety, nuclear technology and plant design, regulatory oversight, plant license renewal and decommissioning

An Electrical Cable Fire at the Quad Cities Nuclear Plant

Fission Stories #178

On March 22, 1975, a worker using a lit candle to check for air leaks in the room directly below the control room for the Unit 1 and Unit 2 reactors at the Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant near Athens, Alabama accidentally ignited highly flammable material that had been used to seal openings in the wall where metal trays filled with electrical cables passed through. These cables connected switches, gauges, indicators, alarms, and other devices in the control room above to equipment throughout the plant. The fire burned for over six hours. As insulation burned away, exposed cables touched each other or the metal trays and shorted out. The extensive cable damage disabled all of the emergency core cooling systems for the Unit 1 reactor and most of these systems on Unit 2. Only heroic and ad hoc actions by workers prevented two core meltdowns. Read More

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Nuclear Power Safety: Numbers and Context

Nuclear Energy Activist Toolkit #44


So what? Even if it is the best number as Dr. Sheldon Cooper claims on “The Big Bang Theory,” it’s just a number unless it is placed in context. Read More

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Nuclear inSecurity

Fission Stories #177

 The NRC has long required an array of security features intended to lessen the likelihood of radiological sabotage at nuclear power plants. Gates, guns, and guards are among the methods used to protect against acts of malice. Read More

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Simplified Drawings: Electrical Distribution Drawings

Nuclear Energy Activist Toolkit #43

The primary objective of nuclear power plants is to generate electricity for use (i.e., purchase) by industrial and residential customers. Nuclear power plants consume large amounts of electricity themselves in pursuing this objective. Read More

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Lifetime Achievement Award to Michael Mariotte

Individuals and representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) around the country and Europe gathered at the Carnegie Institute in Washington, DC on November 10, 2014, to present a Lifetime Achievement Award Lifetime Achievement Award to Michael Mariotte of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS). Read More

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NRC: Obstructing Justice?

Fission Stories #176

On June 23, 2014, NRC issued two yellow findings, the second most serious among the agency’s four color-coded sanctions, to the owner of the Arkansas Nuclear One plant for violations identified during a March 31, 2014, fatal accident.

My mistake. That fatal accident did not occur in March 2014. It happened on March 31, 2013—or “only” 449 days before the NRC issued the applicable sanctions.

What took the NRC so long?

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Simplified Drawings: Piping and Instrumentation Drawings (P&IDs)

Nuclear Energy Activist Toolkit #42

Whenever possible, I like to accompany commentaries about nuclear plant issues with simplified drawings of the systems involved. For example, simplified drawings were featured in a NEAT post about the reactor core isolation cooling system and a Fission Stories post about a problem at Oyster Creek. I’ve been taking it for granted that readers would find these drawings a helpful complement to the text. In hindsight, a better foundation would provide a more meaningful connection between text and drawings. This post is the first in a series of posts seeking to provide a belated foundation for using simplified drawings. Read More

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NRC and Safety Culture

Fission Stories #175

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued a policy statement on June 14, 2011, stating how swell it would be if the owners of nuclear power plants established and maintained a positive safety culture. The NRC did not require that plant owners obtain and retain positive safety cultures, but expressed how important “a safety-first focus in nuclear work environments for public health and safety.”

Thus, the NRC is officially on record that positive safety cultures are swell and are important for public health and safety but has not taken any steps to require these swell and important things to be implemented. Read More

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Routine Releases of Radioactivity from Nuclear Reactors

Nuclear Energy Activist Toolkit #41

The Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League (BREDL) and the Mothers Against Tennessee River Radiation (MATRR) conducted a workshop last November in Chattanooga, TN on the radioactivity monitoring they perform around the Browns Ferry and Sequoyah nuclear plants. Garry Morgan periodically goes to a variety of locations around these plants and uses a radiation detector to measure radioactivity levels. Read More

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NRC Out of Compliance with FOIA Regulations

Fission Stories #174

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) manages the inherent dangers from nuclear power plant operation by establishing and enforcing (at least sometimes) federal safety regulations.

But this post is not about the NRC sending someone to nuclear jail. It’s about the NRC violating federal regulations and perhaps being on its own way to nuclear jail.

This follows on the heals of our post last week showing the NRC has been hiding documents from the public for a decade.

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