Assault on St. Lucie Nuclear Plant

Fission Stories #167

Prior to 9/11, federal regulations required U.S. nuclear power plants to be defended against radiological sabotage carried out by a small group of outside attackers aided by one insider. After 9/11, the NRC revised the regulations to required defending against a slightly larger group of outside attackers aided by one insider. Read More

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Nuclear Inspections: When NDE Becomes NDE

Fission Stories #164

The NRC conducted a day-long meeting with industry representatives on June 4, 2013, to discuss plans to improve the reliability of inspections of nuclear plant components per ASME codes.

During this meeting, NRC staffer Stephen Cumblidge provided a presentation about non-destruction examinations (NDE) used to monitor the structural integrity of components. Read More

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UCS-Brookings Panel on Missile Defense

The Union of Concerned Scientists co-hosted a panel on missile defense with the Brookings Institution last week: “U.S. Missile Defense Developments: How Far? How Fast? Read More

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Is China Rattling Nuclear Sabres over Shangri-la?

On 5 June 2014, “a media research entity that gathers, translates, and periodically analyzes Chinese-language media reporting,” posted a commentary on an editorial by Chu Shulong, a well-known Chinese scholar of international relations. The commentary claims the Tsinghua University professor calls “for China to maximally increase its nuclear deterrence against the U.S. Read More

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NRC’s First-line Nuclear Defenders

Nuclear Energy Activist Toolkit #31

There are at least two NRC inspectors assigned full-time to every nuclear power plant operating today in the United States. Called resident inspectors, these individuals are essentially the agency’s first-line of defenders of nuclear power plant safety. Read More

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U.S. ICBM Force: Unprepared for a Terrorist Attack

U.S. ICBM forces were recently in the news again, and, as too often seems to be the case lately, the news was not good. In the past year, stories have come out about missile launch officers cheating on exams and taking drugs, a commander removed after drinking and inappropriate behavior on a trip to Russia, and another for passing counterfeit gambling chips. Read More

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Missile Defense: The “Phantom Menace” Remains a Phantom Menace

The history of the debate over missile defense is full of miscalculations about its possible benefits versus its risks and costs.

Probably much of that is due to the fact that strategic missile defense always sounds better after 30 seconds than it does after 30 minutes. Read More

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Single Failures and Nuclear Operator Training

Fission Stories #163

The nuclear reactor safety philosophy in the United States relies heavily on defense-in-depth. Basically, if one widget is needed for safety, at least two are provided. It’s not just a splendid notion—it’s the law. Read More

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Oodles of Nuclear Plant Data

Nuclear Energy Activist Toolkit #30

The NRC’s website includes oodles (or scads, I confuse the two) of information about nuclear power reactor operating performance and events. Read More

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Nuclear Steam Cleaning at Oyster Creek

Fission Stories #162

The control rods in boiling water reactors (BWRs) are withdrawn from the reactor core to initiate the nuclear chain reaction and to raise the reactor’s power level. Conversely, the control rods are inserted into the reactor core to reduce the power level and, when necessary, stop the nuclear chain reaction. Read More

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NRC Pen Pals

Nuclear Energy Activist Toolkit #29

Wikipedia defines pen pals as being people who regularly write each other. It’s wicked easy to become an NRC pen pal. And you can’t beat the price—free. Read More

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Obama in Asia: Words and Deeds

Just before President Obama departed for Asia the Senate Foreign Relations Committee issued a report recommending the United States take steps to alter the perception that the current effort to increase U.S. engagement in Asia is “primarily a military strategy.” The Committee recommended the President increase attention to the “civilian components” of U.S. Read More

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Disposing of Excess Weapon Plutonium: The Perils and Promise of WIPP

Today, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) released its long-awaited study of alternative options for disposition of excess weapons plutonium. The report confirms what I anticipated in a paper I presented in July 2013: the option of down-blending the plutonium with inert materials and emplacing it in the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) is feasible, has the least technical risk, and is (by far) the least expensive alternative. Read More

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Indian Point News Rollercoaster

Fission Stories #161

Good News: Workers removed a valve from the piping of a cooling water system at the Indian Point nuclear plant in New York on August 13, 1984, for maintenance. The cooling water system had two redundant loops of pumps, pipes, and heat exchangers. Read More

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Common Sense on China from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee

As President Obama embarks on another trip to East Asia, it is hard to find a constructive media assessment of current developments in the region. Most of the commentary is focused on the potential for conflict with China and whether the United States is adequately prepared for it. Read More

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Top NRC Sanctions

 Nuclear Energy Activist Toolkit #28

On October 27, 1979, the NRC announced it was fining the owner of the Three Mile Island Unit 2 reactor $155,000 for violations of federal regulations that factored into the March 28, 1979, partial meltdown. The NRC also revised its regulations to enable it to levy harsher sanctions—that amount was widely viewed as scant penalty for a billion dollar accident. Read More

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Blown Away at Callaway

Fission Stories #160

At 11:19 pm July 26, 2013, the Callaway nuclear plant in Missouri operated at 100 percent power when workers took isophase bus cooling fan TVMA04 out of service, replacing it with fan TVMA03. Workers swap these fans every month to equalize wear and tear on them. Read More

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When It Comes to Fissile Material, More Is Not Better

The March/April issue of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has an article (unfortunately behind a paywall) about the enormous stockpiles of plutonium and highly enriched uranium (HEU) the United States still retains for weapons purposes, co-authored by GSP Program Director Lisbeth Gronlund and myself. Read More

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The NRC and Natural Hazards to Nuclear Plants

Today the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists posted my op-ed about the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s approach to re-evaluating the hazards to nuclear plants from natural catastrophes like earthquakes and floods in light of what happened at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

I make the point that many U.S. Read More

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Missile Defense Oversight: Pulling the Punches

At the March 25 House Armed Services Committee hearing on missile defense, Rep. Michael Turner (R-OH) took a dig at what he seems to think is an unwarranted criticism of the proposed East Coast missile defense site. (He’s a strong proponent of building a new site.) He asked Vice Admiral Syring, the director of the Missile Defense Agency, what the “banter” that there is “no validated military requirement” for the East Coast site means. Read More

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