40-TON DROPS IN PILGRIM’S SPENT FUEL POOL?

For background info, please see Pilgrim Watch’s Pilgrim’s Spent Fuel: Cask, Transfer Procedure, ISFSI (Nov, 2014)

PRESS RELEASE Contact Mary Lampert, Pilgrim Watch (781.934.0389) Becky Chin, Duxbury Nuclear Advisory Committee (781.837.0009)

Pilgrim Watch and the Duxbury Nuclear Advisory Committee submitted comments on Entergy’s proposed license amendment to remove the energy absorbing pad from Pilgrim’s spent fuel pool’s floor used to protect it from a 40 ton cask drop during the soon to occur transfer of some of Pilgrim’s spent fuel assemblies to dry casks and install instead of a pad a leveling platform.

Mary Lampert, Pilgrim Watch, called the request for public comment “a charade.” She explained that Entergy already removed its energy absorbing pad and installed the leveling platform, and will very, very soon begin moving spent fuel assemblies.  “Grant of the amendment will be a fait accompli BEFORE the public comment and opportunity to request a hearing before NRC judges began.” Becky Chin agreed, “It is a done deal. In the oft chance that a hearing is requested, the NRC has assured that the license amendment will go forward when Entergy needs it.”

They also pointed out that Entergy hid information required to make comment by claiming the documents were “proprietary.” Mary called that move “nonsense” and showed that Entergy did not even meet the regulatory requirements for not disclosing the documents.”

Hidden from the public, for example, was Entergy’s seismic analysis for the new equipment.  Mary Explained that, “Before Entergy’s license is amended, it is necessary for Entergy to show that the leveling platform was evaluated to confirm its stability during a seismic event that we now understand can occur, and not on the basis of a design basis that is many years old and does not consider important up-to-date information.”

And most important, the groups believe that because the required post-Fukushima reassessment of Pilgrim’s vulnerability to earthquakes will not be completed until 2017, it is premature to grant approval of the license amendment request.

Will the changes increase or decrease safety?

From the information given, Entergy claims that it does not have to do an analysis of a drop because they have upgraded the crane used to place the assemblies in the casks to what is called “single-failure proof.” 

Absurdly by NRC’s rules, single-failure proof cranes never fail.  Never! NRC has once again raised its magic wand and made the problem disappear. Thus, NRC does not entertain issues about what happens when a single-failure proof crane fails and drops a 40 ton load.  But even Entergy admits that it can fail. In a letter to NRC, it said, “The probability of dropping this load onto an irradiated fuel assembly in the canister is reduced as a result of the reliability of the single-failure-proof handling system.”  Becky added that, “Reduced does not mean eliminated.”

Not only are cask drops not analyzed but there is no indication acts of malice or human error were considered either.

Pilgrim Watch and the Nuclear Advisory Committee concluded that it is premature for NRC to grant the request because Entergy has not provided necessary documents in response to NRC’s September 26, 2014 RAI so that the public can make an informed response.

Most important, they said that NRC should require the reactor to be shutdown during spent fuel pool transfer operations; despite the fact that NRC said that it will allow Entergy to transfer the assemblies to dry casks while the reactor is operating. One of the principal reasons the plant should be shut down then was made clear by one the NRC’s own documents. It said:

For BWR plants with a Mark I or Mark II containment, many heavy loads (e.g., spent fuel casks and drywell shield blocks) are lifted and moved on the upper floor of the reactor building while the reactor is operating at power. If a floor breach were to occur during a load drop, safety-related components located on the lower floors could be adversely affected. A load drop that penetrates the operating floor in certain areas could simultaneously initiate an accident and disable equipment necessary to mitigate the accident.” (emphasis added)

Once again Entergy is focused on profits-keep the reactor going- at the expense of public safety, as NRC turns a blind eye.

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